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Fertilizing a non-bearing fruit tree

Training a pear tree

One of our readers wrote in a few weeks ago to ask about fertilizing a non-bearing fruit tree. The truth is that if you did a good job building your soil's organic-matter levels early Watersprouton in the tree's life, it might not need to be fed at all until it sets fruit. Instead, you can get away with mulching well to keep down weed competition while also making sure you're only drawing on the organic-matter interest rather than using up the capital.

It's easy to tell whether you should have fertilized by assessing the next season's twigs. Did you see sufficient new growth or did the tree seem to stand still? At the other extreme, if you see lots of long watersprouts like the one I'm pointing out in the photo to the right, then you probably over-fertilized and need to cut back on your feeding campaign next year so your tree doesn't wear itself out making branches you're just going to have to prune off.

Cardboard tree mulch
If I had access to unlimited resources, I'd mulch heavily with rotted wood chips and/or autumn leaves for non-bearing trees. In the real world where I'm carrying most organic matter half a mile on my back, I make do with a solid cardboard kill mulch weighed down with old boards or punky firewood. The cardboard directly under the weights will rot away relatively fast, but the uncovered cardboard sometimes sticks around for nearly a year, especially when sheltered by a leafy tree canopy. And the wood eventually breaks down to --- you guessed it --- feed the soil.

The only trouble is I've now used up all of my Christmas cardboard, both the stash from Mom and the pick-me-up delivery that Kayla's husband Andy treated me to earlier this week. (Thank you!) Maybe I can talk them into wrangling a little more cardboard to finish up the last of my unmulched trees....



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Several years ago, I watched a gardening show where the teacher, in the fall, took a baseball bat ahd gave a cherry tree 4 good wacks to stimulate flower budding in the spring.

I have used this method with great success over the years.

I had a friend who thought I was crazy but she did sneek out of her house early one fall morning and wacked her tree a few times. The next year she had more apples then she knew what to do with.

Comment by mona Thu Dec 31 13:31:24 2015