Help for the Home Gardener From the Help Desk of the
UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County
Client’s Request: We’ve recently moved into a new home with several fruit trees in the back garden. I would like some advice on what fertilizer is recommended for them. Additionally, one of the trees is a pomegranate, could I use some citrus fertilizer I brought when we moved here. Thanks!
MGCC Help Desk Response: Thank you for contacting the UC Master Gardener Help Desk with your questions about fertilizing fruit trees.
The first things to consider when deciding on a fertilization program for your fruit trees are their age and your soil type. Trees are typically fertilized one way at planting and at the first year, and differently when aged two years to maturity. Most soils in this area are clay and mineral soils, which are rich in both Potassium and Phosphorus, and generally lacking in Nitrogen. Sandy soils, which would be more common in East CCC, tend to be low in Potassium.
The link below takes you to a free UC publication that will give you specific information on fertilizing fruit trees. It includes information on organic choices, manures, and chemical fertilizers. It also provides information on the specific amounts and timing of fertilizer application.. http://homeorchard.ucanr.edu/The_Big_Picture/Fertilization/.
I have also included a link following to information on general care of fruit trees that you may find helpful:. Fruit trees, nuts, berries, & grapevines.
Your second question was whether you can use citrus fertilizer on your pomegranate tree. Pomegranates prefer a neutral to slightly acidic soil- a pH of 5.5 to 7.0. Citrus prefer a more acidic soil, at a pH of 4.5 to 5.5. Packaged citrus fertilizer mixes will tend to increase the acidity of the soil (i.e. lower the pH). Without knowing the pH of your soil, it is impossible to say whether the citrus fertilizer would be harmful to your pomegranate by changing the soil pH to level that is too acidic. Home soil testing is relatively inexpensive and easy to do. There are a variety of home test kits available at garden centers and plant nurseries. Attached is a document containing information on home soil test kits. If you choose not to test your soil, and you pomegranate tree is healthy and thriving, my suggestion would be to not use the citrus fertilizer. You can use it on your citrus; and citrus usually require routine fertilization during the year. Following is another link- this one gives information on pomegranates. https://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/pomegranate.html .
I hope you find this information helpful. Please feel free to contact us again if you have further questions or concerns.
Help Desk of the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County (SMH)
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Note: The UC Master Gardeners Program of Contra Costa’s Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays, we’re open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523, although we will be moving this spring. We will notify you if/when that occurs. We can also be reached via telephone: (925)646-6586, email: [email protected], or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/ MGCC Blogs can be found at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/HortCoCo/ You can also subscribe to the Blog (http://ucanr.edu/blogs/CCMGBlog/)
How to Grow Pomegranate Trees in Maryland
Pomegranate trees (Punicagranatum) are native to the Mediterranean regions of the world to Southeast Asia. They belong in the family Punicaceae. Growing to a height of 20 feet, pomegranates are large bushes or small trees. Pomegranates prefer to grow in regions that are semi-arid and have mild winters and hot summers. They will grow planted outdoors as far north as Washington D.C., but will generally not set fruit. This includes trees planted in Maryland. Cold hardy to 12 degrees F, pomegranates will need to be grown in containers where temperatures are cooler so they can be brought inside for protection.
Select an area in your garden to plant the pomegranate that is warm, located in full sun and protected from cold temperatures. Pomegranates will grow best in the warmest and sunniest area of your yard.
Clean the planting site of weeds, grasses or other vegetation that can compete with the growth of the pomegranate. Keep the area weed free at all times while the pomegranate is growing there.
Amend the soil with compost, manure or peat moss, working it into the existing soil to a depth of 1 foot, before planting the pomegranate. Pomegranates will not perform well if grown in an area that has a tendency to retain water.
Apply a fresh application of compost or manure around the base of the plant, each spring. Water the organic material in well after applying.
Apply four ounces of a fertilizer rich in nitrogen around the base of the pomegranate in early and late spring. Fertilize for the first two years of growth. Thereafter, a yearly dose of organic material will be all the fertilization that is required.
Water the pomegranate tree once to twice per week, depending on your local weather conditions. Pomegranate trees are relatively drought tolerant once they have established themselves.
