Trees- Mulching and Fertilizing Facts and Ideas

Trees should not be neglected when it comes to mulching or fertilizing. Trees, shrubs, and hedges are the most important plants in your landscape.They are most widely used for shade and screening purposes. Find facts and helpful information on mulching and fertilizing your trees to keep them healthy and strong. There is nothing better than having a nice shade tree next to your favorite gazebo or garden bench to relax under.

"Tree Mulching"

Where to Mulch Trees

Ways of Mulching Trees

Trees will do much better if their roots are not having to compete with grass or other plants for water and nutrients. Besides, digging around the base of a tree to install other plants can actually damage tree roots. You should especially try to avoid disturbing shallow rooted trees, such as beeches and fleshy-rooted magnolias. Even with more tolerant, deep-rooted species, you should use caution and restraint, and limit decorative plantings to shade tolerant, shallow rooted ground covers. You can set them out when you’re planting the tree.

Another solution is to encircle the base of your trees with a generous layer of mulch. There are many types of mulch and it doesn't matter whether it is in the form of aged wood mulch, pebbles, or crushed rock. Mulches come in a variety of colors and textures that are attractive and will do a good job. For added splashes of color around tree trunks, you can arrange containers of bright flowered annuals.

Fertilizing Trees

You should fertilize new and young flowering trees with a slow-release fertilizer in the hole at the time of planting. Add to the hole (or bed) a combination of 8 month (spring planting) to 12 month (fall planting) slow-release fertilizer, as well as rock or super-phosphate, which sustains root growth.

After the second year restore used up nutrients in mid-fall or late winter to early spring by applying a slow-release balanced fertilizer. This, in addition to an annual application of a rich organic mulch of composted leaves or manure, or a mixture of both, will provide all of the nutrients needed for healthy growth.

Too much fertilizer of any type, but especially the chemical fertilizers, can burn tender roots and shoots, so never apply more than the amount suggested by the container label. Remember, with fertilizers, less is better than more. That is because excess can cause rapid weak growth that makes the plant vulnerable to wind damage, drought temperature extremes, pests, and diseases.

Established trees usually need little or no fertilizer, and lawn trees may get all the boost they need from nitrogen-rich lawn fertilizers. Too much fertilizer can cause succulent growth that attracts unwanted pests. If your tree show signs of nutrient deficiency, a soil test may by a laboratory is the best means of determining whether they need fertilizer, and if so, how much. The lab report will tell you the deficiencies and fertilizer application rates to use.

"Fertilizing Trees"

Fertilize the Feeder Roots

When to Fertilize Trees

A good time to apply fertilizer is in late winter before a tree’s period of rapid growth. Trees in mild climates can benefit from fertilizer applied in late fall, after their tops have become dormant but while their roots are still growing. If grass grows under the tree avoid feeding the grass by fertilizing with soluble granular nitrogen only when the grass is dormant, in late winter or early spring.

Broadcast the fertilizer over the soil beneath the outer two-thirds of the spread of the branches as the root zone usually extends far beyond the drip line. If your soil test shows that your tree need a more complete fertilizer that includes phosphate and potassium, apply it in the drip line zone under the branches.

Diagnosing Problems

If your tree has poor growth, discolored leaves, and failure to flower or fruit, this may be signs of possible nutrient deficiencies, but they can be caused by other factors as well and are often hard to diagnose.

Foliage plants with yellow leaves most likely need nitrogen, but the yellowed foliage of evergreens (yellow with dark veins in broad-leaved evergreens) suggests an iron deficiency.

Poor flowering may be due to a lack of potassium and phosphorus or insufficient light. Again, a soil test can help identify the source of the problem without the need for fertilizer. If soil tests indicate a need for fertilizers, try applications of a quick-release form of a soluble fertilizer.


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