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Organic Fertilizer Sandwich

Orchard at Just Fruits and Exotics

Late Winter Application of Organic Fertilizer Sandwich

Getting success growing fruit trees organically can be challenging, especially when you’re growing your trees in less than perfect soil. In fact, growing fruit trees organically is really about just that; creating a perfect soil. In order to get your organic fertilizer to work properly, it helps to understand a little about what’s going on “down under” in the world of soil.

Unlike chemical fertilizer, which is water soluble and releases food to the plant every time you water or when it rains, organic fertilizer is released by a chain of life and death actions that happen in the soil. With organic fertilizer it is the soil bugs  (like earwigs and worms), bacteria of decay, and mycorrhizal fungi that eats the organic fertilizer you apply. In turn it is their excretions and the decay of their dead bodies that the plants eat. The more soil bugs, bacteria, and fungus you have in your soil the better your organic fertilizer works.  So how do you attract this great collection of soil life into your orchard? It’s all about building good soil.

Dorsett Golden Apple Fruit on Tree

Creating the Sandwich

Here at the farm we garden in something that is so close to beach sand, it’s really a waste to apply organic fertilizer as there is no soil life here to help it break down. We have learned over time how to bring this soil back to life.  In the orchards we use a system of organic fertilizer sandwiches a couple of times a year. Our late winter sandwich is composed of:

First Layer

-Begin by applying a layer of organic fertilizer. There are many brands out there. We use Fertell which has little fillers; look for products that have components like cottonseed, bone meal, poultry manure. Also use plenty of it. It takes a lot, often double the amount of chemical fertilizers.

Middle Layer

-Next spread an inch thick layer of manure or compost that is laid down under the canopy of the tree. Manure and compost are nutrient rich and well inoculated with bacteria and fungus, it helps bring the bugs and fungus to the party.

Tanenashi Persimmon 58

Top Layer

-Finial topping is a thick layer of hay. We find hay to be the elixir to poor soils; it rots fast and is nutrient rich, just the greatest food for young fruit trees. Be sure to buy Bermuda Grass hay, it contains no seed unlike Bahia Grass hay. You can use other mulches, leaves, lawn clipping, bark (no cypress, you need something that rots well).

By late June or July the hay is almost rotted away and the weeds are thinking about getting a start again, so we apply the second organic sandwich, which is just a layer of organic fertilizer and another thick layer of hay. Really all soils benefit from this system; it helps loosen heavy clay soils, and rebuilds soil in orchards that have been neglected.  After a couple of years of sandwiches you’ll soon see a wealth of earth worms and a healthy crop of fruit to share with your friends.

4 Responses to Organic Fertilizer Sandwich

  1. Lynda February 17, 2016 at 8:35 am #

    What kind of Hay. I have found that the hay I buy at Feed and Seed stores sprouts and then i have a mess. Thanks for the info.

    • Brandy February 17, 2016 at 9:13 am #

      We use Bermuda hay, it produces no seed. It’s a common grass hay they use for horse feed. When buying look for hay that is long and stringy with joints along the stem. You will also notice it has no seeds in it unlike Bahia Grass hay.

  2. Linda February 16, 2016 at 3:58 pm #

    Thank you for the information. Is the sandwich good for blueberry, raspberry, and grapes?
    I take it y’all didn’t sell…..I’m sorry, if it is time for you to do so, I pray it happens for you. Meanwhile,
    stay healthy and happy.

    • Brandy February 17, 2016 at 7:19 am #

      Yes, it works well on all fruit. The blueberries like an acidic soil, so we use pine bark as the mulch instead of hay.