In the past, the basic concept was to fertilize plants in the spring to give them the kind of nutrient boost they’d need to thrive in the summer. Although this isn’t entirely wrong (and in some ways a great time to fertilize depending on the plant) – new research has indicated that it’s the fall, not the spring, that is the best time to fertilize plants – especially established trees. So what’s the reason for the sudden shift in thinking?
Instead of putting on new growth in the form of foliage, the roots of the trees take the nutrients and apply them to other, just-as-important tree functions such as disease resistance, root development and more. And if the tree ingests a surplus of nutrients during those winter months, they can store them in the roots and they become available as soon as they’re needed In the Spring. So remember that whole fertilizing trees in the Spring thing? If you’re doing it in the fall, you’re not only boosting your tree’s core functions – but you’re actually fertilizing the tree in the Spring as well.
Now all that being said – before you get carried away and start tossing piles of nutrient-super charged fertilizer over all of your favorite trees in your yard – it’s important to consider a few really important things.
First and foremost, not every tree can be considered for fertilization and those that do should have a soil test accompany them beforehand. Why? Because doing a soil test will tell you exactly what kinds of nutrients are lacking within in order to achieve the best possible growth. It’ll also provide you with recommendations for just what and how much to add. Think of a soil test as a guide that’ll tell you exactly what you need in order to achieve success.
Second, it’s important to remember that just because your tree grows with a little fertilizer, doesn’t mean you should add excessive amounts and pile it on. Excess nutrients can be wasted and even contaminate the soil and the surrounding micro-ecosystem. It’s really important – especially when you’re dealing with trees – to call a certified arborist first and get a professional opinion; especially if you’re looking to treat the tree yourself over time. Using too much fertilizer can cause extreme amounts of damage.
At the end of the day, our trees are pretty amazing creatures with incredible natural intuition when it comes to growth and self-preservation that don’t require too much unnecessary human assistance. Giving them a boost is a great idea- just make sure you do it right and get either professional service – or guidance first!