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A Quick Guide to Fertilizer

earth-hugFertilizer is a great way to give your plants extra nutrients. Just like growing people, growing trees need an extra boost sometimes. We all used to take our Flintstones Vitamins as growing kids, so why not help your growing plants get their nutrition as well?

There’s a lot more to fertilizer than just nutrients. Like a booster shot, fertilizer can help plants fight off diseases, infections, and adjust to environmental stress more easily. Fertilizer can also help your trees and plants heal any damages or breaks that they may have in their upper portions, or on their roots.

Adding fertilizer to your soil keeps your land productive by replenishing the depleted nutrients. This gives back to the environment, especially with organic fertilizer. Farmers used to have to rotate their crops or move to better land, but once fertilizer came along they were able to stay in the same location and grow crops in the same field year after year!

Now let’s talk about when to fertilize, how to fertilize, and what type of fertilizer to use!

When to Fertilize

Lemon tree Before fertilizing it’s very important to let your plants get established in the ground. As a rule of green thumb wait to fertilize your trees and plants until after one year of growth. Once your plants have strong, developed root systems they can absorb nutrients from fertilizers they need to take off.

Fertilizing newly transplanted plants can cause quick upwards growth. However, the new growth will be weaker. Plants need to mature a little before they experience rapid growth. Rapid upwards growth can also slow the development of a plant’s root system. If the root system development is slowed then plants won’t get established into their new environment as well, and they’ll be less prepared for the extreme weather conditions of the upcoming seasons. Early applications of fertilizer can also burn young plant’s roots.

In the Spring

WisteriaSpring is arguably the best time to fertilize. Fertilizing in the spring will give your plants an extra boost for the growing season. This process will give your trees and plants a nice nutritious meal as they emerge from winter dormancy. It’s best to wait about a month after the final freeze in your region to fertilize your plants. In some places it warms up as early as February, but in most places it starts to warm up in March. Remember that the spring equinox is on March 20th, and it’s a great time to fertilize around that time. April is also a great month for fertilizing.

How often you fertilize in the spring and summer months depends on what type of plant you have. Royal Empress Trees love fertilizer, and can be fertilized up to twice a month during the growing season. Peach Trees don’t need to be fertilized as often, and only need fertilizer once in the spring and once in the summer. You can always refer to our planting directions to determine how often your plant could benefit from fertilizer.

In the Fall

Fall HouseFall is also a great time to fertilize your plants. Fertilizing in the fall gives plants a strong boost before the winter. Early fall, usually towards the end of September is the best time to fertilize. Pay attention to the weather, and stop fertilizing about a month before the first frost. Don’t fertilize too late in the season or inclement winter weather and freezing temperatures can damage the new, young growth promoted by fertilizer.

It’s best to fertilize your fruit producing plants in the spring before their fruit starts growing, and after their harvest, which for many plants is in the fall. Fertilized fruit plants not only bear more fruit, but larger, and tastier fruit. Refer to this chart if you’re wondering when the harvest is for your fruit producing plants.

Other indications

Although fertilizer does help trees, it’s not necessary. If you don’t fertilize yearly, pay attention to your plants. A plant’s leaves can provide some indications that it could benefit from or need fertilizer to reach its full potential. For instance, plants with pale, yellow, or generally off colored leaves may be lacking in essential nutrients. Sparse foliage and smaller than average leaves are other indications of poor soil. A fall application of fertilizer could be really helpful if a tree’s leaves are wilted or change colors and prematurely drop in August or early September.

How to fertilize

fert-area On the back of every granulated fertilizer bag is a recommended dosage for the size of your plant. We recommend using half of that dosage to avoid root burn. Sprinkle the fertilizer on the soil around your plant. Add fertilizer to the area around your tree where your branches extend. Branches usually mirror the roots, so the branch spread on your tree will give you a good idea of where your roots are under the soil. After you’ve applied the fertilizer give your tree a slow deep watering by holding your hose and counting to 20, or until the surrounding area is moist.

Fertilizer tablets should be placed in equal distances around the tree to about where the branches spread and placed about 6 inches beneath the soil. Once water hits the tablets they’ll expand and nutrients will be carried to the roots.

What type of fertilizer to use?

People argue that composted manure makes for the best fertilizer, but what if you don’t have access to a farm animal? Horses, chickens, cows and more often will give you some excellent organic fertilizer, but if you’re without them you can find the fertilizer that you need at your local gardening store. This fertilizer may be easier and the preferred type to handle. It will definitely smell better! Garden stores also provide excellent organic fertilizers as well.farm-animals

There are many different types of fertilizer with different numbers on them like 10-10-10 or 29-0-4. These numbers are the NPK ratio. The numbers are the percentage of how much of three very important nutrients are in the fertilizer. The N stands for Nitrogen, the P stands for Phosphorus and the K stands for Potassium. The first number is nitrogen, the second is for phosphorous and the third is for Potassium. 10-10-10 is a well-balanced mix, while 29-0-4 doesn’t have any phosphorous.

Nitrogen is great for foliage. Fertilizers high in nitrogen will restore bright green hues to your foliage. Phosphorous boosts blooms, increases flower production, and benefits root systems. Potassium strengthens plant’s immune systems and benefits their overall health. You can shop for a fertilizer based off of the numbers that you need if you can determine your plant is lacking a specific nutrient, or you can use 10-10-10 as a general all-purpose fertilizer.

iStock_000003174759SmallYou can also shop for a fertilizer based off of which plant that you have. Citrus trees love fertilizers that specifically say that they’re for a citrus plant. Citrus-tone is a fertilizer brand that works wonders for citrus trees like the Meyer Lemon Tree, Cold Hardy Avocado Tree, and more. The Cold Hardy Banana Tree prefers a well balanced fertilizer, with a little bit of every nutrient.

Acid loving shrubs like the Autumn Embers Encore Azalea loves acidic fertilizer. Holly-tone is high in acidity and works great for Azaleas and evergreen trees, like the Nellie Stevens Holly. If you’re unsure of what type of fertilizer to get for your plant, that’s also covered in our planting directions.

Relax knowing that you’ve helped your plants.

Whether you have granulated fertilizer, liquid fertilizer, or fertilizer tablets it’s like a multi vitamin for your plants. Your trees and shrubs will thank you for the fertilizer by being healthier, growing faster. Your plants will also say thanks by giving you brighter leaves and more blooms. After completing the simple task of fertilizing you can relax because your plants with be better equipped to fight off pests and diseases. They’ll be ready to take off and shine bright!

Pam
As a gardener and plant enthusiast I’ve loved growing trees and shrubs my entire life. Unknown to most, there are always new faster fruiting and double blooming plant hybrids emerging on the scene. I often feel the need to share my plant knowledge and new trends with the growing gardening community through my blog!