Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Natural fertility is one of the keys to good fruit tree care. Autumn is a great time to think about preparing your fruit trees for winter by topping up their nutrition.
In early autumn, you might start to notice that the leaves are just starting to change colour on some of your fruit trees.
And things start to feel different as well. The mornings get a bit crisper, the evenings are often calm and still – you can definitely feel in the air that autumn is coming.
It might seem a bit counter-intuitive to be feeding your fruit trees just as they’re about to go to sleep for the year. It’s really just a case of ‘topping up’.
Your trees have already started the process of storing nutrients in their buds, bark, and roots.
In fact, that’s why the leaves have started to change colour (we talk about other reasons for yellow leaves in this blog). This stored nutrition is what they will draw on next spring when they wake up and start flowering.
What happens when your fruit trees wake up in spring
Flowering is the first thing most fruit trees do in spring—except apples and pears, which produce leaves first.
This happens before their roots have really started to function very much. Stored nutrition is absolutely crucial to good flowering, and good flowering is crucial to a good fruit set.
In the natural farming system that we follow and teach, we don’t recommend using artificial fertilisers. They can easily cause more harm than good.
Instead, we recommend building a natural fertility system. This relies on having a diversity of organic matter and nutrients in the soil. Then you just need lots of healthy soil microbes present to convert the nutrients into a plant-available form.
How to create a natural fertility system
When we talk about nutrition, we’re really talking about feeding the microbes, so they can feed your trees.
So, what should you feed them?
Compost is always great, as is well-rotted manure. This provides lots of organic matter and nutrients, and well-made compost should also contain microbes.
If you have a worm farm, worm castings or worm juice provide an excellent, and fast, nutrient boost for the microbes.
Liquid seaweed and liquid fish are also great and are available from garden centres under various brand names.
Even better (and if you want to save money), make a batch of compost tea. This is a form of brewed compost that you can learn about here.
Another compost by-product is called compost extract. This is made easily by soaking compost in water. It has several advantages. It makes your compost go further, is easy to put out on your trees with a watering can, and is much easier to make than compost tea.
Many gardeners hate weeds under their fruit trees. Managed correctly, they can bring many benefits to your trees and soil.
Making biochar in a bathtub is a quick, easy, and free way to produce an incredibly powerful soil health additive.
Capeweed is not a very useful plant – or is it? As an indicator plant, it can tell you about the health of your soil and how to improve it.