Tree Care Tips Late Fall Fertilization

Tree Care Tips: Late Fall Fertilization

In this blog post we continue looking at Portland tree care with an eye towards fall fertilization. We discuss how homeowners can properly fertilize trees in late fall. Read on to learn how to determine if there is a need to fertilize, what not to do, things to look for, and alternative treatments; all to ensure that your trees are as healthy as possible.

Nutrients and Tree Health.

Let’s discuss fertilizer and plant nutrients. It is common knowledge that plants need nutrients to stay healthy, grow, and thrive. If these nutrients are missing, or are deficient, the plant will be more susceptible to stress and other associated problems, such as disease and insect predation. Plant nutrients are divided into two categories: micronutrients and macronutrients.

Macronutrients are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), which are also represented by the three numbers you see on fertilizer packaging (18/18/18 fertilizer means it is 18% for each of the three macronutrients, N/P/K). Micronutrients include iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), and copper (Cu) among others. Both organic and inorganic fertilizers are available in blends specially formulated for tree and shrub growth. For instance, here in the Pacific Northwest, we do love our azaleas and rhododendrons. These plants thrive in acidic soil conditions and special fertilizers are also available that are formulated for custom azalea and rhododendron treatment. Our Portland certified arborists are happy to provide specific fertilization approaches for your trees; call us for a diagnostic visit.

When to fertilize? Most arborists suggest fertilizing trees either in early-to-mid spring, or in late fall when the trees go dormant. Since fall is here, we will concentrate on late fall fertilizing for this post. Autumn fertilization allows some fertilizer nutrients to be used for root growth, while the rest of the nutrients are stored in plant tissue, ready for use when the plant is actively growing again in spring. Late fall fertilizer application is recommended over early fall application, because early fertilization can encourage root growth. If young roots spurred by fertilizer are not winter-ready, problems can ensue. Additionally, when providing fall fertilization Portland tree services, we recommend applying a third of what you use during other times of the year. This minimalists’ approach will not to overly stimulate roots, allowing the plant to only absorb what it needs.

How can you tell when fertilizer is needed? Fertilize if the tree’s foliage is uncharacteristically light green, if it has undersized leaves, or if the canopy is thinning. Also fertilize if you see dieback on the stems or trunks. Trees that are grown in a parking lot or sidewalk strip should also be fertilized, as these specimens often lack access to nutrients. Another classic clue that fertilization is needed is a decline in growth after several years of healthy growth. Finally, a soil test can determine the need to fertilize. Our Portland certified arborists consider soil testing a first, go-to tool for assessing tree fertilization. Home soil testing kits are available, or you can collect a sample yourself and send it to a soil-testing lab. UFP is also available for soil testing services.

When Not to Fertilize Trees.
Newly planted trees do not need fertilizer. Sometimes a plant does not respond well to fertilization. In these cases more fertilizer will not help. Rather than applying fertilizer willy-nilly, it is best to determine the underlining causes of problems. Call us; our arborists are happy to make a home visit.

When Trees are Under Stress. Feeding trees that are under stress is debatable. It is true that a stressed tree needs nutrients to boost pest and disease resistance. However, a tree that is suffering drought stress will not be able to use the fertilizer without adequate water. If water is lacking, the fertilizer could actually damage roots and scorch leaves. Tree stress is complex; as such, it is best to call an ISA-certified arborist before applying fertilizer to stressed trees.

When Other Fertilizer is Applied. If you are fertilizing your lawn, and it receives a good amount of rain and/or irrigation, your trees might already be getting the nutrients they need. Check for pests or signs of disease. If you see healthy tree growth, it is not recommend to fertilize.

When Alternative Treatments are Available. Fertilizing is not the only solution, but rather should be seen as part of a comprehensive tree health plan. Other treatments can be used alone or in conjunction with fertilization to maximize the well-being of trees and shrubs.

How to Boost Tree Health without Fertilizer
This helps open up compacted soil, and allows oxygen into the pore spaces around the roots, which also facilitates the infiltration of water.

Mulching. This helps protect the tree by increasing water retention and suppressing weeds.

Compost. Compost releases nutrients slowly, sustaining trees and shrubs across seasons. Additionally, compost often contains much-needed micronutrients. The key is to apply it in thin layers, no more than 1/3 of an inch deep.

Knowing when to fertilize and how to do it can be tricky. Here at UFP we take fertilizing seriously. We are keen to use organic based fertilizer and practices that eschew the use of noxious chemicals. Call us today to learn more about our fertilization program, and how we can help with the overall health of your trees and shrubs.

A Certified Arborist Shines a Light on Tips of the Trade

A Certified Arborist Shines a Light on Tips of the Trade

SEH certified arborist Anna Springer sits down and answers some common questions you might have about tree care.

  • When to do it yourself vs. hiring a professional.
  • How to avoid common tree problems.
  • Popular tree species to avoid.

For many, cutting a limb off a tree seems like a DIY effort, but when should you hire out tree work?
If you don’t know what a branch collar is you should hire a professional to trim your trees. This will maximize the life and benefits of your trees. Trees don’t ‘heal’ when wounded — they ‘seal’— meaning every cut on a tree stays with it for the rest of its life. Proper pruning minimizes the wound, while improper pruning will be a problem for the rest of the tree’s life. Proper pruning cuts seal in a way that reduces decay and the introduction of insects and disease issues to your trees.

Trimming a tree requires a very specific approach, so the tree remains healthy.

If you are removing trees or shrubs, follow your gut. Do you feel comfortable with the task at hand? If you have to leave the ground to accomplish the task, my suggestion is to hire a professional. Tree work is expensive (tree care providers pay high insurance and worker compensation rates due to the industry’s high injury/fatality rates, and they operate expensive, specialized equipment), but it’s a lot cheaper than personal injury or property damage!

