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How to fertilize container grown apple trees?

Hi guys, First of all Happy New Year to you all I have bought myself a family apple tree from Thompson and Morgan and it doesn't really give any clear instruction on how to fertilize the tree. The tree comes with 3 varieties grafted onto it so they will pollinate each other. I did read on the RHS website that fruit trees need a rose fertilizer each spring as it is high in potassium. However there are lots of other websites with conflicting views saying that they just need a balanced fertilizer like blood fish and bone. So could someone please tell me which fertilizer is best for a container grown fruit tree? Thanks


  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Leicestershire, UKPosts: 11,067

    Hi Craigh, I have (presumably) one of the very same 'family' apple trees from T&M and grew it in a large (50cm) container for several years before it went into the ground.  I used a John Innes #3 compost and it did very well without needing any extra fertiliser for the first year or two.  After that I scraped-off the top inch and a half or so of compost in the container and replaced it with more JI #3, mixed with a small handful of fish, blood and bone.  If keeping it in a pot for the foreseeable future, this would be the way to go I would say.

    However, the best advice I can give you is to let it blossom next year and enjoy that but remove any and all developing fruit which may set in that first year after planting.  This will allow the tree to establish a good root system and will pay future dividends.  It is hard to resist the temptation to let it fruit while so young but it really is worth the wait!  The other thing you should do is prune it properly while young.  The 'essence' is that the weakest of the three grafted varieties needs pruning the hardest.  This seems to go against common sense but the old adage 'growth follows the knife' is never more true than when pruning fruit trees.  There is a lot of advice available if you google 'prune young apple tree' but if you are unsure about anything, post back here and someone will be more than happy to advise. image

    Happy New Year to you too! image

    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • CraighBCraighB Posts: 667
    Thank you for such a detailed reply!

    The tree is definitely going to stay in its container for the next few years as I rent a house at the moment and would like to take it with me when I leave. So I am definitely going to take your advice on not letting it fruit in this first year and I think I will also pass on the fertilizer too until next year.

    But can't wait to see it start to grow image
  • Hi Craigh

    Thank you for your enquiry.  I'm very sorry that you didn't receive the cultural instructions with your fruit tree. You should have received this information with the tree but unfortunately this didn't happen.

    BobTheGardener has given you excellent advice. There isn't much to add!

    Plant your fruit tree in containers holding at least 30 litres of good quality compost such as John Innes No.3. Alternatively plant them in any well drained soil in a sheltered sunny position. Plant fruit trees at their original soil level, firm them into the ground and water well.

    Feed and water containerised plants regularly. Prune only the tips of the main branches by one third in winter. Some sub branches can be pruned out when necessary at the union where they join the main branch, to allow new sub branches to take their place.

    In order to produce the best quality, largest fruits, the apples should be thinned in July leaving two fruits remaining per cluster.   This is general advice for our family apple tree but the following link will help further:   If you have any specific queries which BobTheGardener or I haven't addressed please contact our Customer Service Team at your earliest convenience: Customer Care Department at [email protected] , one of our agents will be more than happy to help you further.   Kind regards Anne
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