The Pacific Northwest has some of the most beautiful landscapes around. The forests in this part of the country are beautiful year-round and boast many different species of trees. Our beautiful trees and plants receive their nutrients from the decaying organic matter in their natural habitats. This means the fallen leaves and decaying animal and plant matter are what fertilizes and feeds trees in nature.
Since most of the organic material in a landscaped environment is removed—such as leaves, grass clippings, and tree and bush trimmings—these trees aren’t always getting the nutrients they need and require the help of fertilization to stay healthy. Let’s take a look at what the best practices for fertilizing in the Pacific Northwest should look like.
It’s important to note that fertilizer isn’t food. Plants make their own food through photosynthesis. Fertilizer, on the other hand, provides the minerals and nutrients that are lacking in the soil, just as decaying organic matter provides in a tree’s natural habitat. Landscape trees and plants need the extra nutrients in the soil to maintain optimal health.
Fertilizing early in the spring is the best time for the health and safety of your tree. If you fertilize in the fall, there’s a risk of the plant becoming metabolically active when the cold weather arrives. There’s also a risk of the fertilizer leaching into the groundwater if there’s an abundance of rain.
Most of the time, younger trees are the plants in need of extra nutrients in the soil, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, if an older tree or shrub is showing signs of stress, such as yellowing foliage, the more mature tree may be in need of fertilizing. To help decide if your Pacific Northwest trees need the help of fertilizing, take note of any of these things in your trees:
● Has the color, amount of foliage, or size of your tree changed over the past few years?
● Does your tree seem to be diseased or have insect problems?
● Is your tree growing slower than expected for the species? How much growth do you notice per year? Most healthy, young trees grow about 12 to 18 inches of new shoots while older trees have slower growth.
The best nutrients and minerals to provide for your trees are those they would receive in their natural Pacific Northwest habitat. Some of the basic nutrients you will find in fertilizer are:
Knowing your tree’s needs before you set out to buy fertilizer and doing the research on your trees will really pay off and save you time and effort. You’ll be able to determine how much fertilizer your tree needs and which trees are showing signs of nutrient-lacking soil. Once you have determined what your tree’s needs are, you can then take charge of your tree’s health and help it grow.
There are many types of tree fertilizers, but in the broadest sense, the two options are organic and inorganic. Inorganic fertilizers usually have only a couple of ingredients and are in a form readily available to the trees. Organic fertilizers are made from animal and plant matter, similar to what trees in a forest would get: animal waste, vegetable matter such as compost and crop residue, manure, or slurry.
With the number of tree species that thrive here in the Pacific Northwest, it may be overwhelming if you don’t know what trees are growing in your yard. It’s always best to reach out to a local expert to find answers about the species or for help with what fertilizer is best.
Once you determine what trees need fertilizing, what kind of fertilizer the trees need, and when to fertilize, it’s time to take action. The bag of fertilizer will have an application rate chart on the back to help you determine how much fertilizer is needed.
To do this, you need to measure four feet up the trunk of the tree from the ground. At that height, measure the diameter of the trunk. This will tell you how many pounds of fertilizer you need, according to the application rate chart.
The goal of adding fertilizer is to provide extra nutrients to the soil, so making sure the nutrients are as close to the active root as possible will help with the most absorption possible. You can use a tree auger to create holes to add fertilizer or a shovel to lift up sod or ground and then add fertilizer.
With an auger, 12- to-15-inch holes should be created two feet apart around your tree at the dripline. This is where the outer branches end and where most of the water from rain will drip down from the leaves. Usually, the root system of the tree spreads out wider than the canopy of the tree, but the dripline of the tree has the most water and nutrient absorption. Be careful not to damage the roots when you’re using the auger.
Once the holes have been created around the tree at the dripline, divide the fertilizer evenly between the number of holes. After the holes have been covered back up, the last step is watering. It’/s important to water well to help push the fertilizer down closer to the roots for easier absorption.
Taking the time to research your tree and their needs is going to be the most helpful tool in keeping your beautiful trees healthy and thriving in the Pacific Northwest. There are many different fertilizer options, and each tree species has its own unique needs. At Mr. Tree, our experts have the knowledge and experience to take care of all of your tree needs, and we pride ourselves on helping our customers beyond expectation. We look forward to being able to help you and would love to answer any questions you have.