A Guide to Fertilizing Your Trees the Right Way
When it comes to growing trees, a lot depends on the natural environment. However, in a non-natural habitat like your front or backyard, trees are missing out on essential nutrients.
Fertilizer can help your trees thrive in their new environment and stave off pests and disease. When applied the right way, fertilizer can also boost their root system and provide them with an important nutrient boost. You can also get in contact with local arborists like Action Tree Kelowna to subscribe to other important services your trees need.
What are the Benefits of Fertilizing?
Fertilizing your trees the right way can help you bolster their health and encourage new growth, developing a strong root system to fight off pests, disease and environmental stresses. However, not all fertilizers are created equal and it is important to choose the right one for your trees.
Whether you have young trees or mature trees, you should consider fertilizing them at least once each year. It’s especially important to fertilize young trees that are less than 6 inches in diameter. It’s also essential to use a slow-release fertilizer on your trees, which will help them grow properly over time.
You can find tree fertilizers that contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These nutrients are needed to promote healthy, vibrant foliage and fruits. They also provide a boost to the tree’s immune system, helping it resist pests and diseases.
In general, you should fertilize your trees in the spring or fall. Early spring is ideal because this is the time when the roots are coming out of their dormant phase and need a boost. This will give them a jump start on the growing season, allowing them to get the most out of their nutrients.
Late spring and summer are also good times to fertilize because the soil is still warm enough for the roots to take up the nutrients. This helps the tree survive and thrive until new growth starts in the fall.
While there is no wrong time to fertilize your trees, you should always remember to never feed a plant that is drought stressed. If a plant is under stress, it cannot absorb the nutrients it needs and will likely die.
To determine if your tree needs fertilization, you should look for signs of poor growth and deficiencies in the soil. Signs of low nutrition can include pale green or yellow leaves, mottled patterns between the veins, dead spots, stunted leaf growth or early loss of leaves.
If you see any of these signs, it’s best to investigate the causes of the problem before you decide to fertilize. Heavily compacted soil, stresses induced by insects, diseases and weeds or adverse weather conditions can all cause symptoms that look like nutrient deficiency.
When Should I Fertilize?
Fertilizing your trees is an essential part of a good tree care regimen. When you fertilize your trees, you’re giving them a boost of nutrients that will allow them to grow and flourish in the years to come.
The best time to fertilize your trees is during the spring and fall. During these times, your trees are using lots of energy and are most likely to need extra help for optimal health.
In the spring, your trees are actively regrowing after a long winter. This is a crucial time when they’re using their limited energy stores to seal off wounds and prepare for a strong summer.
Your trees are also storing food energy for future growth and to use during their dormant season next spring. If your trees aren’t getting enough nutrients, they’ll have a difficult time storing and using this energy.
Young and newly planted trees are especially prone to fertilizer stress if they aren’t given adequate amounts of nitrogen. They need to absorb nutrients through their roots and develop an association with fungi called mycorrhizae that help them utilize minerals in the soil.
Older and established trees need fertilization to maintain vigor. Low vigor means your trees aren’t growing as fast as they should and are more susceptible to disease, insect infestations and lower life expectancy. Lack of twig and branch growth, stunted leaves, early fall leaf loss or yellowing are common signs of low vigor.
Many experts now recommend that you fertilize your trees in late fall, about a month after the first killing frost, rather than early spring. The reason is that, as deciduous trees lose their leaves, they’re no longer actively growing new foliage and absorbing nutrients. This makes it much more efficient for them to apply these nutrients to vital health-enhancing functions like root development and disease resistance.
You should also be aware that you shouldn’t fertilize your trees during drought conditions or if you notice they’re suffering from water stress. Some fertilizers can actually damage your trees’ roots if they’re not receiving enough water. This is why you should always get your soil tested before you fertilize. Then, you can tailor your fertilizer application to your plants’ specific needs.
How Much Should I Fertilize?
Fertilizing your trees and shrubs the right way is essential for their long-term health. Trees and shrubs benefit from fertilizers as a way to provide nutrients needed for root development, leaf growth, fruit production, vigor, and disease resistance.
The amount of fertilizer you use depends on a number of factors, including the stage of your tree’s life and its location in your yard. Some trees are young and need little or no fertilizer for their first few years of life, while others are mature and require regular applications to promote healthy growth.
Regardless of what stage your tree is in, follow the fertilizer package directions and measure off the appropriate amounts to fertilize your trees. The fertilizer bag will also have an “N-value” that tells you how much nitrogen the fertilizer provides per pound.
Newly planted trees and shrubs need a high rate of nitrogen to establish their roots. This helps them grow quickly and develop a dense canopy right into the fall.
As they mature, the trees’ roots develop an association with fungi called mycorrhizae, which help the trees utilize minerals in the soil. As a result, many young trees average about 12 to 18 inches of new shoot growth each year.
If you have a fruit tree, such as an apple, pear, or nectarine, you should fertilize it once or twice a year to achieve the maximum amount of growth. In most cases, a 0.5 lb of nitrogen is adequate to keep your fruit tree growing healthy.
The NH Department of Agriculture recommends applying one to three pounds of actual nitrogen (the nitrogen that is in the fertilizer) per 1000 square feet of surface area, using a slow release or balanced nitrogen fertilizer. A lower rate is recommended for plants that have shallow feeder roots such as rhododendrons and azaleas.
If you want to give your trees a boost during the growing season, apply a complete fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in equal proportions. This will provide your trees with the nutrients they need to fight off disease and overcome mineral deficiencies.
What Type of Fertilizer Should I Use?
When it comes to keeping your trees and shrubs healthy, you have several choices of fertilizers to choose from. You can use organic fertilizer that’s made from natural materials or inorganic fertilizers that are lab-extracted chemicals.
The type of fertilizer you choose depends on the needs of your plants and the health of your soil. Taking a soil test is an excellent way to determine what nutrients your soil needs and what type of fertilizer you should use. You can find a soil testing kit for $8 to $25 at your local home center or online.
If the results of the soil test show that your soil is nitrogen-poor but rich in phosphorus and potassium, you’ll want to choose a fertilizer that has a balanced N-P-K ratio. A common ratio for general-purpose fertilizers is 10-10-10 (representing the nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium proportions), but some specialized fertilizers are available that contain more or less of each of the three key nutrients.
Whether you decide to use liquid or granular fertilizer will depend on what kind of plant you’re growing and the time of year it’s being grown in. Some garden plants, including annual flowers and fruits, require more fertilizer than others. Generally, they like being fed about once a month during the growing season with a general-purpose liquid fertilizer.
Other types of plants, including vegetables and bushes, don’t need as much fertilizer, and may prefer to have it applied more infrequently. You can also use a slow-release fertilizer for these plants that provides nutrients gradually over time, which saves you fertilizer and money in the long run.
A granular fertilizer in the form of tiny particles (aka granules) is usually a slow-release fertilizer. These are easier to apply than liquids, and they don’t need to be mixed with water first. You can also choose to spread them on your lawn or landscape using a spreader.
Some fertilizers are water soluble, which means that the nutrients they contain are released quickly into the soil. This type of fertilizer is best for sandy, well-drained soils that don’t have much clay in them.