Botanists, horticulturists, master gardeners, landscape professionals, and nursery experts often recommend plants, trees, grasses, and shrubs native to your region. Have you ever wondered why? Plants in their native habitats grow in soil and weather conditions that work to their advantage, enabling the needs of the plants to be met. Left wild, nature becomes its own recycler of nutrients to support flora growth. As human nature takes over and disturbs the process with over-landscaping, construction, traffic, farming, and changing the base materials for landscape planting, trees, plants, and shrubs can become nutrient deficient. You’ll find similar results when you plant the non-native species, often sold at nurseries, on your property.
How do you resolve the problem? At Sharp Lawn Care, we recommend purchasing plant species that respond well to the conditions at the planting site. The plant will have a better chance of survival. This doesn’t resolve the whole issue as there may still be nutrients missing from the soil. The key to sufficient nutrition is proper fertilization.
Preparing the Soil for New Plantings
Before you plant trees and shrubs, create a solid nutritional foundation for landscape planting. Take care of your soil needs for organic matter and nutrients by using organic mulch, planting a cover crop that will contribute to your soil, and infusing compost into your soil foundation. Next, make adjustments to the soil under your new plants before applying fertilizer. After the soil is prepped, fertilizer puts mineral elements into the soil so that you have a better chance for strong growth.
Preparing the soil correctly first involves testing the PH level of it. The PH level measures the acidity or alkalinity of your soil. A measurement of 7 represents neutral PH. Below 7 shows higher acidity while above 7 indicates higher alkalinity. You can buy a soil test kit at your local hardware store or here’s one we recommend, or can ask a Sharp Lawn Care representative for assistance.
When you choose plants, each species requires a defined PH range for optimal growth. Adjusting the soil PH to the appropriate level enables your trees and shrubs to pull in more nutrients due to activating the microbial activity. When you know the soil PH level and the requirements of the plants, you can purchase the right substance for the job. Common treatments for PH include limestone or sulfur. If the PH is too acidic, lime will be needed. To adjust PH that is too alkaline, sulfur is used. The depth of these additional substances mixed into the soil varies depending on the landscape plants. Ask your lawn care representative to recommend a substance and depth based on the soil sample results.
Sixteen mineral elements provide nutrition to plants. Carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen come from air and water. The most significant of the elements from the soil are:
- Nitrogen for stimulating chlorophyll production, resulting in healthy growth of leaves
- Phosphorus for the support of root, stem, blossom and fruit development
- Potassium digestive aid, playing a role in plants making their food
The soil elements occur in varying degrees depending on the region and location of the landscape. Typically, nitrogen provides the nutrition needed for plant growth. Various plant types do better with different mixes of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K), or the N-P-K ratio. For example, flowers like a higher boost of Phosphorous compared to the other two elements, while grass mixes are higher in Nitrogen. Even specific plants, such as roses, have particular nutrient mixes that work best.
Several trace elements in fertilizer can help boost plant growth if it’s showing a deficiency. Trace elements include:
Your Sharp Lawn Care representative or local nursery can help you to identify the particular deficiency indicated by the appearance of the plant. You can find the trace elements in a fertilizer mix, or may be able to buy an individual element as a single substance for treating your plant.
The speed of release varies in different types of fertilizers. Granular fertilizer releases more slowly and doesn’t need to be applied as often as water-soluble fertilizer, which release more quickly. Know which works best for your plants.
You can find inorganic and natural fertilizers that can provide what your landscape needs to grow beautifully. Organic means the material is plant or animal in nature, such as manure. Inorganic fertilizer is a chemical source of soil elements. If you’re knowledgeable of your soil composition and fertilizer needs, read any packaging careful to get the right mix and to apply the right amount. Too much fertilizer is just as bad as not enough, creating the potential to overfeed and kill your plants. Most homeowners aren’t gardening experts so don’t be afraid to ask for help at your local nursery or from a Sharp Lawn Care representative.
Depending on your space, budget, and what you’re planting, you may have several fertilization method options available.
- Liquid soil injection: a high pressure injection into the soil, most often used by professional arborists
- Drill hole: distributing granular fertilizer into pre-drilled holes in the soil, mostly applies to special applications where fine turf injury is possible
- Surface application: spreading granular fertilizer by hand or using a mechanical spreader, proven effective, easy, and inexpensive
- Tree trunk injections: used mainly for minor deficiency correction or in areas where ground application is not possible
- Foliar fertilization: sprayed onto the leaves of foliage to correct minor issues
- Fertilizer spikes: placing pre-measured fertilizers in spike form into the ground
If you’re fertilizing on your own, surface application is likely your best bet. If you use a landscaping service such as Sharp Lawn Care, ask about your options.
Keeping Up with Appearances
How do you know when it’s time to fertilize? You have new plants, existing trees and shrubs, and a lawn to manage year in and year out. Often, fertilizing annually works for plants, trees, grass, and shrubs once they are established. Observe the appearance of your plants. If they are thriving and growing, they may not need another application. Plants that aren’t growing or that look unhealthy or discolored should be fertilized annually to renew their nutrient absorption properties. Many professionals recommend late summer as the best time to fertilize, followed by early in the springtime.
Protect Your Investment
You’ve invested a lot of time and money in your property, including your landscape. A well-developed, beautifully landscaped yard can be a source of pride for many. When you take the time to plan and spend the money on maintaining and upgrading your landscape, you don’t want to lose trees, find undergrown, unattractive shrubs, or see discolored leaves on your green and flowering plants. You want to protect your investment with regular maintenance and proper preparation for new flora.
Fertilization is key to long-term success. Follow the guidelines and consult with the experts at Sharp Lawn Care. We can answer your questions, make fertilizer recommendations, and provide fertilizer applications to your landscape to help you achieve the yard of your dreams. Click Here to request a quote.
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