Growing delicious, healthy apples starts with providing your trees the right nutrients. While you can certainly go to the store and buy commercial fertilizers, making your own homemade mixtures can be inexpensive, easy to customize to your trees’ needs, and gentler on the environment. Read on to learn how to make homemade fertilizers that will have your apple trees producing bountiful crops in no time.

Why Fertilize Apple Trees?

Fertilizing ensures apple trees get all the macro- and micronutrients they require for good growth and fruit production. Nitrogen promotes leafy growth and stimulates fruit production. Phosphorus supports root, flower, fruit, and seed development. Potassium aids in fruit quality, disease resistance, and cold hardiness. Calcium is critical for cell wall structure. Magnesium facilitates enzyme activation and photosynthesis. And micronutrients like boron, zinc, manganese, and iron help carry out essential plant functions.

Without proper fertilization, apple trees can suffer stunted growth, smaller yields, and nutrition-deficiency symptoms like yellowing leaves, poor fruit quality, bitter taste in the apples, and more.

Types of Homemade Fertilizers

Homemade fertilizers for apple trees generally fall into two main categories.

Compost – Compost is decomposed organic material that transforms into a nutrient-rich, soil-like substance called humus. It enriches the soil with nutrients and helpful microorganisms, and also enhances its drainage and water-holding capacity. The nutrient content of compost can differ depending on its sources.

Manures – Manures are another organic matter that can be added around trees. Common types are cow, horse, sheep, chicken, rabbit, or bat manure. Manures improve soil texture and fertility. As with compost, nutrient levels vary.

You can also make fertilizer teas by steeping compost or manure in water—these provide a quick nutrient boost when poured around the root zone.

Combination mixes with different amendments can address specific needs. And you can make fertilizer spikes by adding ingredients like eggshells, Epsom salts, and more to biodegradable items like cardboard tubes.

Nutrients Apple Trees Need

Here are key nutrients apple trees need and examples of amendments that can provide them.

  • Nitrogen: Blood meal, coffee grounds, grass clippings, chicken manure.
  • Phosphorus: Bone meal, rock phosphate, wood ash.
  • Potassium: Wood ash, kelp meal, granite dust.
  • Calcium: Eggshells, lime, gypsum.
  • Magnesium: Epsom salts, dolomite lime.
  • Sulfur: Elemental sulfur, composted manure.
  • Iron: Coffee grounds, legumes.
  • Zinc: Galvanized nails in spikes, crab/lobster shells.
  • Manganese: Compost.
  • Boron: Coffee grounds, dried kelp.

How Often to Fertilize Apple Trees

Most full-sized apple trees need fertilizing in early spring and again after harvest.

  • Spring: Fertilize as growth starts, before blossoms emerge. Use a balanced or higher nitrogen fertilizer to stimulate growth and flowering.
  • Fall: Fertilize 1-2 months after harvest. Focus on potassium and phosphorus to support root health over the winter and prepare for next year’s crop.

Younger trees may need one or two extra fertilizations during the summer months while they establish. Mini dwarf trees in containers need more frequent fertilization, like every 4-6 weeks during the growing season.

Adjust frequency and amounts based on your tree’s growth, harvests, and deficiency symptoms. Get a soil nutrient test periodically to adjust your fertilization needs.

5 Homemade Fertilizer Recipes for Apple Trees

Here are 5 easy homemade fertilizer recipes to try on your apple trees.

1. Compost Tea

  • 2 gallons compost.
  • Small amounts of bacterial and fungal foods like molasses and fish hydrolysate.
  • 10 gallons water.
  • Large container and cheesecloth.

Place compost and water in a container with microbial foods. Steep 1-2 days, stirring occasionally. Strain through cheesecloth and apply the “tea” around your tree’s root zone. The water extracts the compost’s nutrients and beneficial organisms.

2. Manure Tea

  • 1 gallon aged manure.
  • 5 gallons water.
  • Large container and cheesecloth.

As with compost tea, steep the manure and water for 1-2 days before straining and applying around trees. Cow, horse, chicken, and rabbit manures create excellent teas.

3. Wood Ash Fertilizer

  • 1 cup wood ash.
  • 1 gallon water.

Collect wood ash from your fireplace or wood-burning oven. Combine with water and let steep for a day or two. Apply the mixture around your tree’s dripline. Wood ash provides potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and trace minerals.

4. Egg Fertilizer Spikes

  • Eggshells, crushed.
  • Paper towel tubes.

Crush washed eggshells and tightly pack them into paper towel tubes. Insert spikes 8-10 inches into the ground around your tree’s dripline before growing season. Eggshells provide calcium and trace minerals.

5. Balanced Fruit Tree Fertilizer

  • 1 cup bone meal.
  • 1 cup kelp meal.
  • 1 cup wood ash.
  • 1 cup rock phosphate.
  • 1/2 cup Epsom salts.

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly. Spread 1-2 cups per tree around each of your tree’s dripline in early spring. This combination provides a balanced blend of macronutrients apple trees need.

Tips for Using Homemade Fertilizers Effectively

Follow these tips to safely and effectively use your homemade fertilizers.

  • Apply around the dripline, not directly on the trunk.
  • Water in after applying to help nutrients penetrate the soil.
  • Adjust amounts based on tree age—less for younger trees.
  • Wear gloves and wash produce to avoid contamination.
  • Use combination mixes judiciously to avoid nutrient imbalances.
  • Test soil periodically to identify effects and adjust as needed.
  • Rotate fertilizer types instead of relying on just one.
  • Time applications appropriately for the seasons.
  • Store unused homemade fertilizers properly in sealed containers.

The Benefits of Homemade Fertilizers

Homemade organic fertilizers have many advantages.

  • Cost – Making your own fertilizer is cheaper than buying commercial products.
  • Control – You can customize mixes to your trees’ specific needs.
  • Convenience – Use ingredients from around your home and yard.
  • Safety – Organic matter causes fewer environmental and health concerns.
  • Soil health – Organics improve soil structure and beneficial microbial activity.

With the right homemade fertilizers, your apple trees will produce bountiful, beautiful fruit year after year. Use these easy recipes mentioned above and watch your trees thrive with the right nutrition.

Final Thoughts

Providing apple trees, the nutrients they need doesn’t require expensive store-bought fertilizers. With just a bit of planning and some readily available ingredients, you can create your own customized organic fertilizers tailored specifically to your trees’ requirements. Homemade fertilizers are affordable, safe, environmentally friendly, and great for your soil. Your apple trees will thank you with vigorous growth, resistance to pests and diseases, and of course, bountiful harvests of delicious, nutritious apples. Try with a few homemade fertilizer recipes this season and see the fruits flourish in your home orchard.