Fertilizer FAQs

If you have ever walked down the fertilizer aisle(s) and felt overwhelmed by the number of options, you are not alone.  Going to a lawn and garden center can be stressful. You can sometimes feel like you need an agriculture degree just to keep your trees and shrubs healthy, but fortunately that is not necessary. You just need to know the answer to a few fertilizer FAQs and you will be able to pick which fertilizer to use in your yard.

WHAT EXACTLY IS FERTILIZER?

On a very basic level, fertilizer a chemical or natural substance added to soil or land to increase its fertility.

On a more scientific level, fertilizer is a mixture of macronutrients and micronutrients that optimize the health of a plant. The macronutrients – the ones that are needed in the largest quantities by a plant – are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). The micronutrients – the ones needed in smaller quantities by the plant – include iron, manganese, zinc, chlorine, boron, copper, nickel and molybdenum.

Fertilizer can be compared to a multivitamin people take to stay healthy.

WHY DO I NEED FERTILIZER? WON’T NATURE TAKE CARE OF IT?

Nature has its limits. In the wild, nature will only let the number and kind of plants grow that it can sustain. In our yards, we tend to defy nature; we grow as many plants as we want and whatever species we like. So, if we grow what nature doesn’t choose to grow we are on our own; we need to provide the nutrition the plants need ourselves.

WHAT ARE THOSE 3 NUMBERS ON A BAG OF FERTILIZER?

Those 3 numbers represent the percentage of the macronutrients in the bag – commonly written as N-K-P. A 10-20-10 fertilizer works well with flowering trees and shrubs and for non-flowering woodies, a basic 10-10-10 works well.

WHY ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF FERTILIZER FOR WOODIES?

Woody plants – those that have trunks, branches and limbs – get a “head start” in our climate. Because of our 4 seasons, non-woodies fall to the soil in autumn and have to regrow in spring.  Conversely, woodies have parts that live year round so in the spring they don’t have to expend as much energy as non-woodies to grow; thus, non-woodies need some extra nutrients to give them the energy to do that extra growing.

WHAT TYPE OF FERTILIZER DO I USE?

Once you decide on the nutrients your trees and shrubs need, you have to pick a type of fertilizer – dry, spikes or root feeders. Many people choose to go with dry fertilizer because it is inexpensive, tends to last longer and spread better and it is hard to make mistakes.

HOW DO I LAY DRY FERTILIZER?

The best method is to punch holes into the ground about 2-3 feet apart and 6-8 inches deep on a grid system covering the area to be fertilized. Divide the total amount of fertilizer needed among the holes and cover each hole with a handful of soil. If you are feeling lazy, you can just spread it across your lawn.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD TREES AND SHRUBS BE FERTILIZED?

No matter what fertilizer you use, don’t over-fertilize. Just like we can overdose on vitamins, so can trees and shrubs. In their first year, most woodies don’t need to be fertilized. Once they mature, annual fertilization is best.

WHY SHOULD I HIRE A CERTIFIED ARBORIST TO FERTILIZE MY TREES AND SHRUBS?

There is a difference between what fertilizers licensed technicians can use versus what the homeowner can buy and the overall effectiveness is drastically different.  When Birch Tree Care applies deep root fertilization for trees and shrubs we use a slow-release fertilizer called Arbor Green PRO.  It is one of the most important things you can do to help your trees and shrubs thrive.  They will better be able to access water and will be less susceptible to damage from diseases, insects and stressful weather.  Plus, you’ll be treated to the better blooming, luxurious foliage and enhanced vitality of healthy trees and shrubs while adding value to your property.

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