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The Best Fertilizer for Apple Trees

Is there anything better than biting into a crisp apple straight from the tree? Growing your own apples is rewarding, but poor soil conditions can leave you empty-handed at harvest. How can you ensure your tree will grow to produce delicious fruit?

A basket of picked apples. Using the best fertilizer for apple trees will give you the best apple harvest each year.

This guide will help you determine the best fertilizer for apple trees to promote healthy growth from planting through harvest.

Why Should You Fertilize Apple Trees?

Like people, apple trees require a well-balanced intake of nutrients for healthy growth. Some soil might have all the necessary minerals for tree growth, but not all ground is equal.

Person spreading granular fertilizer around a fruit tree.

If your soil lacks essential minerals like nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, and potassium, your apple trees may suffer from nutrient deficiencies. If you want flavorful fruits at harvest, you should apply the best fertilizer for apple trees based on your soil conditions.

Our 7 Picks for Best Fertilizer for Apple Trees


Best Overall Fertilizer for Apple Trees

Fertilome Fruit Citrus & Pecan Tree Food

FRUIT CITRUS FOOD 4LB

This fruit tree fertilizer has an excellent nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium balance to get your tree started right. The 4:2:1 ratio provides the necessary nitrogen that apple trees crave along with phosphorus and potassium in sufficient quantities to promote excellent fruit development.

Pros:

  • Excellent source of nitrogen
  • Great source of trace minerals

Cons:

  • Low in potassium

Best Organic Fertilizer for Apple Trees

Natural Guard Organic Fruit & Citrus Food

When maintaining a fully organic garden, you shouldn’t sacrifice the quality of your fertilizer. Natural guard organic tree fertilizer helps round out your apple tree’s nutritional intake without artificial ingredients.

Pros:

  • Organic
  • Great source of phosphorous and potassium

Cons:

  • Low in nitrogen
  • Expensive

Best Liquid Fertilizer for Apple Trees

Monterey Fish and Guano Fertilizer

7265 Fish & Guano Liquid Plant Fertilizer for Transplants and Flowers, 32 oz (2 Pack)

Guano is world-renowned for being an excellent fertilizer for fruit trees. The Monterey fish and guano mix is the best fertilizer for apple trees in liquid form. The mixture is natural and provides all of the necessary nutrients for the entire growing season.

Pros:

  • Organic
  • Excellent source of nitrogen

Cons:

  • Low in potassium
  • Liquid fertilizer may damage leaves

Best Fertilizer Spikes for Apple Trees

Jobe’s Fertilizer Spikes for Trees & Shrubs

JOBE'S TREE FERTILIZER SPIKES

Fertilizer spikes are the easiest way to give your apple trees the nutrition they need. Jobe’s fertilizer spikes slowly release essential minerals into the soil at the proper rate to promote tree growth and fruit development.

Pros:

  • Easy to apply
  • Excellent nutrient ratio

Cons:

  • Spikes are prone to break
  • Needs sufficient water to prevent burning

Best Complete Fertilizer Kit for Apple Trees

Earth Natural Wonder Fruit Tree & Berries 3-Step Fertilizer Kit

To help your apple tree grow all year long, you may want to fertilize it more than once. When fertilizing late in the season, you need to use a particular ratio of nutrients. This complete kit has the best fertilizer for apple trees at all stages of growth.

Pros:

  • All-in-one fertilizer solution
  • Ideal nutrient balance for all phases of the year

Cons:

  • Not all trees need late-season feedings
  • Expensive

Best Budget Fertilizer for Apple Trees

Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed Citrus, Avocado, Mango Plant Food

If you’re new to growing fruit trees and working on a budget, then Miracle-Gro is a suitable option. Miracle-Gro tree fertilizer has the necessary nutrients to promote healthy growth.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • Pellets may not fully dissolve
  • Subpar nutrient absorption

Best Fertilizer for Planting Young Apple Trees

Nature Hills Root Booster

Nature hills root booster is not technically a fertilizer, but this additive is still essential for healthy tree growth. Root Booster contains mycorrhizal fungi, which form a symbiotic relationship with your tree. You should add this mix at planting to ensure optimal nutrient absorption throughout the tree’s entire life.

Pros:

  • Improves healthy growth for the life of the tree

Cons:

  • Not a true fertilizer
  • Additional supplements are usually required

What Do Fertilizers Provide for Apple Trees?

If you are new to gardening, then the fertilizer selection at your local garden store might seem overwhelming. There are so many choices for finding the best fertilizer for apple trees you might not know where to start. The first thing to note is what a fertilizer contains so that you know if it’s the right one for your apple trees.

When shopping for fertilizer, you should take note of the NPK ratio. This ratio indicates the concentration of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—three essential nutrients—present in the mix. Different types of fertilizers have different NPK ratios.

Person holding handful of granular fertilizer mix.

Like all fruit trees, apple trees thrive in a high nitrogen environment. If you have mature trees growing in soil that needs little to no correction, then a 20-10-10 fertilizer is a great supplement. This helps maintain the optimal nutrient balance of around 2:1:1 to support healthy growth.

Most apple trees need a little extra calcium for fruit development. You may look into supplementing your fertilizer with a Hoss Tools calcium nitrate mix to prevent fruit rot.

Before applying any fertilizer, you should take a soil sample to ascertain the current soil conditions. You can purchase a home soil test kit from Nature Hills Nursery to check for nutrient deficiencies. A quick test helps you determine the best fertilizer for apple trees in your area.

