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Fall care for Fruit Trees and Berries

Keeping the season in mind, here is primer about preparing beds in the fall for fruit trees and berries. Thanks to the people at Fedco for putting this information together. Visit them at:

While you there, check out their new no-spray orchard design project.

Fall Preparation or Spring Initial Feeding for Fruit Trees
The following amendment recipe will enrich the soil and should address most sites in the eastern U.S., which tend to be acidic, and moderate to low in calcium and phosphorous. You can apply this mix as a mulch to your newly planted tree in the spring.

Deluxe Method
Without digging the hole, cover an area 4-6' in diameter with:
5 lbs gypsum or Hi-Cal lime
5 lbs colloidal phosphate (short-term calcium and phosphorous)
5 lbs azomite (long-term minerals and trace minerals_
5 lbs granite meal or greensand (for improved soil texture)
2-3 lbs menafee humates (aids mineral and rock-powder breakdown)

For increasing levels of humus, also add:
2 lbs alfalfa meal
2 lbs bone char or bone meal
2 lbs kelp meal
2 lbs blood meal
100 lbs compost (1/8 yard)

Cover area with 3-4" mulch of lawn clippings, leaves or "brush" chips, which will smother the sod, conserve moisture, prevent leaching, and provide a habitat for soil organisms to break down the recipe. In the spring, pull back the mulch an dig the hole, incorporating the mineral supplements and compost into the backfill.

Simpler Method
Forgo the soil amendments and simply pile 1-2 wheelbarrow loads of compost on each planting-hole site. Then cover with mulch. In the spring, pull back the mulch and plant your fruit tree, incorporating the composting into the hole as you dig.

Feeding older fruit trees
Cover the surface of the ground out to the drip line with the same materials listed above. For larger trees (five years and older) increase the mineral amount to 10-15 lbs each. For ancient trees you can add up to 25 lbs of each mineral in a ring beneath the drip line. Mulch as described above.