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How to Apply Fertilizer for Trees?

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When planting trees in your yard or garden, you may want to give them their best start with fertilizer. However, there are dozens of brands on the market for over-the-counter fertilizers. Moreover, there are many natural options for fertilizer.

Every fertilizer is not the same. Even so, every tree is not the same. You must research your specific tree species and its specific needs. Once you know the needs of your tree, you can find the fertilizer that will help it grow the best.

Applying fertilizer is more complicated than you expect. Fertilizer is beneficial for certain trees before planting and for others after..

Additionally, you can apply fertilizer using many different methods. You can apply fertilizer by:

  • Liquid soil injection
  • Surface application
  • Fertilizer stakes
  • Trunk injections
  • Drill Holes

Naturally occurring trees rarely need fertilizer. Their needs usually match their natural habitat. In fact, the natural cycle of the planet supports the plant life growing on it. On the other hand, landscaping trees planted by humans will often need fertilizer unless planted in their natural habitat.

Important Information about Fertilizers

Manufacturers sell over-the-counter fertilizers in varying ratios of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These are all essential nutrients for growing plants and trees. The best ratio for trees of these elements are 2-1-1 or 3-1-1.

Liquid Soil Injection

Liquid soil injection is a method of fertilization in which you inject fertilizer close to the roots of the tree. Most manufacturers design this fertilizer to release slowly. One of the most significant benefits of liquid soil injection is how little fertilizer is lost due to runoff.

Applying liquid soil injection is an easy process. Simply insert the injection tool into the ground approximately 10 inches. You will repeat this process multiple times around the perimeter of the tree. Liquid soil injection fertilizer produces stronger trees and can protect them from infestations. You will see the benefits of liquid soil injection in a matter of days. With easy access to the fertilizer, the roots of your tree will absorb the fertilizer quickly.

The trees that benefit the most from liquid soil injections are fruit trees. Fruit trees need protection from insect infestations and produce better fruit. Additionally, trees planted in urban areas with limited soil will benefit from liquid soil injection. In these locations, the soil is less nutritious.

Surface Application

One of the most common forms of fertilizing is surface application. It is also one of the fastest methods of application. However, surface application can lead to the biggest loss from runoff. Additionally, surface application of fertilizer can lead to greenhouse gases emitting into the air. You must be aware of where the fertilizer will run off to and what other plant life it can damage.

Various soil types are not compatible with surface fertilizers. Straw surface thatch soils block nutrients from seeping into the ground. Finally, there is no way to guarantee your tree will receive the benefits from the fertilizer. Weeds and other plants can steal nutrients from your intended target.

Studies from North Dakota State University estimate over 20% of surface urea is lost in the first 10 days.

Slow-growing trees benefit from surface application. It helps them grow slightly faster. When used every few years, it can maintain the growth and health of mature trees.

Fertilizer Stakes

Fertilizer stakes are a more expensive but less demanding form of soil injection. The stakes contain pre-measured amounts of fertilizer. It is then released over time to provide nutrients for an extended time. This method of fertilization will protect your tree from insects and other diseases.

Research the different types of fertilizer stakes. Manufacturers design the stakes for different types of plant life. To use fertilizer stakes, dig a small hole for the stake. Rain will promote the spread of the fertilizer.

Fertilizer stakes are easy to replace for a lifetime of support for your tree. The stakes are easy to handle and involve almost no maintenance. These are also a great options if you have pets or children around.

If you do not space the fertilizer stakes evenly around your tree, you may over-fertilize one part of the tree. This can result in serious issues and may weaken or kill the tree.

Trunk Injections

With some special tools, you can inject fertilizer and other pesticides directly into the trunk of your tree. It is an easy process with the correct tools. With this method, you reduce the risk of exposing other plants or animals to the fertilizer. It will also protect your family.

It is an expensive fertilizer method. However, it is more affordable than in the last decade. Your tree will receive the full benefit of the fertilizer with no loss. It is possible to over-fertilize, so you must use caution.

Elms and ashes benefit from trunk injection the most. These tree species are particularly prone to pests like the Emerald ash borer and Dutch Elm Disease. As this method becomes more affordable, more homeowners are using trunk injections. However, you may need to enlist a professional if you are unsure about the application.

Drill Holes

In this method, you combine many of the above methods. You drill holes into the soil around the tree to provide greater access to the roots. Next, you will spread fertilizer across the surface of the tree.

Fruit trees benefit greatly from this method. Just as they benefit from fertilizer stakes and liquid soil injections, fruit trees absorb tons of nutrients from drill holes. There is some art to this fertilization method. You must space the holes appropriately and evenly. Furthermore, the diameter of the hole matters.

There are some cylindrical tubes you can insert in these holes. Like fertilizer stakes, the fertilizer and nutrients will release slowly. With drill holes, the ground will organically absorb the nutrients when necessary.

All trees benefit from this type of fertilization. However, trees planted in urban areas will see the greatest benefit. You must use caution to not over-fertilize the soil though.

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