Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fall fertilzation

    Its finally dried up enough to allow us to make our regular Fall application of nitrogen fertilizer. The weather forecast calls for a 40% chance of very light showers tomorrow. So today, we spread 100 pounds of urea fertilizer over the entire orchard floor. One hundred pounds of urea equals 46 pounds of actual nitrogen. I'm hoping for just enough rain (or even a heavy dew) to help move the applied nitrogen into the soil profile.
   In the past, many growers have asked how I handle the fertilization of young trees. As the photo above shows, my approach has been to use conventional fertilizer spreading equipment to cover the entire orchard floor with fertilizer. Even though the trees look small on top, these 4 to 6 inch diameter trees have root systems that extend outwards twice the height of the tree. By spreading the fertilizer over the entire grove, I hope to encourage additional lateral root growth to help the tree be even more efficient in mining the soil for water and nutrients.
    Of course, the added nitrogen will also stimulate the ground cover to grow like crazy. But the way I look it, I'm actually growing a green manure crop right in the orchard. Every time I mow the ground cover, I'm adding tons of organic matter back to the soil. Soil organic matter helps build soil structure, improves water availability, and makes micro-nutrients (including zinc) more available to the tree.