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July 5, 2023

Hold The Fertilizer In Summer

On hot summer days, you may not feel like eating, especially not a heavy meal. But you should still drink plenty of water. You won’t starve but you will dehydrate rather rapidly, and dehydration can cause any number of health problems.

This same scenario can be applied, loosely, to your trees and shrubs. That stressed look is not from hunger but from thirst. So, pull out the soaker hoses and let the fertilizer stay put.

Even when the rains have stopped, your young trees and shrubs still need at least an inch of water a week. And it’s best to apply it all at one time.

Although I used the plant feeding analogy above, don’t fall victim to the common misconception that fertilizer feeds plants. Fertilizer replenishes depleted soil nutrients, and these essential nutrients are part of the photosynthetic reaction by which plants make their own food.

However, water is the medium by which plant roots absorb nutrients, and the tree’s xylem transports them to the leaves where photosynthesis takes place. Water is also the medium by which the phloem distributes the food (photosynthate) throughout the tree.

In summer, water is often scarce, so plants slow down their nutrient–laced water absorption until fall. In fact, woody plants’ roots absorb the most water in spring and fall. Consequently, these are the seasons of greatest root growth.

The food they make in the fall is stored in the roots to sustain them through the winter and to break dormancy, and flower and leaf out next spring. In spring, the plants need extra energy for new growth. But applying fertilizer in the summer may encourage tender late growth that may not have enough time to harden off for the winter. That’s why I advise you to resist the urge to fertilize now just because the plants appear stressed.

If you want to give your summer-stressed woody plants a treat, make it water instead of fertilizer. They’ll appreciate it more, as will the environment and your wallet since you won’t have to buy fertilizer. When deciding which plants to water, start with any young trees and shrubs. They need it most. Some of your other shrubs may appreciate water, too. Large, mature trees have found water so you can skip them unless they look extremely stressed.

It would be a good idea to fertilize trees and shrubs in the fall. Late fall, toward the end of October, is the best time. The plants won’t have time to push out any tender, young growth, which is what you want. Instead, the photosynthate will be stored in the roots to fortify, make them grow, andsustain the plant through the winter with plenty left over for their critical spring reawakening.

If you’d rather not have to worry about formulation and timing, you can leave fertilizing to our professionals. Our Plant health Care professionals will apply just the right formulation when it will be most beneficial to your trees and shrubs.