Help on tips for tree fertilization

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Old 05-13-05, 11:15 AM
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Help on tips for tree fertilization

I have a large maple tree in front of my house near the road. The leaves start falling as early as August and it is now Spring and it is very slow to bloom leaves. Otherwise it looks very healthy. I am thinking that it needs to be fertilized. I bought a 20lb bag of fertilizer and want to know the best way to fertilize the tree. I read that you should not spread the fertilizer less than 18in from the trunk and that you should drill holes into the ground at least 6 in deep and fill these holes with fertilizer. The tree is near the road so I can only spread fertilizer on the left and right side of the tree and opposite the road. What exactly are the steps to proper fertilization? Does it matter if there is rain in the forecast? What if I just spread the fertilizer on top of the ground like you do with grass seed? All thoughts and tips are appreciated.
 
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Old 05-13-05, 05:23 PM
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The best technique to feed a large tree is to apply a balanced fertilizer at the same rate as for grass around the tree and out to a point 150% of the coverage of the canopy. Just apply the fertilizer to the ground that there is around the tree. The best time is in December, so the feeding goes to the roots rather than to the leaves. The likelihood of coming rain is not important because the fertilizer won't burn the roots. Drilling and such seem to be valuable in some evaluations, but seem to be a lot of effort unless you are feeding fruiting trees.

For what it is worth, my maples have just put out leaves in the past week or so here in zone 7. Other maples further south of here have full coverage.

Hope this helps.
 
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Old 05-13-05, 06:39 PM
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Thanks for the quick response. I assume the canopy is the leaf coverage of the tree. Being that the tree covers the whole lawn Ill just spread the 10-10-10 over the whole lawn and make sure I dont spread the fertilizer closer the than 18in to the trunk. Why do you think the leaves fall so early and take so long to come to full growth compared to the oter maples in the neighborhood? DO you think I affected the tree in a bad way with the lawn fertilizer? Let me know.....aprreciate the quick comments!
 
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Old 05-16-05, 07:40 AM
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Do think its possible that the fertilizer I used for the grass had a negative affect on the tree causing the leaves to fall in late summer and slow to bloom?
 
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Old 05-16-05, 10:04 PM
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If your tree is located close to the road, then you more than likely have root compaction. Maple trees are shallow rooted and roots can extend far beyond the height of the tree. Roots extend beneath road and are getting run over by cars. As the tree continues to mature, you will probably observe that one side of the tree will eventually decline. If roots are girdled or compacted, you will often tend to notice a bulge in the trunk at the bottom of the tree.

I just got home from a conference in a KY State park. There was a maple not 12" from the edge of the asphalt road through the forest to the lodge. It appeared to be leafing out a little later than surrounding maples. I stopped my car and studied this lovely tree. Its trunk was bulging around the base at soil level. Over the years, if I keep returning to the District Rotary Conferences at this location, I will continue to observe this tree.

Man and nature seem to always be in conflict. Man cuts a road through a forest and upsets Mother Nature. Or Man plants a tree in a location without consideration for its growing conditions and girth and height at maturity. Mature trees typically do not require fertilization. Very mature trees, however, such as those planted by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others are fertilized and nurtured like babies.
 
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Old 05-17-05, 05:54 AM
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Whats really funny about the whole thing is my neighbor across the street has the same tree and it is half dead. The gas company was digging up the road not more than 4 feet from the trunk. I think they a hit a gas line and underground and it is killing the tree. However the half that is alive is in full bloom. I did fertilize it so Ill see if that has any affect. It is a mature tree however so like you said it probably wont do much. I guess there is not much else I can do. If so let me know. I appreciate your thoughtful response.
 
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Old 05-17-05, 03:46 PM
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Digging damage probably is what damaged your neighbor's tree. Too, soil compaction from heavy equipment and change of soil grade over roots can harm trees.

You might want to consult with an arborist about your tree to rule out pests and disease and to discuss the challenges of this tree's growing conditions.

There is something called "Maple decline." It primarily affects sugar maple (Acer saccharum), Norway maple (A. platanoides) and red maple (A. rubrum) in the Northeast.

Drought and poor growing conditions in urban environments are typically blamed for maple decline. Research indicates that maple decline has, however, increased in recent years in both urban and forest environments.

Because your tree is located close to the road, root compaction was my first reaction to your problem because roots extend beneath asphalt and are exposed to heat and drought beneath as well as compaction. But, you need to think back to determine some other factors such as if tree suffered drought, de-icing salts on the road, and cars driving over roots.

A repeatedly stressed tree is often invaded by root rot, decays, and twig blight. A tree subjected to repeated stresses results in an upset of its internal chemistry, then it begins to weaken and decline, and then it shows signs of attack from disease and pests.

Foliage that is sparse, light green and/or scorched signals that the tree may be declining. Maples usually don't show color until after first frost. When fall color develops earlier than normal, in late July or early August, the maple is suffering from decline.

Most often when symptoms are first noticed, the tree is beyond restoration. Treatment for declining urban maples includes watering, fertilizing, pruning dead branches, and reducing salt-laden water run-off over the roots.

What can you do? Deep water every week or two during dry weather. Just lay the water hose with slow stream at the base of the tree. Move hose periodically to soak the entire soil area under canopy. Water to at least 6 inches deep. Fertilize with complete fertilizer in spring and/or late fall.

My Dept. of Agriculture Extension Agent recommends 2-4 lbs fertilizer per inch of tree diameter. He said to broadcast the fertilizer over the surface of the ground. Higher rates of application may burn grass beneath tree. Growing grass under a maple tree is a real challenge anyway because of shallow root system that has to compete with grass for moisture. Prune out dead branches to possibly stimulate new shoot growth. Prune in spring before buds break. If they salt the road adjacent to tree, place a barrier like a curb, burm, or ditch to catch or divert the water that contains road salt.

Go talk with your local of Dept. of Agriculture Extension Agent. He might be the best friend you ever met and might come and look at your tree. You also need to find out from him how you go about getting a soil sample and foliar analysis done in your area. If soil and foliar analyses have been run and high sodium or chloride concentrations were found, then leaching the soil with fresh water or applying gypsum to improve the soil structure or texture may be useful.

If you have a passion for maples and yours is beginning to decline, then go ahead and plant a new maple now so that it will be established when you have to cut the old one down. Plant it away from the road to avoid de-icing salts and in a location where it will be happy. Consider its size at maturity so that you don't plant it in a wrong location in your landscape.
 
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