While it is true that all plants benefit from fertilization, using the wrong fertilizer or applying it at the wrong time can have equally detrimental effects. When we get a few ‘Spring like’ days, lots of people want to start fertilizing everything in hopes of bigger, healthier plants in spring. Some neighbors will say throw your old food scraps on vegetables, some say they clean out the chicken coop and put that around plants, and others simply go for the old trusty, Miracle Grow, and dump it on everything. Well, in reality, using the wrong fertilizer will kill the plant faster than not fertilizing at all. Here are some basic tips on fertilizing.
Most deciduous plants, in Middle Tennessee, should be fertilized in early to mid-March. It is very important not to fertilize too early because plants can begin to use that fertilizer in 10-14 days, which, in turn, can make them push out early. If they do push out foliage early, and we get a late frost, as Middle Tennessee is known to do, that foliage can be damaged and the plant’s health can be compromised. This can even be fatal for some plants. Fertilize plants when the weather warms up. If we have a ‘late winter’, in such that temperatures are staying low into early March, wait until the 2nd or 3rd week of March to fertilize. Most deciduous plants like a balanced fertilizer, with the exception only being a few. Some dogwoods, oaks, and Japanese maples like being fertilized from time to time with a more acidic fertilizer, normally suggested for evergreens. In most all other cases, a balanced fertilizer works great.
If you have never used an organic fertilizer with mycorrihizae, I recommend it. The mycorrihizae are beneficial microorganisms that live in the soil, attaching to plant roots and assisting the plant in breaking down nutrients that otherwise would not be used in the soil. When new homes are constructed, a normal part of the process is removing the topsoil, which is where almost all of the beneficial microorganisms live. They do not repopulate without help. Using organic fertilizer with mychorrihizae can reintroduce these microorganisms back into your soil, thus helping your plants use nutrients that have been there for years, laying unused.
Evergreen plants such as laurel, most hollies, rhododendron, azalea, cedar, cypress, juniper, and pine need to be fertilized 2-3 times a year with an acidic fertilizer, which is key for growing evergreens in Middle Tennessee. These plants need a fertilizer that is higher in acidity and specifically designated for evergreen plants. Balanced fertilizers do not provide the ‘diet’ an evergreen plant needs to thrive. Evergreens like somewhat acidic soil, with a pH of around 6.5. The pH of the soil in Middle Tennessee has a tendency to settle lower since there is so much limestone in this area.
Following these easy steps will help ensure success and promote healthy plants and landscapes.