Feeding trees and shrubs

New trees

If the soil is poor, it’s best to improve it with organic matter before planting a tree that requires fertile soil.

When planting your tree, we recommend adding a few spadefuls of organic matter with the backfill soil. The tree planting compost we supply is ideal as it contains a slow release fertiliser which will feed the tree for the next 9-12 months.

After the first year, you can apply a top dressing of fertiliser in late winter or early spring to help your trees along. Fertilisers are available from garden centres and DIY shops. Sprinkle the fertiliser around the rooting area and fork in to the soil, or apply as directed on the packet.

Mulching with wood chip or bulky organic matter (eg well-rotted manure or garden compost) helps to conserve moisture and discourage weeds. Apply mulch about 7cm thick around the base of the tree in a metre diameter circle, ideally in mid to late spring and again in autumn. It’s best if this is done on soil that is already moist.

Old trees

Established trees don’t usually need feeding, but if new shoots are sluggish (less than 10cm over the growing season) or the foliage paler than expected, then you might want to consider an application.

Once the tree is mature, growth will slow down, so feed is only recommended to remedy nutrient deficiency.

Fruit trees

Fruit trees need lots of potassium for the best fruit production. Feed them in late winter or early spring so that they can absorb the nutrients in time for the growing season. Potassium rich fertilisers include those formulated for tomatoes and roses, or sulphate of potash. Follow the manufacturer’s application guidelines.

Growmore feeds or chicken manure pellets can also be used at 100g per sq. m. for apples and 140g per sq m for other fruits.

Mulching, as above, is also important for the first few years following planting. 


Most trees will exhibit a major flush of growth during spring and then slowly develop more in summer to autumn. This means it’s best to make sure they have all the nutrients they need available to them just as the growth is starting, by applying fertiliser in late winter to early spring.

If a tree shows signs of nutrient deficiency, however (eg yellowing leaves), then fertilizer can be applied at any time during the growing season. 


By Roger Dymock on 18/12/2018

Can you please recommend a liquid fertilizer for a young laburnum tree.

By Simon on 05/01/2019

Hello Roger,
You would probably be best with a granular top dress fertilizer, something with Osmocote in it is always helpful.

By Mrs Mollie Allison on 27/05/2020

Can you recommend food and fertiliser for potted bamboo plants please?

By Simon on 27/05/2020

Dear Mollie,
A nitrogen based feed is best for bamboo.

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