Complete Guide To Fertilizing Trees

So you’ve noticed that your tree seems to be struggling, and you’re wondering what to do to help. You may be tempted to grab a bag of fertilizer and call it a day, but hold on! Fertilizing trees and tree care is more complex than it seems. In this beginner-friendly guide, we’ll walk you through everything from soil testing and fertilization to when you should actually call an arborist. Plus, we’ll cover a specific pest causing trouble lately—the Spotted Lanternfly.

Step 1: Soil Testing—Don’t Skip This!

Before you go out and buy any fertilizer, you need to know what your soil needs to be improved. Think of it like a blood test for your tree. Kits are available at garden stores, and the test will show what nutrients the soil is missing and its pH level. Aim to do this every 2-3 years. Sometimes, it’s about more than just the major nutrients like nitrogen; the tree might also need micronutrients like zinc or manganese.

Step 2: The Right Fertilizer for Your Tree

Now you know your soil needs, you can choose the perfect fertilizer. You’ll see numbers like 10-10-10 or 20-5-5 on the bags. These indicate the ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, respectively. Your soil test will guide you here. And hey, if you’re into organic stuff, compost or shredded leaves work wonders, too.

We put together a small table of the different types of fertilizers:

Type of FertilizerN-P-K RatioBest ForApplication FrequencyExamples
Balanced10-10-10General-purpose fertilizationSeasonally or as neededMiracle-Gro Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food
High-Nitrogen24-4-8Promoting leaf and stem growthSpring and early summerScotts Turf Builder
High-Phosphorus10-20-10Root and flower developmentBefore planting or during floweringBonide Root & Grow
Slow-ReleaseVariableLong-term nutrient supplyLess frequent, according to productOsmocote Smart-Release Plant Food
OrganicVariableImproving soil structure and ecologyAs needed, often combined with other typesCompost, Manure, Bone Meal
SpecializedVariableSpecific deficiencies or plant typesAs indicated by soil tests or specific needsIronite Mineral Supplement, Epsom Salts

Step 3: Applying the Fertilizer

There are several ways to get that fertilizer into your soil:

  • Broadcasting: Sprinkling it over the ground.
  • Injecting: Using a tool to place it deeper into the soil.
  • Spiking: Driving fertilizer spikes into the ground.
  • Foliar Spraying: Spraying it directly on the leaves.

Remember to water the tree well after fertilizing. The best time to do this is late in winter or early spring, just before the tree sprouts new leaves.

Be Cautious: Too Much Is Bad!

Overdoing fertilization can harm the tree and even pollute the environment. Always read the instructions on the fertilizer package and adhere to them strictly.

When to Call an Owens Brothers Tree Service

While fertilization and soil care are crucial aspects of tree maintenance, they aren’t the only factors contributing to a tree’s health and safety. Sometimes, your tree may need specialized care, such as trimming, pruning, or removal. These services often require the expertise of trained arborists, and many professional tree services—including ours—offer free initial inspections.

Here’s when you should call an arborist:

  • Disease or Pests: If your tree’s leaves are discolored, or it has unusual spots or insects, you need an expert.
  • Structural Problems: If your tree is leaning or has broken branches, that’s a safety risk.
  • Overgrowth: If your tree interferes with power lines or buildings, it might need to be trimmed or removed.

Free Inspections: No Strings Attached

Here at Owens Brothers Tree Service, we offer free professional tree inspections to assess the health and structural integrity of a tree. We provide this service for private home owners and commercial businesses alike.

What Happens During a Free Inspection?

  1. Visual Assessment: The initial step involves a visual inspection to look for signs that trimming, pruning, or removal may be necessary. This could include dead branches, overcrowded growth, or leaning that indicates instability.
  2. In-depth Analysis: For more complicated issues, we may use specialized equipment to assess the tree’s internal health or stability.
  3. Consultation: After the inspection, we will discuss our findings, recommending whatever it is we feel your tree needs. It might be some fertilization, trimming, or pruning. We can also advise on how urgent these actions might be.

The Importance of Trimming, Pruning, or Removal

  • Trimming: This often involves cutting back overgrown branches that may obstruct views or interfere with power lines and structures. It can also improve the tree’s appearance.
  • Pruning: This is a more selective process, aimed at removing dead, diseased, or loosely attached branches to improve the tree’s health and appearance. Proper pruning can prevent diseases from spreading to other parts of the tree.
  • Removal: Sometimes, a tree may be too diseased or damaged to save or pose a significant safety risk. In these cases, tree removal is the safest course of action. An arborist will be able to safely and efficiently remove the tree, avoiding damage to your property or nearby structures.

The Spotted Lanternfly: A Special Alert

If you’re on the East Coast, keep an eye out for the Spotted Lanternfly. This pest is bad news for trees. They’re pretty but destructive. If you see one, call an arborist immediately and report it to your local authorities. Fertilizing a tree affected by this pest could make the situation worse. If you’re concerned about an infestation, and happen to live in the Bronx or Manhattan please give us a call. 

Wrapping Up Fertilizing Trees

Tree care is more than just throwing some fertilizer at the base of a tree. It’s about explicitly understanding what your tree needs, which sometimes involves calling in the experts. And we all need to be vigilant with invasive pests like the Spotted Lanternfly. So the next time you look out your window and think your tree needs some TLC, take a moment to consider what kind of care it needs. Your tree—and your local ecosystem—will thank you.

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