Nutrients Needed by Peach Trees
Before you plant a new tree or start spreading fertilizer around a mature peach tree, test the soil for nutrients so you can add the right amount.
Peach trees need these main nutrients for healthy growth:
- Nitrogen for healthy, green leaves and new branch shoots.
- Phosphorus for development of blossoms and fruit.
- Potassium for a strong root system and resistance to diseases.
These three nutrients are known as N-P-K, and the percentage of each is listed on the front of all fertilizer packages. Peach trees need balanced amounts of N-P-K fertilizer each year. A synthetic fertilizer listed as 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 provides an equal amount of these three nutrients.
In addition, peach trees need smaller amounts of magnesium, sulfur, calcium, zinc, copper, and molybdenum. A soil test tells you how much of these elements are naturally present in the soil and gives you guidelines for fertilizing to correct deficiencies.
Determining How Much Fertilizer to Use
Comprehensive soil tests are available online and sometimes through county Agricultural Extension offices. For a comprehensive soil test, you send a sample of your soil to a laboratory for analysis and recommendations.
Often, you only need to do one comprehensive soil test to determine and correct for trace mineral deficiencies. After that, you can simply fertilize each year with a synthetic N-P-K fertilizer, rotted manure, or high-quality compost.
Looking at the growth and vigor of the tree also gives you clues about how much fertilizer to use. Peach trees should develop new branch shoots of 18 to 24 inches (45 to 60cm) in length each year. If the tree does not grow this much, it probably needs additional nitrogen fertilizer.
When and How to Fertilize Peach Trees
The time to fertilize peach trees is between early spring and the first of July. Applying fertilizers after this date does not benefit the tree and may actually harm it.
Apply the fertilizer by spreading it evenly around the base of the tree, starting about 6 inches (15cm) away from the trunk and spreading out to the drip line of the tree.
If you are using compost or rotted manure as a fertilizer, spread it around the tree in the same way. Water the fertilizer into the ground after you apply it, so it can be absorbed by the roots. There are also liquid fertilizers which can be applied through drip irrigation systems.