Fertilizing Trees Properly for a Better Landscaping
Trees require nutrients to live and thrive. When one or more of these nutrients are deficient in the soil, the tree will not reach its full landscaping potential, will be more susceptible to disease and insect problems, and will have a shorter life than a similar, well-fertilized tree.
Many fertilizer products are available to provide trees with the appropriate nutrients. All fertilizer labels indicate the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium contained in the product by percent.
Both organic (naturally occurring) and inorganic (synthetic) fertilizers can be used to supply trees nutrients. Inorganic fertilizer is usually highly soluble and is more rapidly available to trees than organic fertilizer. Organic fertilizer takes time to break down and release nutrients more slowly. Organic fertilizer and inorganic fertilizer may be combined so that nutrients are available to trees rapidly and for an extended period of time. Some inorganic fertilizers are coated with various products to slow down the release of nutrients. These are called slow release fertilizers and are used to extend the length of time nutrients are available to trees.
Determining the Need for Fertilizing
The best indicator of whether fertilizing is necessary is a soil test. Ideally, a soil sample should be taken before trees are planted. Additional samples can be taken every 3 to 5 years thereafter to determine whether any nutrients are lacking.
What for fertilizing
A soil test provides the best indicator of elements that may need to be added to the soil to prevent nutrient problems. High rates of phosphorus fertilizer should not be used unless a need is indicated by a soil test. If soil test phosphorus is high then it is best to use fertilizers such as 24-0-15, 30-0-10, 32-3-10, 18-5-9, 27-3-3, or 16-4-8 with a high rate of nitrogen and a low or zero rate of phosphorus . High rates of phosphorus can negatively affect the environment by causing excessive algae to grow in nearby lakes and streams which will, in time, kill fish and other aquatic life. Never use a fertilizer which includes any kind of herbicide around a tree. These fertilizers may be beneficial to turf, but can damage trees.
Fertilizing Methods and Rates
Landscaping trees typically go through 3 stages of nitrogen need: a) newly planted stage, 1-2 years after planting; b) young rapid growth stage; 3-5 years after planting; and c) mature, maintenance stage, 5 or more years after planting. Nitrogen needs should be adjusted to account for the stage of growth.
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