How To Feed & Fertilize Fruit Trees

It’s important to feed fruit trees every year and to feed them only once a year.
Fruit trees should never be over fertilized.


The best time for feeding trees is when they are at “silver tip”. Silver tip is when the buds are swollen and look silver.

Silver Tip On An Apple Tree

Silver Tip On An Apple Tree

But this year we’re late in feeding our fruit trees and just got to it yesterday.

Spring Feeding Of Apple Trees

Spring Feeding Of Apple Trees

Some years we use Calcium Nitrate 15-5-00 – sometimes called  Norgessalpete or Norwegian saltpeter * Ca(NO3)2* to feed the trees in our orchard. The trees are fed by sprinkling the fertilizer from the base of the tree to the “drip line”. The drip line for a tree is directly underneath the farthest extending branches.

We feed our fruit trees at the following rates:

  • 8lbs. for large trees
  • 6 lbs. for medium trees
  • 1 lb. for small trees

It’s been a very dry spring and hopefully it will rain soon so the trees will benefit from the feeding.
So far it looks like it’s going to be a good year year for apples and pears.

Katherine Grossman

Katherine Grossman was born and raised in the greater Washington, D.C area. For the last 30 years Mrs. Grossman has lived a life of deliberate self-reliance in rural western Pennsylvania. She loves to garden, knit mittens; makes a killer meatloaf and has been known to deliver triplet lambs with her eyes closed. 

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  7 comments for “How To Feed & Fertilize Fruit Trees

  1. Linda
    May 5, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Thanks for this tip!
    Do you have one for nut trees also?

    • KMG
      May 5, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      Linda –
      I don’t have nut trees or know what they need. Sorry :-(

      • Linda
        May 5, 2013 at 10:17 pm

        That’s okay. We have apple and pear trees, too. :-)
        Ours are well into leaf, too. But if I understand your post right, we could still fertilize?
        Or should we wait until they are old enough to have fruit? 3 of them we just planted last fall.
        Have a wonderful week!

        • KMG
          May 6, 2013 at 7:23 am

          If you catch them quick it not too late. All fruit trees should be fed every year no matter how young or small. Calcium nitrate fertilizer promotes heavy leafing, root health and tree longevity and productivity. Depending where you live you could have trouble finding Norgessalpete and may have to sign for it due to federal regulations/hysteria since the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11.

          • Linda
            May 6, 2013 at 11:18 pm

            Thank you again! :-)

  2. Richard of Danbury
    May 7, 2013 at 5:58 am

    I’m having trouble locating a retail outlet that sells calcium nitrate. Where did you get yours?

    • KMG
      May 7, 2013 at 6:07 am

      Richard –
      You won’t find it at a big box. A farm supply or agriculture fertilizer dealer will carry it. I have my tree pruner bring a few bags when he comes in late winter.

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