Fertilzer for my maples

saturn1956(6)March 3, 2013

This is really two separate questions in one First, I had planted two small maple trees last year they are maybe two feet high now. Could I use 10-10-10 to give them a boost for this year or is there another fertilizer they prefer. They are in full sun and look good as best as I can tell. Second is it true on all trees that if you top them they will grow wider and if you trim the low branches they will grow higher. Both questions are unrelated


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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

Topping is one of the very best ways to totally screw up at best, or kill a tree over time. Just because you see it done frequently, does not mean that it's a good ideal. Pruning is an art and science, and there are tree farm production techniques that require the removal of the main leader to force branching at an early point of development, but they also employ techniques that re-establish a new main leader at the same time. University of Florida has several EXCELLENT online publications on pruning that you need to download, read, read again, and then read again. Then make sure you understand. DON'T "TOP" TREES!!!

As for the fertilizer, a SMALL amount at that size probable won't hurt, BUT SMALL is the key word. But timing is just as critical. I fertilize our well established trees in the spring, just as the buds begin to wake up. I do this because I know my soil, and know that I sit on abused construction soil that is in no way natural and is very nutrient poor. And because of that I mix various fertilizers to provide a broad spectrum of nutrients, both major and minor. I also calculate what I need to apply based on tree size, and area that I will apply it too. Point being, you got to do your homework to do it right, and you need a soil test to really do it right. Barring that, then a good organic compost (i.e. mushroom compost that can be found at Lowe's or Home Depot) will provide nutrients, but not at such high levels as to adversely affect your trees. Too much is as bad or worse than not enough.


    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 10:44AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


the questions ARE related ... in that.. you are on the verge of loving these things to DEATH ....

trees... especially maple.. are weeds.. they are NOT children ... the do NOT 'need' to be fed ... that said.. as +om notes.. a LITTLE of this or that MOST LIKELY wont hurt ... but i would suggest late summer .. or very early fall ... NOT PRIOR to leaf out ... you might juice them too much and cause other problems ....

but if they are in the lawn.. and the lawn is fert'd.. they will get more than enough..

as young trees.. all they really 'need' .. is for you to insure some water.. all season long.. a good DEEP drink and near drying... and a good blanket of mulch.. to maintain moisture in the ground ... and keep weeds out ...

as to topping.. its a one word answer... NEVER ...

right now.. your babes.. needs the leaves.. to make energy.. to grow the roots.. to grow a healthy and vigorous tree ... if you cut off half the canopy.. as a babe.. you will just set it back a year.. and also ruin its inherent structure ... AND ... most peeps clear the trunks to 8 to 12 feet.. later in life.. and therefore.. do NOT want 50 branches at the 2 foot height ....

most trees grow just fine.. when left alone.. its when we start trying to 'out think' mother nature.. that WE CREATE the future problems ...

in terms of trees.. we think in decades.. and as such.. there is NO real instant gratification .... you need to just keep them alive .. and let THEM.. do their thing ...

when maples get 'established.. they should grow 3 to 5 feet per year ... and any faster .... MIGHT be a recipe for problems ....

good luck


    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 11:16AM
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Yep, let the darn things alone, mostly. I don't know your soil. If it's average, whatever that means to you, it could well be that no supplemental nutrient need be provided. Maples are certainly vigorous growers, in most cases, regardless what anyone did or didn't add to the soil.

While you may feel there's something wrong with the whip-like appearance of saplings, this is entirely desirable. Even the pruning done by nurseries, as mentioned by Arktrees, is not something you need to do. Those guys think-perhaps rightly so, since it's a self-fulfilling prophecy kind of thing-that folks won't buy a stick-like sapling. They have been trained to want the young tree to resemble a miniature version of the full-grown one, even though that's not how trees would normally grow.

So, mostly, back away from the maples! They already know how to grow. If, like Ark, you're sitting on some stripped out subdivision soil, the compost idea could be good, or maybe even a wee amount of chemical fertilizers, but that's not an important consideration one way or the other. Later, when the trees are head-height or so, it will be time to begin structural pruning. At that time, you will want to learn about subordination pruning, to accomplish the exact opposite of the heading-back cuts you asked about in your initial questions. In other words, you will be using techniques to lengthen the time that the trees have but one main leader. But that's a few years hence.


    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 11:58AM
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Shorter everyone: topping is the worst thing you can do. Fertilizing is about 4th worst, behind string trimming around the trunk.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 9:40PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

If they are in the lawn and you fertilize lawn, their roots will get some of it. Nothing fancy.

And no topping, period.

This year, you should see significant growth depending on the weather. If the summer is mild and see plenty of rain, they will explode.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 6:56PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Just don't use a Weed 'N' Feed type lawn fertilizer on the lawn for a tree planted in the middle of the lawn. It could kill the young tree. 24D is not Glysophate.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 11:52PM
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ldc1(7b: S. Mid-Atl.)

Fertilizer is to correct nutrient deficiency in the soil.
Fertilizer does not feed the tree. Trees are autotrophs. They make their own food through photosynthesis.
You should never apply any fertilizer without first doing a soil test to determine if there is a reason to apply it.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 9:18AM
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^ Except that for things like maple trees-species not even known, but it doesn't matter-nutrient needs are utterly unknown and unquantified. By which I mean, even if one had the soil test results in hand, it still would tell next to nothing in terms of what their trees "need".

Soil tests are right jolly, and the info could mean something. But the constant suggesting that a soil test will reveal some random landscape plant's route to health is folly. The obvious exception would be if said test showed something way out of whack. Then you would no exactly that, no more.

Besides, no common landscape plants, least of all such a successful group of plants as are maples, exist on such a razor's edge of such a parameter as soil fertility. Just doesn't work that way. If it did, our world would not be covered with vegetation.


    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 10:43PM
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no common landscape plants, least of all such a successful group of plants as are maples, exist on such a razor's edge of such a parameter as soil fertility. Just doesn't work that way. If it did, our world would not be covered with vegetation.

Hereabouts west of 100W, if more people did soil tests, they'd see maples aren't suited for our soils and would look elsewhere, and we'd have far fewer neon green chlorosis flags throughout the landscape.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 11:19PM
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Quite right, Wx. But they'd need go no further than a simple pH test. No fancy Kjeldahl N testing, none of that arcane BS. The pH is too high out west for most maples. Nothing to do with N-P-K.


    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 3:08PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Make that some places out west.
Maples do very well here in the Pacific North West.
I never fertilize my maples. A long time ago when I did, I ended up with a lot of Aphids on the much too luxurious new growth, resulting in a lot of deformed branches.
Mike...in Maple Valley, Wa.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 3:47PM
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Mike, quite right. I used to live in Seattle and loved the vine maples. Thanks for the clarification.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 5:11PM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Best thing you can do for the trees: mulch heavily enough to keep grass down and mulch to just past the drip line. Do not pile up mulch against the trunk like a volcano.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 6:40AM
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