Question: Do you need to fertilize trees? I’ve seen my neighbor fertilizing one of his, but I’ve never done that before and I wonder if it’s even necessary. – Jacob H
Answer: There are two factors which will decide whether you should fertilize a tree or not. The first factor is what type of tree you’re growing. The second factor is the type of soil you’re planting in.
If you’re growing a tree which produces fruit, it’ll need more nutrients during the time of blooming and producing.
If planting a tree in fall, it might be wise to provide fertilizer to the tree to help it overwinter its first year.
If you have a damaged tree, it’s wise to apply fertilizer during the spring. This helps with new growth and healing from any damage caused by the elements, pests, or diseases.
Lastly, if you have a tree which has been pruned recently, it’s wise to fertilize it in spring to provide a boost of nutrients to help it seal the cut portions.
However, if you have a tree that’s in good health and not under any type of stress, it probably doesn’t need to be fertilized.
You’ll know that your tree is stressed if you see curly or discolored foliage, the tree is stunted, or failing to thrive overall.
These are all signs the tree might need more nutrients to help it overcome the trouble it’s facing.
Overall, if your tree does need to be fertilized, it’s wise to test your soil first. Get an idea of what nutrients it might be missing to know what it is you’re trying to supply.
From there, apply necessary nutrients per the package instructions. It’s best to fertilize in spring or fall. You should only fertilize in the summer if the tree is in dire need.
Even then, it’s best to use diluted fertilizers to ensure you don’t do more damage than good.
As you can see, there are a variety of instances and specific times when it’s necessary to fertilize trees. Overall, if your trees are healthy and growing in amended soil, they shouldn’t need additional nutrients from you unless they’re trying to produce or heal.
Also, realize that fertilizer isn’t actually “food” for the tree. The tree makes its own food through photosynthesis. Instead, it’s a dose of nutrients the tree needs to perform this process.
There’s a common misconception that fertilizer is necessary to “feed” your tree. It isn’t necessary and is only needed during the times outlined above.
Hopefully this information will help you provide optimal care to your trees and encourage them to thrive for many years.