Prune the pomegranate tree once it has reached a height of 2 feet. Trim the entire plant back by 1/3. Continue pruning for the first three years to produce more branches. The fruit will be born on the ends of new growth. Prune only to remove suckers and deadwood after the pomegranate is older.
Protect trees from freezing temperatures by bringing container-grown plants indoors or covering ones grown outdoors. Cover plants with blankets and situate a 60 watt, outdoor lamp under the blanket. Alternatively, hang Christmas lights on the tree to keep it warm.
If you are after some fodder for your next pub trivia night, this factsheet on pomegranates has it in droves. One of the oldest cultivated fruit trees in the world, the pomegranate has appeared in Greek mythology and hymns dating back to the 7th century BC – a feat not matched by any other berry or fruit. In fact, there are some schools of thought that suggest the pomegranate was in fact the “forbidden fruit” in the Bible, rather than the humble apple. Either way, the pomegranate is a backyard beauty, and a must have in your “Garden of Eden”.
The fruit of the pomegranate is incredibly attractive, but the real winner here is the fleshy seeds inside. Tart, citrusy and incredibly juicy, pomegranate seeds have suddenly become hip again, and have appeared in dishes and desserts from Masterchef to Michelin starred restaurants.
Originating from Persia, Afghanistan and thereabouts, the cultivated pomegranate (Punica granatum) translates as “seeded apple”, but is in fact a true berry…and a tough one at that. A deciduous tree growing to around 5m x 4m, with an attractive, somewhat shrubby habit, the pomegranate will tolerate a range of soils, from lovely and loamy to tough and clayey. Seriously, these things are so easy to grow that everyone should have a go.
Pop your pomegranate in a warm sunny spot where you can enjoy the gorgeous, glossy spring/summer foliage as it changes from red to apple green with the seasons. As long as the tree is protected from any spring frosts it should be fairly trouble-free; pomegranates are extremely cold tolerant and love a hot, dry summer – perfect for growing in your part of the world! In fact, I reckon pomegranates are pretty good in almost all parts of Australia.
Water is important for pomegranates, so prevent from drying out over spring – it will improve growth and fruit set in the long run. Water for the rest of the year can be fairly limited – they don’t need too much, especially not in heavier clay soils.
Don’t be afraid to prune your pomegranates, and this is best done over winter. The idea is to clear out the middle of the tree a bit to prevent over-crowding. Remember though that pomegranates bear their fruit on mature wood, so don’t go too silly with the secateurs.
Oh, if you live in an area that is susceptible to Queensland fruit fly, think about enacting a control program, as these little pests LOVE a pomegranate.
Pomegranates are ready to harvest in autumn to winter, and the secret here is to grab the biggest, brightest fruits first. If picked at the right time, pomegranates can be stored successfully for a couple of months in a dark, cool place or the fridge.
Variety is the spice of life, so, if you are in the hunt for some delicious pomegranates, try these out for size:
Wonderful – Possibly the most popular pomegranate in the world, Wonderful is, simply put, wonderful! Beautiful, medium to large, deep red fruit is borne on a vigourous, attractive tree. The seeds are juicy, sweet, fragrant, and perfect for juicing, eating fresh, and bunging in a recipe.
Gulosha azerbaijani – Ugly fruit, but the flavour of the seeds is something else! This variety produces medium to large sized, slightly elongated fruit with a pinkish hue, but the internal seeds are deep red, large and very juicy.
Gulosha rosavaya – From Russia with love comes this perfect pomegranate – light pink, large sized fruit bears masses of sweet, juicy, slightly acidic seeds that are truly divine.
Elche – A fab little fruit from Spain, Elche produces lovely pink fruit, the seeds of which are bursting with juice. May not be as cold tolerant as other varieties, but give it a go in a warmer spot.
Ben Hur – Purporting to grow fruit to 1.2kg, Ben Hur is a newer variety of Australian bred pomegranate with fruit resembling cricket balls. The seeds are reportedly juicy, sweet and flavoursome…give it a go at your place!
Pomegranate flower pic: Elaine Shallue (SGA)