Trees... they're everywhere. Just take a look around in your front yard, along the side walk, or around the public park.
Trees are vital to the environment, storing carbon dioxide and producing the oxygen we breathe. They provide shelter for wildlife as well as important resources for humans.
While trees are invaluable contributors to the natural world, they're unfortunately often taken for granted. In all likelihood, trees in your community or even on your lawn may not be sufficiently cared for.
Trees essentially give us life, and it's about time for us to return the favor.
So how do we ensure and improve the health of our trees? For one, providing fertilizer is a step in the right direction. Just like with other kinds of plants, fertilizer for trees serves to provide them with the essential nutrients they may lack, helping them to grow stronger, healthier, and more beautiful.
Tree Fertilizer... But Why?
So why should you fertilize trees in the first place? Aren't they able to grow well naturally on their own?
Well, it's actually not that simple...
The trees around your house aren't located in their natural habitats. Woods and forests, for example, are typically filled with nutrient-rich soil for miles and miles on end. The trees next to your sidewalk or lawn, on the other hand, don't have access to this abundance of soil in the first place. They also have to compete with grass, shrubs, and other plants in the area for access to vital minerals and nutrients. Additionally, we often sweep away debris like twigs, branches, fallen bark, and animal manure, which serve as natural fertilizers in the wild.
Finally, there may also be other outside stressors that inhibit your trees' ability to take in the organic nutrients they need. Insects and other pests, chemical pesticides, poor soil conditions like excessive pH, droughts and dry spells, and various other negative influences can all be detrimental to the growth of your trees.
Now you've probably heard about fertilizing your lawn grass or flowering plants to prevent such effects, but did you know that your trees could also use the help of a nutrient boost?
Tree fertilizers promote healthy soil structure and serve to mimic the nutrient uptake that trees would receive in their natural environment. They help develop stronger root structures, improve resistance to pests and diseases, encourage vegetative growth, and bolster overall plant health.
So are your trees already healthy, or could they benefit from a nutritional supplement?
The next time you're outside, be sure to look for signs of nutrient deficiency, such as dead leaves and branches, short twig growth, and general dryness and discoloration of the bark or foliage. These symptoms indicate that your trees might be lacking in nutrient requirements and perhaps in need of a fertilizer application.
Note: Tree fertilizers generally work for shrubs too. If you have a few bleak-looking bushes by the side of your house, try giving them some fertilizer as well.
How and When to Apply
The best time to fertilize your trees is during spring or fall (although with a slow-release fertilizer, virtually any season should work just fine.)
In the springtime, applying fertilizer will give your trees a boost of nutrients just in time for the crucial growing season and keep leaves lush and green throughout the summer months.
Fertilizing in the fall, on the other hand, carries the benefit of helping recover nutrients in the soil lost during the summertime and promoting healthy root development throughout the winter.
Actually applying the fertilizer can be a little tricky, as entire root systems extend deep underground and far beyond the outer reaches of the tree's branches. Many brands of tree and shrub food come in the form of fertilizer spikes, inserted into the soil in a circular ring around the tree, typically lined up with the edge of the branches. Be sure to carefully follow the manual on the fertilizer package for detailed placement instructions.
Image Credit | Jobe's Company
Other kinds of tree fertilizers, like typical lawn food, are granular in size and shape — in that case, be sure to thoroughly sprinkle and spread around the base of the tree and rake fairly deeply into the ground.
Going Organic (and Vegan)?
While there are various brands and labels on the market, we strongly recommend opting for organic fertilizer.
The dangers of chemical fertilizers are plenty — for your plants as well as the overall environment.
For one, they often work too quickly and contain heavy concentrations of potent chemicals like nitrogen and phosphorus, which can overfeed and damage your plants and trees (known as fertilizer burn). Too much synthetic fertilizer can also cause toxic buildup within the soil, which can damage root structure, harm beneficial soil microbes, and essentially poison the surrounding ecosystem.
Inorganic fertilizer products are also harmful to the overall environment. Their production requires heavy usage of fossil fuels, which of course contributes to the greenhouse effect and global warming. And they contain a variety of dangerous chemicals which can seep into the soil and groundwater, not only damaging plants but also hurting organisms living in the Earth.
Natural fertilizers, on the other hand, are much safer for the ecosystem and better for your trees. They work slowly, using a slow-release process to allow plants to more gradually absorb the nutrients they need. This also provides a supply that will last the entire growing season, ensuring sufficient levels of nutrients for an extended period of time. Organic matter also helps to improve overall soil texture and enrich microbial life, helping to strengthen the overall health of your plants and the surrounding environment. And finally, natural ingredients are free of dangerous chemicals, meaning that they're safer for plants, pets, and people.
Do note that even among natural fertilizers, however, there are stark differences. Many brands use organic ingredients made with animal products — for instance, blood meal, bone meal, and feather meal from cruelly factory-farmed livestock or fish meal from the unsustainable commercial fishing industry. Thus, we encourage all environmentally-conscious plant growers to choose organic and vegan options whenever possible.
Just like lawn grass, bonsai, flowers, and any other kind of plants, trees can also benefit greatly from the application of organic fertilizer. After all, a front lawn or sidewalk isn't the natural environment for a tree, but fertilizers can help by increasing nutrient availability, helping to promote healthy plant growth.
In addition, we recommend organic and vegan plant food, made with all-natural ingredients that aren't derived from animal byproducts. Check out Shin Nong's own PRO ORGANIC Tree Fertilizer, which is 100% organic and 100% vegan like our entire of products.
If you're also looking improve your overall yard, check out our previous blog post: How to Care For and Organically Fertilize Your Lawn