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Fertilizing Landscape Trees and Shrubs Part 2

Jul 11, 2008
As part of your overall landscape plan, the importance of a care program which includes monitoring and keeping insect and disease problems in line along with restraining weed competition should be considered. Here is how to determine if fertilizer is needed-
Scrutinizing the trees and shrubs visually is frequently the best general factor to apply in arriving at fertilization decisions.
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Bad leaf color (pale green to yellow)
Decreased leaf size and retention
Untimely autumn coloration and foliage drop
Decreased twig and branch emergence and retention
Overall decreased plant development and vigor
As well as detecting signs of possible nutritive deficiencies of the plants, soil and foliage analysis can be used to help ascertain or corroborate whether additional fertilization is needed.

Soil Test
Eighteen nutrients are essential for plants: carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur and nine trace minerals: iron, boron, copper, manganese, molybdenum, zinc, cobalt, nickel and chlorine. Carbon, oxygen and hydrogen function in the formation of plant cells and food creation, the first two obtained from the atmosphere and the latter gotten from water absorbed by roots.

A soil test furnishes specialized data on the potential for plant reaction to agricultural limestone and to phosphorus and potassium fertilizers. In addition it provides a verifiable basis for ascertaining how much of those elements to add once they are found to be lacking. A representative soil sampling can be a challenge to get, because most nutrient-absorbing roots of trees and bushes are in the upper six inches of the soil and may stretch out two or three times beyond the radius of the crown. Consequently, in determining the nutritional demands of trees, it's also essential to look at soil and moisture conditions; the species, age and vigor of the plants; and previous fertilization.

Nitrogen, the most typically depleted soil nutrient, furnishes the greatest growth response. Unfortunately, soil tests or analyses for accessible nitrogen are not very dependable. Nitrogen is present in different forms (e.g. nitrate, ammonium, urea) and these forms can alter rapidly in the soil. All the same, overall tree growth, especially root and shoot elongation, leaf color and leaf size, can be heightened with increases of nitrogen. Be sure not to over fertilize with nitrogen. Don't overcompensate with greater amounts of nitrogen when fertilizing grass, bushes and trees. Nitrate leaches readily from numerous soils and can create water pollution problems.

Fertilizer Selection
An assortment of fertilizer types exist:
Complete (N-P-K) vs. Partial (one or additional select nutrients)
Organic vs. inorganic
Fast release vs. slow release
Dry (grained, pelletized, spikes, powdered, encapsulated) vs. liquid

To help determine the type of fertilizer to apply, consider the following: type of plant, time of year, desired rate of plant reaction, application methods and equipment cost, proximity to water sources, effect of soil type and pH, type of deficiency, and results of a soil test or other sampling method.

Nearly all landscape plants profit from a slow secreting nitrogen fertilizer that can be organic or inorganic. Remember that nitrogen is easily washed through the soil, but phosphorus and potassium are not, signifying they necessitate less frequent application.

NOTE: The fertilizer package has three numbers such as, 10-10-10. They represent, respectively, the percentage by weight of nitrogen (N), available phosphorus (P2O5) and water-soluble potash (K2O). These figures help you choose the right fertilizer and determine how much to apply. For example, a fertilizer labeled as 10-10-10 contains 10 percent N, 10 percent P2O5 and 10 percent K2O. The remaining 70 percent is usually inert filler.
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