Is your tree on fertile ground—or is a little fertilization in order? Trees, shrubs and plants are living things, and they need the right nutrients to thrive. Also, just like you, they might need a little help in that area. You take a multi-vitamin or shake up your diet to optimize your health, but what if you were stuck with the same old (limited) fare every day? Your trees can’t head to the supermarket for a daily multivitamin or vary their meals; they’re relying on the same soil day in and day out. Chances are it’s not optimized for their health.
Nutrient deficiencies in the soil mean your tree won’t be the best it can be. It’ll be more vulnerable to pests and diseases, and will have a shorter lifespan than comparable trees who are well fertilized. There are two major types of nutrients trees need: Micronutrients and macronutrients. Trees need more macronutrients than micro, but both are crucial. Macronutrients include calcium, magnesium, nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Micronutrients include boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese and molybdenum.
But how do you know if your trees are “hungry?”
Feed Me, Seymour (or Whatever Your Name May Be)
There are numerous signs of deficiencies—one of the most common being yellowing in between leaf veins—but you’re no arborist. The only way to tell if your soil is top notch is by testing it, and a tree specialist can do that for you. However, get ready: The odds of your soil having the perfect balance of all nutrients is nearly impossible. Luckily, there are many options for fertilizers and there are a variety of options when it comes to price, care and sustainability.
Choose from organic or inorganic (synthetic) fertilizers to give your trees the nutrition they need. While inorganic fertilizers are more soluble than organic, leading to a quicker dose of the good stuff, there are obvious reasons why some homeowners prefer organic materials. Your tree specialist will break down the pros and cons of each type of fertilizer to ensure you (and your trees) are matched with the best solution for you. Keep in mind that where you live (and not just the soil) can play a key role in the need to fertilize.
Location, Location, Location
Similar to humans, trees in high stress environments like urban areas or the suburbs need a little more TLC. There isn’t as much moisture, they risk physical damage, there’s more competition and soil compaction is an issue. Fertilizers can minimize these stressors, but it’s also paramount that trees are well pruned and watered.
Ideally, soil samples are taken before trees are planted and again every three years. However, it’s never too late to start giving your tree the diet it deserves. If a positive change in diet works wonders for you, just imagine what it can do for your landscape.