Fert for trees

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by DeepGreenLawn, Aug 30, 2008.

  1. DeepGreenLawn

    DeepGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,372

    OK, I had a customer ask about fertilizing her trees. The trees were perfectly fine. I told her they take care of themselves but if she REALLY wanted me to put something down I could.

    SO, she seemed to REALLY want to have something put down... I know there are those "stakes" that you can put down, and I had asked before kind of generally and CT came up, but what is your suggestion? Like I said, these looked like nice healthy trees, I guess she wants them to grow faster?

    I get quite a few requests for this and usually the "they take care of themselves and not much is required" takes care of it. I explain it like you don't have to do anything... they don't need any fert. If we do something to the tree then we will treat it for disease, insects, etc. etc. They are typically happy.

    At the same time, this is more money for me... so without me just ripping them off and putting down stuff that it doesn't need what can I do that would be helpful and I won't feel bad for it? CT? Anything else?

    Typically if they ask, they have it in their mind they want something done and the nothing needs to be done answer isn't what they seem to want to hear.
  2. NattyLawn

    NattyLawn LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,643

    I'll preface this by saying that I'm not much of a tree guy, but if you plan on ever offering tree and shrub services, saying "they take care of themselves" is not a good answer. There's a lot more to learn in tree care than lawns, and a lot more variables, such as diseases and insects. Most chemical tree companies push the N to give the tree growth. Easy for customers and you to see, but that N push also brings on diseases and insects, and more work the tree company (TGCL does this for lawns too). For organic treatments, you probably want a balance of nutrients, and a little N to keep the tree moving. The basis of our tree program is fish, seaweed, humate and compost tea.

    I believe tree stakes leach a lot of those nutrients into the water supply and typically are frowned upon.

    My advice is it seems like your trying to establish the lawn care business now and tree and shrub isn't something you can just pick up and run with. I'm sure Barry will chime in here, and you can talk to arborists that apply organics. If you can find a tree company in your area to make referrals to and them to you, that might be good as well. Establish and get the lawn care down, then maybe expand into t&s in a few years. Just my opinion.
  3. phasthound

    phasthound LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,583

    After 30 years of treating trees & shrubs for symptoms like pests & diseases, I finally began to look towards the soil as the source of most of these problems. Now I use CT & worm castings and get better results than I had with pesticides and salt based fert. I try ti incorporate this in all my residential accounts. Yes there are times when it is wise to knock something out with a chemical, but then come right back in with CT to replenish the herd.

    BTW, trees don't take care of themselves. In suburbia, I've read the average life span for a tree is 7 years. In nature, they depend greatly on soil OM & microbial activity. Even then, only a few survive. Those that do survive are usually great at surviving.
  4. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    Compost does a tree good!
  5. DeepGreenLawn

    DeepGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,372

    That is typically what I was thinking... that the soil was the place to go... then any other diseases or major issues could be handled with a tree company. I am, and my customers are, looking for a basic treatment program, something similar to what Phast said... castings and CT, maybe inject the CT? As far as any major complications... that can be subbed out for all I care. Like you said, I am getting the lawns under control first, I didn't know if there was a basic approach to be taken for general apps.

    When you started talking about the pumping trees full of N I immediately came back to lawns being pumped with N. You would get the same issues.

    I guess this all goes back to the whole idea of organics... treat the soil and the soil will treat the plant? I am mainly asked for new trees, a few years old or smaller ornamental trees such as crape myrtles. If a tree is full grown then they never ask... and I don't want to deal with those guys.

    It seems that a basic "fert" program for a tree would not be hard, but as you said, I am not a tree guy. Bushes I can handle fine... trees I wanted clarification on...
  6. DeepGreenLawn

    DeepGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,372

    I was waiting for that one... what is the app rate for this, how do you put it down to effect the tree itself and at what distance? The drip line? Just a topdress or can you "inject it"? Stupid question... I know Bill has a 123 Tree... I may just sit down with a local Tree service and talk with them to get it going properly until I can take it on myself.
  7. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    Top dress and/or multiple auger points to depth of effective root zone 3-5 feet on either side of drip line and backfill with compost mixed with removed soil.
  8. phasthound

    phasthound LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,583

    The best thing for a tree is to get rid of the turf underneath it & replace with compost. Not many clients will go for that, unless it is a mature specimen.

    My target treatment area for trees when applying CT with additives mentioned by Nattylawn is a donut shape with the drip line as the center. Treat from the drip line to halfway to the trunk and the same distance past the drip line all the way around the tree. I will soil inject if adding Mycorrhizea, other wise just soil drench.
  9. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

  10. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,115

    Trees, woodies and perrenials prefer a fungal dominated soil, just a theory but I do believe that the trees are typically in yard with turf, we continue to select for the turf and the tree gets left out of the equation, the long term effect is a sad tree scraping by.

    Some basics, never pile mulch onto the base of the tree, the mounded piles I see on some yards makes me angry, the tree girdles itself and eventually starts a downhill slide

    If you can mulch a ring around a tree out to the drip line it is a good thing a real good thing, often turf won't grow under there anyway. The mulch will start a fungal dominant soil long term

    Support the beneficial fungi with good practices like very little N and no P, mycorrhizae do not like much N and they basically stop working with P present.

    If you can put down a layer of good leaf compost, something with a lot of cellulose in it, under the mulch the tree will thank you with wonderful long term health

    Think like fungi, what do they want? crude forms of nutrients, rock dust, protein meals, cellulose, mycilia, humates maybe

    If you can do a deep root feeding leave the NPK behind at leasdt most of it, I am not familiar with the tools used in deep root feeding maybe someone else can chime in.

    If you want something off the shelf, I believe we have a great product for feeding trees, woodies and perrenials our 1-2-3 Tree has great fungal foods and is chock full of endo and ecto mycorrhizae. You simply mix it with the water you water the tree with ot use it in deep root injections, 1 ounce per 2 gallons, apply 1 gallon per DBH (diameter at breast height) or caliper inch
    It has a little NPK from fish, Kelp and humates but really selects for a fungal domnant soil

    It is very cost effective at twenty cents $0.20 per DBH

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