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FERTILIZE YOUNG TREES FOR IMPROVED GROWTH

Young trees, those less than 6 inches in trunk diameter, will greatly benefit from a yearly application of fertilizer. Research has shown that fertilizing young trees will dramatically increase their growth rate. Fall or late winter is the best time to apply this fertilizer because the nutrients are picked up by the plant and stored, then used for rapid growth in the Spring.

Maturing or mature trees, on the other hands, will rarely benefit from an Young Blooming Treeapplication or nutrients because their wide-reaching root systems are able to absorb nutrients from lawn fertilizer or through beneficial network of soil organisms.

The horticulture industry previously recommended a standard application of a balances fertilizer such as 13-13-13 (13% nitrogen, 13% phosphorus and 13% potassium). New research indicates that soils with moderate to high natural levels of phosphorus and potassium do not need additional applications of these nutrients. Soils in the Kansas City area are naturally high in phosphorus and potassium. Therefore, use a fertilizer with a high percentage of nitrogen, which is the first number listed on the bag. Look for N:P:P ratios of 3:1:2 or 3:1:1. Products labeled 10-4-6 or 20-5-10, for example, are based on this ratio.

Use the table below as a guide to determine how much fertilizer to use. It is based on the trunk diameter and the percent of nitrogen in the fertilizer. For example, if your tree's trunk is 4 inches in diameter at breast height and you are using a 20-5-10 fertilizer, you would need to apply five pounds of fertilizer, or 10 cups.

Amount of Fertilizer to Use
1
5
2.5
1.25
2
10
5
2.5
4
20
10
5
6
60
30
15
* One pound of fertilizer = about two cups.

Since the majority of a tree's feeder roots are in the upper 6 to 12 inches of the soil, it is best ot make sure the nutrients are placed within this level. The best method is to dig holes or use a punch bar to make holes in the soil to a depth of about 12 inches. Then, place about one-half cup of the fertilizer in each hole. Starting at the outer edge of the drip line, the area directly below the tips of the branches of the tree, dig holes spaced approximately every two feet from each other. Work your way all around the drip line's circumference. Next, move out two feet and make another circle of holes.

If there is any remaining fertilizer, place a third circle of holes two feet inside the first circle. (This third circle will be closer to the tree trunk.) This method helps to distribute the fertilizer to more of the tree's root system.

Taking the time to fertilize a young tree will reward you for years to come with the beauty and splendor of a healthy specimen gracing your landscape.

Source: Oregon State University Extension

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