spreading fertilizer on a tree

How to Fertilize Trees

Fertilizers help give your trees the minerals and nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Most fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These chemicals are most often found missing in soils. It’s important to understand how to fertilize trees before you undertake the task. 

Fertilizer is not a guarantee that your tree will be healthy. With or without fertilizer, the proper steps still need to be taken to keep your tree healthy. If you’re having problems with drought or pests, fertilizer won’t help. With that said, fertilizer can still be very useful to your tree health. Let’s talk about the proper steps and knowledge you should have before fertilizing. 

When Should You Fertilize Trees? 

A vital step to learning how to fertilize trees is learning when to fertilize. Trees that are still growing should be fertilized throughout the year. Trees need nitrogen based fertilizer while they are growing. For young growing trees, fertilize from March till the beginning of June. Fertilizing in these spring months helps them grow. It will also make your leaves greener. Spring fertilization helps fight off infection and keeps your tree healthy. There are also benefits to fertilization in the fall. Fall fertilization helps your tree last through the winter. It also recovers nutrients that your soil lost during the summer. 

As a tree gets older, it needs less and less fertilizer to stay healthy. They will still need a bit of fertilizer throughout the year. Consider doing a soil test to determine how much phosphorus and potassium your tree has. That will help you decide how much fertilizer it needs. 

Signs Your Tree Needs Fertilizing: 

  • Dead branches
  • Leaves have discolor
  • Twigs are short
  • Smaller amount of leaves 

How Much Fertilizer Should You Use On Trees? 

How much fertilizer you give a tree depends on many things. What stage your tree is in, what type of tree, or what type of fertilizer. Generally, .1 to .2 pounds of nitrogen per 100 sq ft is a good measurement to go off. Your fertilizer bag should have a measurement for you to follow. This measurement will be more accurate to the fertilizer and the tree it is being used on.  If you find your tree is still malnourished, space your fertilizing a few months apart. You don’t want to exceed the amount of nitrogen your lawn can handle. 

Baby Trees:

Fertilizing baby trees is really not necessary for the first year. After the first year they still need very little fertilizer. Too much fertilizer, especially with nitrogen, will burn your baby tree’s roots and leaves. Consider using a slow release fertilizer on your young trees. Slow release fertilizers are often organic fertilizers. They come from plant and animal sources. Organic fertilizers are often more expensive than inorganic fertilizers. 

Growing Trees: 

While your tree is in peak growth, it needs a decent amount of fertilizer. Follow the amount on your fertilizer bag twice a year to keep your tree growing. 

Mature Trees:

As briefly covered above, mature trees need very little fertilizer, if any. You don’t want your trees to overproduce. Mature trees will pick up fertilization from the lawn and from minerals in the soil. 

How to Fertilize Trees? 

A common misconception of fertilizing trees is removing mulch first. This is unnecessary. Simply scatter the fertilizer over the entire root zone and be sure to avoid the tree trunk. Be sure not to put down too much fertilizer. Be sure to water the fertilizer so it absorbs into the soil and doesn’t injure your tree’s roots. If your soil is compacted, consider aerating before fertilizing. 

What Makes a Good Fruit Tree Fertilizer? 

Fruit trees need fertilizer to grow colorful and flavorful fruit.

Like other tree fertilizers, fruit trees need nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Most fruit tree fertilizers have a balance of these three nutrients. Fruit trees need a lot of nitrogen. Nitrogen helps with their photosynthesis which then helps them grow. Phosphorus helps transfer energy and develops strong roots. Potassium regulates water pressure and also helps with strong roots. These three nutrients are found in most fertilizers and help your fruit tree stay healthy.