Trees, shrubs and woody plants generally do not need fertilizer, not when they’re planted or young, and not as they mature. Healthy upper stories create food the tree sends to healthy roots living in healthy soil.

At American Arbor LLC, we ensure all parts of this cycle are present and working for your Kalamazoo, MI trees. If the tree shows no signs of stress and is thriving in its growth, applying fertilizer is a waste of money and potentially damaging to the environment.

Mulch Magic

What can you do today to help your tree? Our Kalamazoo Certified Arborists often find that mulch applied out from the base to the tree’s drip line is the answer to many tree fertilization questions. It protects woody roots that store the tree’s energy and the softer kind pulling nutrients from the soil. Mulch also helps avoid compressing the soil over roots and damaging the trunk with lawn care equipment.

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A lack of nitrogen is often a culprit in failure to thrive, which is why leaving grass clippings or mulched leaves behind is such a great idea. A mulching mower is a terrific garden tool, both for clippings and to help leaves from healthy trees to decompose. Don’t bag, rake or burn it – mulch it!

Other human actions impact tree health. Your tree’s roots extend far beyond the dripline, so allow adequate growing areas for a good root structure. Don’t pave over the surface right up to the trunk. Installing other plants under the tree canopy also creates competition for nutrients and water.

When Tree Fertilization May Be Appropriate

Within the soil, two distinct categories of problems can occur. Not enough of a nutrient (deficiency) or too much of one (toxicity) can stunt growth or invite susceptibility to pests or diseases. In the Kalamazoo area, our most typical problems relate to the pH (acidity and alkalinity) of the soil, imbalance in specific macronutrients and micronutrients, and salinity.

Other conditions that may warrant adding fertilizer to the soil would be severe damage from pest or disease, or situations where roots are disturbed or damaged severely from trenching, digging, or compaction by earth moving equipment. In those cases, the tree may need an extra boost of nutrients to help it survive.

Science of Soil Profile

To determine if the soil profile will appropriately feed your tree’s needs, soil testing is required. Our arborists take soil samples to determine what nutrients might be a factor in a tree’s failure to thrive. Fertilizing for no reason based on a season or the calendar is less effective than a specific plan of care.

If fertilization is needed to address a specific condition, we use a targeted approach to care for the tree’s unique needs. Through our TCIA, ISA and ASM training, we’ve learned which direct applications are most effective. Most commonly, these take the forms of injections in the ground to be taken up slowly by the roots or into the trunk for more rapid uptake.

To understand the unique needs of your trees and avoid over-fertilizing the environment, call us for a free assessment of your property’s needs. We’ll help you develop a plan that’s cost-effective and safe for your family and your surroundings.

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