With the arrival of fall, there are many outdoor tasks for the attentive homeowner to complete. It’s also the perfect time to fertilize trees. If you’re a homeowner and have never fertilized your trees before, you may wonder why fall is the best time to do it. Fertilizing your trees in the fall will provide them with a stronger base on which to thrive and grow next spring.
Trees, like any other plant, require nutrients to live, grow and thrive. When nutrients in the soil are deficient, a tree cannot reach its full potential and it will also be more likely to develop a disease or insect problem. Trees need macronutrients and micronutrients, with macronutrients being needed in larger quantities.
The macronutrients a tree needs to grow properly include calcium, magnesium, sulfur, phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen. When a tree is fertilized, it adds extra macronutrients to the soil that improve growth and strengthen the root system.
The micronutrients a tree will require to thrive include molybdenum, iron, manganese, zinc, chlorine, boron and copper. A tree can be fertilized using an organic or inorganic fertilizer, but it is better to use a slow release formula for the best results.
Do Your Trees Really Need Fertilizer?
Trees in our area are often under high stress conditions due to summer heat, soil compaction, physical damage, insect or fungal infestation, low moisture, construction and from other trees and shrubs nearby. Applying fertilizer may mitigate the damage and improve the overall health of a tree.
It is important to keep newly planted trees well watered and pruned to keep weeds away. The best indication of whether or not to apply fertilizer is a soil sample test.
If soil testing cannot be done, there are other ways to tell if a tree is in need of fertilizer. When a tree has new shoot growth of less than six inches, then fertilizer may be applied.
Another way of telling if a tree could use fertilizer is by viewing the color of its leaves. If the leaves in the fall appear yellow or “off-color”, it may indicate a need for fertilizer because it is generally a symptom of nutrient deficiency. Of course, certain trees normally have an off-color to the leaves including some varieties of ash and maple; the horticulture experts at Fischer Environmental can assist you with pinpointing the cause.
When Should Fertilizer Be Applied?
Unless a tree is suffering from a nutrient deficiency, increased nitrogen will have the most profound effect on growth. However, just because an increase in nitrogen will lead to a growth spurt, does not mean there are other elements that aren’t missing. A soil test is the best indicator of the elements a tree will need.
A tree should never be fertilized with a fertilizer that contains any type of herbicide. These types of fertilizers may benefit the turf, but can be quite damaging to trees.
Maintaining Trees and Shrubs
Trees and shrubs will typically go through three growth stages when nitrogen is needed. When a tree is newly planted, during the young stage, and at maturity, it will need to be fertilized with nitrogen.
Trees will best respond to nitrogen fertilizer application when it is broadcast over the area where the roots lie. Slow release pellets, sticks and liquid fertilizers are the most common types of fertilizer a homeowner can use on their trees and shrubbery.
Benefits of Fall Fertilization
Through fertilizing your trees in the fall, it will allow some of the nutrients to be slowly absorbed into the ground and give tree roots a growth spurt in the spring. Fertilizing your trees in the fall will produce a healthy, vigorous tree that will bloom beautifully in the spring and be less likely to be attacked by diseases, insects and other types of potential stress.
Let Fischer Environmental help you get the most out of your trees this season.