It’s not too late to apply fall fertilizer to your trees, shrubs and lawn, even though the calendar says November. This is actually the best time to fertilize deciduous trees and shrubs, and you can apply it until the ground freezes.
The first thing to get out of the way is the notion that you feed the plant when you fertilize. The late plant physiologist, Dr. Alex Shigo, stressed that plants make their own food through the process of photosynthesis. However, nutrients from the soil are needed for that process to take place.
In a perfect world, your native soil would have sufficient amounts of the necessary nutrients there for the plants’ taking. The truth is, though, that developers often strip the nutrient-rich top soil, and may not replace it with soil of equal quality. Consequently, the nutrients need to be replenished periodically through the application of fertilizer.
Although deciduous trees and shrubs may appear dead when they lose their leaves, they really are alive. They’re just dormant. Their roots continue to function by absorbing water and nutrients whenever the ground thaws. When spring arrives and the sap again begins to flow, and it’s very rich with sugar. There’s no better example of this in our area than the sugar maple. It’s during this period that the maple syrup producers tap the trees.
Fertilizing trees and shrubs now, when they’ve defoliated, or are in the process of defoliating, is the perfect time. If you apply it earlier, you run the risk of the plant generating a new flush of leaves at a time when they’re supposed to be going dormant. That defeats the purpose of defoliation, which is to protect the trees from the extra weight of snow and ice clinging to large surface area of the leaves. We’ve all seen the damage that can result from early season storms that arrive before the trees and shrubs defoliate.Lawns, too, can use some extra nourishment as they prepare for winter dormancy. That’s why fall fertilization is included in our lawn care programs. If you haven’t been on a lawn care program, you can still have our lawn care professionals apply fall fertilizer at this time. You can also have our Plant Health Care professionals fertilize your trees and shrub even if you weren’t on a PHC program. Hopefully these applications will illustrate the benefits of fall fertilization when your plants come back vigorously in the spring. Fall fertilization is to help sustain the plant during the winter and give it a head start in spring. It needs food stored in the roots to flower and foliate next spring. Spring fertilization provides the nutrients needed for top growth and overall vitality in the spring.