Unlike trees growing in the Denver metro area… trees growing in a forest live in a balanced environment. The nutrients that are absorbed from the soil eventually fall to the ground in the form of leaves, needles, fruit, branches, etc. This organic matter accumulates on the ground where soil microorganisms decompose it, returning the nutrients back to the earth. The fine absorbing roots hairs of trees and shrubs grow up into this decaying organic matter and re-absorb the nutrients… starting the cycle all over again.
Let’s take a look at where we plant trees in the Denver Metro area.
In the urban forest each autumn we gather up the nutrient containing leaves and give them to the trash man. We plant turf grass over tree root systems, or worse still… cover roots with plastic or landscape fabric and cover that with decorative rocks. We stuff trees into tiny planting pits in sidewalks and parking islands without any consideration for future growth. Then we expect them to grow and thrive. Maybe if we give our trees a little fertilizer now and then they might perform a bit better.
Common ways to Fertilize Trees and Shrubs include:
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Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (NPK) are generally the three limiting elements and are the main ingredients in fertilizer formulations.
It really doesn’t matter what the package says… rose food, flower food, tree food, etc. As long as it contains NPK plants will use it. In Colorado the most common micronutrient deficiency is iron. Chelated iron formulations perform the best in the various soils types found in the Denver Metro area.
There is much more to fertilizing than we have space for here. If you are in doubt about how, when, where and why to fertilize your trees and shrubs