Tree work is a specialized, often dangerous task. It’s important to hire professionals to get the job done right.

When hiring professional help, what should you look for in qualifications?
Any tree care company worth their weight in salt should have an arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture on staff. Unfortunately, local licensing processes usually require little more than the payment of a fee to get a license to trim trees in your city, so this is not a good indication of qualifications. Ask them to explain their pruning techniques and/or philosophy. If they balk at the question or fail to mention pruning to avoid injury to the branch collar they will likely do more harm than good.

While an arborist can perform many tree care techniques, for the rest of us, what’s the single most important thing you can do to care for your trees?
Water during dry periods. Trees are pretty tough, but when they’re stressed, the secondary invaders such as bark borers and aphids quickly take advantage of the tree’s weakened defense system. When rainfall is lacking, set up a sprinkler and an empty bucket under the crown of the tree. When the bucket has an inch of water in it, you’ve adequately watered your tree for the week.

It’s very important to water your trees during dry periods. Not enough water can make them prone to disease and insect attacks.

When should you prune? Fall, winter, spring? Does it vary by tree?
When it comes to pruning live tissue from trees, winter is the best time to prune, as wound sealing is maximized if pruning takes place before the spring growth flush. Dead branches can be removed anytime of year-as long as the aforementioned branch collar is not compromised! For many species, winter is the ONLY time to prune live branches in order to avoid insect and disease issues. Oaks, Elms, Honeylocust, and crabapples should be pruned in the winter to avoid oak wilt, Dutch elm disease, nectria canker and fireblight, respectively.

Do you need to routinely prune trees?
In short, no. There are many variables that play a part in when trees need pruning, including tree species and form, tree age/maturity, and overall health and structural integrity of the tree. Pruning is part science and part art, and unfortunately there are many untrained people in the marketplace who offer pruning services without having the knowledge and skill to properly prune trees. In the case of pruning, more does not always mean more.

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What’s the best thing to do for young trees to ensure a long, healthy life?
Young tree training sets your trees up for future success! Trees with a strong central leader, rather than those with co-dominant leaders, are less likely to fail during wind events. It’s much easier to train a small, young, vigorous tree to have good structure than it is to prune a tree that is 25 years or older.

Is there a particular tree you should completely avoid planting in your yard?
Avoid planting Colorado Blue Spruce in the Midwest. As the name implies, Colorado Blue spruce are suited to the Western region of the U.S. When planted in the Midwestern climate they are prone to suffering from Rhizosphaera needle cast and Cytospora canker as they mature. Consider using Black Hills Spruce as an alternative.

What does it mean when a tree’s roots run along the surface?
Surface roots typically indicate shallow watering depths; roots seek out moisture and oxygen, and if your irrigation pattern consists of short, frequent waterings, tree roots will respond. Change your watering schedule to deliver longer waterings that infiltrate further into the soil. This will result in fewer root/human conflicts.

When a tree’s roots run along the surface, it can indicate that current watering patterns are too short and moisture is not infiltrating far enough onto the soil.

Should you water in fall or winter before the first freeze, so plants roots get a good soaking?
If conditions have been extremely dry, it is good practice to water your trees in the fall, especially for evergreen trees that are at risk of their needles drying out over the course of the winter. If there has been adequate precipitation, extra watering is not necessary. Be careful, watering too much can be just as harmful as not watering enough.

Storm Cleanup: Important Tips When Choosing an Arborist

Storm Cleanup: Important Tips When Choosing an Arborist

Marshfield, WI (OnFocus) As homeowners clean up after destructive storms this past weekend, one local arborist is reminding residents to be cautious when selecting a tree care service.

Luke Haas, owner of Haas Tree Care, LLC, based in Arpin, has been working steady since the storms helping to safely cut down and clear damaged trees. Along with many other local tree services, his work has focused on helping those affected by the severe weather.

Haas, an ISA Certified Arborist and Certified Tree Care Safety Professional, encourages anyone hiring a tree service to follow a few basic guidelines to ensure everyone stays safe during what can be a dangerous task.

Haas shared his friendly advice on Facebook, broken down into five tips:

  1. Make sure the arborist has insurance! Ask for a proof of insurance.
  2. If they are not wearing any safety equipment (hard hat, safety glasses, chainsaw protective chaps, work boots) they’re more of a liability than an asset for you.
  3. Ask for a price BEFORE the work begins so no surprises happen.
  4. Check for credentials (ISA Certified Arborist is the most recognizable).
  5. If they “just got in the business,” review line items 1-4.

“The goal is sharing these tips is to ensure the homeowner has the best experience possible!” said Haas. “Anyone who steps foot on your property without insurance is a huge liability not only for your property, because they could cause further damage that homeowners insurance doesn’t cover, but also if this so-called tree guy seriously injures himself, there could be a lawsuit.”

He said that an arborist without an ISA certification is like a doctor without a medical degree. Certifications show that the company or arborist has taken time to increase their knowledge, which means a safer and more efficient crew.

“ISA certified is important because we’ve gone through proper training on what’s best not only for tree health, but it includes intensive safety training like how to cut trees at the best angles, how tree weight can affect cutting,” said Haas. “Especially after storm damage, trees have a lot of tension on them so it’s important to know exactly where to cut trees to avoid them flying back at you.”

Safety is foremost when it comes to cleaning up after a storm. “Just because you own a chainsaw, it does not make you a professional. Storm damage presents new obstacles that standard tree work does not,” said Haas. “Multiple forces can be applied to the stem and if careful consideration and care is not taken, serious injury can occur! Be smart and be safe!”