While you’re picking this year’s fruits from your backyardorchard, it’s time to start thinking about next year’s harvest.”Next year’s fruit crop depends greatly on the plants’health this year,” said Gerard Krewer, an Extension Servicehorticulturist with the University of Georgia Extension Service.Making sure your fruit plants are properly fertilized now helpsthe plants in two ways, Krewer said.Making Flowers and Charging BatteriesFirst, flower buds are forming now that will produce next year’scrop.”The number of flowers you have next spring will be determinedthis year,” Krewer said. The more flowers you start with,the better your chances of having a crop after a spring frost.Second, fruit plants are charging up their batteries now. They’llcrank up next spring on the strength of the energy reserves theybuild up between now and their fall shutdown.”For the first 30 days or so next spring, a fruit plantwill depend on its stored reserves,” he said. “Thoseare the reserves it’s producing this fall and storing in its rootsand stems.”Don’t rush out and start pouring on the fertilizer, though.”Too much fertilizer could do more damage than good,”Krewer said. “The plant could wind up making less fruit insteadof more.”Too much fertilizer now, he said, could cause the plant togrow too much in late summer and increase shading in the plant’sinterior, resulting in fewer flower buds. Excessive growth isalso more susceptible to cold injury this fall and winter.Take a Soil Sample to Determine NeedsThe ideal thing to do, Krewer said, is to take a soil sampleto the county extension office. Get an analysis of your plants’precise fertility needs.”Summer is a great time to pull a soil test,” hesaid. “The readings will be closer to the actual soil conditionsthe plants experience during the growth season. The pH goes downthis time of year. So you get a better picture of your limingneeds.”One benefit of soil testing is that you can often save on fertilizercosts. “Often plants require only nitrogen in the summer,”he said.If you really don’t want to run a soil test, the next bestthing is to use a balanced, premium-grade fertilizer.That would supply the main nutrients plants need — nitrogen,phosphorus and potassium — in balanced amounts. It would alsoprovide the micronutrients needed for good growth.What’s Best for Berries, Isn’t for PearsFor many fruit trees, a seat-of-the-pants rule is to apply1 pound of premium-grade 10-10-10 per inch of trunk diameter.But don’t apply more than 3 pounds per tree in late summer.”For pears, apply a little less than that,” Krewersaid. “Pears are prone to put on too much vegetative growthif you fertilize them too much.”For blueberries, he said, apply 1 ounce of the same fertilizerper foot of bush height. But don’t apply more than 6 ounces perbush.In rich soils or where fruit plants often grow too much, hesaid, cut any of these rates by one-half to two-thirds.Be prepared to fertilize again next spring, just before orduring bloom. “Fruit plants usually need fertilizer everyspring and every summer after harvest,” Krewer said.