The Q&A Archives: Fertilizing Ailing Red Maple

Question: Last Spring, one of the Red Maples did not "leaf-out" as much as the others, so I fertilized it with nitrogen and some deep root fertilizers. How can I prevent the same thing from happening this year? Should I fertilize early with Nitrogen for leaf production? How early can I start to fertilize, to get more leaf growth?

Answer: The answer to your question really depends on the basic cause for the maple leafing out late as well as on an analysis of the nutrients in the soil. If the plant is not healthy, is suffering from a root problem or a disease or insect problem, then fertilizing may not help. If the soil is deficient in some aspect then fertilizer may help the plant in general terms. The best way to find out is to run some basic soil tests and see what type of soil you have and then add amendments based on the results. Trees are often fertilized in late fall after their leaves have fallen and when their roots are taking up water reserves. Early spring is another good time to fertilize, if it is needed. A stressed tree often does not respond well (particularly to increased nitrogen) because this puts pressure on the plant to grow extra foliage and stresses it even further. You might want to consult with an arborist or your county extension (526-6293) as to the reason why the tree is not growing normally before you determine your fertilizing regime for this year.

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