DEEP ROOT FEEDING YOUR TREES

BY RICHARD HELLER, MORNHURST GARDENS

Many tree services offer deep root feeding for street trees. You may ask yourself "if the tree looks okay to me, why should I pay to have the roots fed?" The fact is the tree may look good to you and still be sickening. Often trees do not show signs of illness that the non-professional can recognize until it is too late.

Deep root feeding is especially important in the city where there is no new source for nutrients other than the occasional broken sewer line and in suburbs where leaves are removed that would normally compost and feed the roots of the tree.

Time matters in deep root feeding. When fertilizer is applied, it will affect what part of the tree develops and when. Deep root feeding in the spring will encourage tip and leaf growth. Feeding in the summer encourages wood production. Fertilizing in the fall develops roots.

WHY USE A PROFESSIONAL?
Deep root fertilizing is a process in which a large spike is plunged into the tree's root ball and fertilizer is pressure pumped through the spike into the soil. Though any homeowner can go to Home Depot and buy a special attachment for their hose that will deliver a soluble form of nitrogen to their tree's roots, it will not deliver the volume and potency that a professional rig will. The higher the pressure, the greater the spread of nutrients throughout the root system. More important, professional mixes are made up of two thirds nitrogen that will break down slowly and one third soluble nitrogen that is immediately absorbable. This means the tree will continue to be fed throughout the year, while the majority of consumer packaged tree fertilizers will only feed the tree in the short term.

SHOPPING FOR A TREE SERVICE
When shopping for deep root feeding, find out if the tree service tests the soil first to see which nutrients are needed. Often, trees are receiving sufficient amounts of certain kinds of nutrients and are lacking in only a few others. Over fertilizing in even one kind of nutrient will damage roots, so it is important that your tree service tests the soil and fertilizes more heavily in the nutrients that the soil is weak in and less so in the nutrients the soil is strong in. Professionals can also inject mycorrhizae into the roots. Mycorrhizae is a fungus that has a symbiotic relationship with the tree roots. They feed off sugars from the tree while helping the tree roots to absorb nutrients acting as an extended root system. Deep root feeding is recommended once a year and no more. The fertilizer will not interfere with soil culture and is good for the Mycorrhizae. There are also completely natural deep root solutions made up primarily of kelp available that will act in the same way as the semi-natural solutions but providing far less immediate nourishment for the tree and more long term sustenance.

The time of year the fertilizer is applied will make a difference in what part of the tree it affects. Again, it is important that your contractor is aware of the needs of the tree and fertilizes at the right time. Hiring a tree company that tests the soil and is interested in the specific needs of your trees is going to cost a little more, but the result will be healthier trees that last longer. In the long run, paying a little extra for knowledgeable professionals pays!



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