Types of Fertilizers

There are many types of fertilizers available, so you should consider your needs when shopping. The main difference between inorganic and organic fertilizers comes down to preference. Your apple trees can’t tell if you are using organic fertilizers or not, so there is little impact on growth between these options.

Woman spreading organic fertilizer around a young apple tree.

Finding the best fertilizer for apple trees involves some research regarding what your trees need. You should also understand which application method is suitable for you.

Spikes

Fertilizer spikes are arguably the easiest way to apply fertilizer. Simply stake these spikes into the ground just inside your apple tree’s canopy drip line. As the name applies, this is the outer reach of a tree’s canopy and where its roots extend the furthest.

Liquid

Liquid fertilizer is the best fertilizer for apple trees that are mature and established. Liquid fertilizer is easy to apply to soil and leaves to promote healthy growth.

Garden sprayer being used on a tree in the spring.  Fertilizers can also be delivered to apple trees via spraying.

Dry

Dry fertilizer comes in two main options. You can select a granular fertilizer that easily incorporates into well-worked soil. You may also use powder fertilizers that can be broadcast under your tree to the canopy drip line for easy absorption.

Application Tips

Did you know that you need to be careful when applying fertilizer? Even the best fertilizer for apple trees can damage the plant if misused. You may think organic fertilizers are safer to apply, but this is not necessarily true.

If you are applying a dry fertilizer to the soil, you need to ensure it is not too close to the tree trunk. Generally, you should leave a one-foot buffer between your apple tree’s trunk and the fertilizer you are applying.

Fertilizer spikes make it easy to safely apply the best fertilizer for apple trees. Because these get staked into the ground at a distance, you can be sure they will not burn your young tree’s trunk.

If you are using a liquid fertilizer, it can either be applied to the soil or via foliar application. Foliar application is when you apply liquid fertilizer to your tree’s leaves, which allows for immediate nitrogen absorption.

Using a garden sprayer to spray a young tree's leaves.

You should make sure to follow the fertilizer directions to prevent nutrient burn. Furthermore, you need to stimulate tree growth in the right season. There are specific times of the year when you should apply most fertilizers to promote healthy growth and fruit development.

When Should You Fertilize Apple Trees?

It’s essential to promote growth at the correct time of year. The best fertilizer for apple trees provides nutrients when they are most needed. Generally, it is best to apply fertilizer in early spring after the last frost. That is when your plant needs the most energy to transform new buds into delicious fruits.

The second application in early summer can provide an extra boost, but you should be careful. Applying fertilizer too late in the growing season may cause your apple trees to underproduce. In mid to late summer, excess nitrogen contributes to trunk development instead of fruit development. If you plan to boost growth late in the season, look for the best fertilizer for apple trees closer to harvest.

An apple orchard with red apples on the trees.

How to Fertilize Apple Trees

Once you understand the process, applying the best fertilizer for apple trees is relatively easy. To start, make sure you are wearing gloves as some fertilizers may cause burns. Thoroughly read the instructions on your fertilizer to make sure you prepare it properly.

Start by applying the fertilizer a foot away from the trunk to avoid causing nutrient burn. Spread your fertilizer out until a foot or more past the drip line to ensure maximum absorption.

If you are using fertilizer spikes, simply follow the directions on the package. This will tell you how far out to drive the spikes into the soil. Fertilizer spikes will slowly and continuously release nutrients into the ground over two or more months.

You may apply liquid fertilizer to more mature trees in the same manner as a dry fertilizer or through foliar application. Liquid fertilizers should be applied more frequently than dry options as they are generally less concentrated.

Person spreading granular nitrogen around a tree or shrub.

After you conduct a soil test to determine if there are any nutrient deficiencies, you can better understand how much fertilizer your apple tree needs. Generally, you should add the best fertilizer for apple trees at about one pound per inch of the trunk’s diameter.

FAQ

Are coffee grounds good for apple trees?

Coffee grounds can be an excellent addition to your fertilizer regimen. As the nutrient balance isn’t straightforward, you should be cautious when using coffee grounds, compost, or manure. For young freshly planted apple trees, stick with commercial fertilizer. You can supplement your mature trees with homemade fertilizers like coffee grounds and manure.

Can I use rotten fruits and vegetables as fertilizer?

You should never use rotten fruits or vegetables to fertilize your plants. Always compost food scraps before using them as fertilizer. A thorough compost kills any pathogens or mold that could spread to a young tree.

Should I add fertilizer to the water supply for baby apple trees?

You must treat baby apple trees with great care. Before they are fully established, using the wrong fertilizer could kill a young tree. During planting, add a starter fertilizer to ensure your baby apple tree has the required nutrients for healthy growth.

What is the best month to fertilize fruit trees?

The best time to fertilize apple trees is early spring and early summer. Each application should be around two months apart. Apply fertilizer first in late March or early April, and follow up with an application in June. Do not fertilize your apple trees from July through harvest, as this can disrupt fruit development.

Fertilizing Apple Trees for a Great Harvest

Finding the best fertilizer for apple trees doesn’t need to be a complex equation. After reading this guide, you should understand which nutrients your apple tree needs and how to best apply fertilizer to make sure your apple trees grow and produce their best crop.

A basket of picked red apples.

Fertilizing is just part of growing and caring for apple trees. We invite you to visit our Apple Trees page to check out our selection of detailed guides, plus read about dozens of varieties you can grow at home!