Fertilizers and Growth - Preparations for Spring

Discussion in 'Maples' started by Squeezied, Jan 4, 2013.

  1. Squeezied

    Squeezied Active Member

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    So it's still the dead of winter, but I'm already eagerly anticipating spring when my Sango Kaku will bloom. My Sango kaku was bought and planted in May 2011. There were some new growth in shoots that year. However in 2012 there were no growth in shoots, minor diebacks in fact.

    In 2011 there was already fertilizer present when I bought the tree and growth was noticed. In 2012 no fertilizer was added and no growth was noticed. A simple person would figure that if growth is desired, fertilizer should be added. Now I'm aware that my Sango Kaku is relatively new and it takes a couple seasons to be established so that considerable growth can be appreciated. So will 2013 (2 seasons since planting) be enough time for my tree to be established and grow without fertilizers?

    To be frank, whatever the answer is to the above question, I still want to add fertilizers to my Sango Kaku to grow as much as possible. So what kind of fertilizers should I add my relatively new tree? And when should I add it?

    Here's a pic of my tree taken in July 2012.
     

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  2. rufretic

    rufretic Active Member

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    Nice looking tree! I have a few 'Sango kaku' planted myself but I don't think I like the shape of any of them as much as yours. Mine have also only been in the ground for 2 growing seasons as well but I didn't get any new shoots in either years. As a matter of a fact, in the three years I've had japanese maples I don't think any of the 60+ have put on much if any new growth. I think it's partly because it takes a while for the roots to establish but also because theses trees just grow very slow in our climate. I keep reading "don't fertalize japanese maples" but I'm with you, I think I'm going to try it this year. I don't even care if the growth isn't perfect form, I'd rather have some wild growth than no growth. If anything gets too crazy it can always be corrected with some pruning. I wouldn't suggest a lot of fertalizer because I've seen what that can do at some home depots and you can just tell the trees were over fertalized and they looked terrible but a little should just help kick start some new growth.

    Now to the type and when. Type, I'm in the same boat as you, I need some help with this. Hopefully someone will chime in with what works best for them. If not, I'm sure if we search on here there is tons of info. When to apply it? That I do know and that's in early spring and that's it for us in the colder climate. Anything later can lead to a lot of die back over the winter because the new growth won't have enough time to harden off.

    I'm excited to see how this goes. Good luck to you!
     
  3. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    It sounds like you already have your mind made up. But here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to promote growth.

    When a Japanese maple is planted, sometimes it takes some time to get established. It seems the time of year, environmental factors, and the overall health of the tree play a role in this length of establishment time. Many times the reason you don’t see much top growth is because the tree is focusing the available energy to root growth.

    With that idea in mind, it makes me nervous when someone starts to try to speed up the top growth process by using nitrogen. Nitrogen will promote top growth, but will this growth be sustainable? Well it could be if the tree is established, healthy, and has a well-developed root system. The well-developed root system will be able to support this abundant growth through the season. In many cases, this is not the case with a newly planted Japanese Maple. So what happens?

    The new growth can fail, weaken the tree, promote bug infestations, and invite bacterial outbreaks. It can also lead to more winter die back. Aesthetically it may ruin the beautiful form of the tree. Also, the push for growth may steal energy for back budding and diverse branch formation. Also, keep in mind, some growers know they can get more money for larger trees, so they push them with fertilizer. A consumer buys it, plants it, and then the tree declines or sometimes dies, because the roots can’t keep up with all the top growth.

    My advice is to wait for the foundation (roots) to be strong, before building size. I like to use 0-10-10 or half that in late summer and fall to promote root growth and help harden off that seasons growth. Using it seems to improve winter hardiness, eliminate winter die back, and it promotes healthy bud formation. The branches seem to remain healthy and thinker too.

    Keep in mind, if a tree loses its leaves due to an environmental stress and the roots are strong, new buds will form and the tree will leaf out latter that season or next year. If the top is destroyed, and the roots are strong, what’s left of the trunk will bud, and the tree will begin to redevelop a new canopy. But, if the roots fail, the tree will die, no matter how healthy the top growth is at the time. Healthy roots are essential to the survival of the tree. It’s not the part of the tree we see and admire, so sometimes I think it’s second nature to get too focused on the part of the tree that we can see. So build strong roots and the top growth will come.
     
  4. maplesandpaws

    maplesandpaws Active Member

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    I have been using the Fox Farm Japanese Maple Fertilizer (dry fertilizer) http://foxfarmfertilizer.com/item/happy-frog-japanese-maple-fertilizer.html for a little over a year on all my potted maples (none in ground yet, that will come later this year), as well as many of my other potted evergreens, azaleas, etc, and have been very happy with it. I use it a couple of times in spring/early summer, then a couple of times again in fall - usually about a Tbsp or two for a 2-3g pot. It's not a powder, but it's not a granular type fertilizer either, somewhere in between; it also isn't an 'instant' fertilizer, like a liquid, but is a bit more of a time-release, due to the fact that it takes a little while to fully break down. Since none of my local nurseries carry anything but the small 4lb bag, I lucked out and found the large 18lb bag on Amazon for a real good price.

    Their Soil Conditioner http://foxfarmfertilizer.com/item/happy-frog-soil-conditioner.html is also a great product; I use it in all my potted mixes, and like to apply it with newly-planted flowers, shrubs, etc. A little pricey upfront, but it's a large bale and lasts a long time - I'm still on my first bag that I purchased in mid 2011, though I will have to pick one up this spring/summer.

    This year, I also want to try out a few of their new Bush Doctor products, specifically designed to help with root growth and establishment, more vital to the trees' health than top-growth, as John pointed out.
    http://foxfarmfertilizer.com/item/bush-doctor-kangaroots-root-drench.html
    http://foxfarmfertilizer.com/item/bush-doctor-microbe-brew.html I am wondering if I need to use this if I have already applied Myke when repotting/planting...

    Also, due to the intense, prolonged heat we typically get through the summer, I am seriously contemplating picking up their new comeback formula http://foxfarmfertilizer.com/item/bush-doctor-boomerang.html, designed for stressed/neglected plants. I need to find out if this is something that is used during the stressful time, or after. Typically, when temps are sustained over about 85-90, it is recommended not to fertilize due to the risk of burning roots, etc; plus, during intense heat, most plants usually go semi-dormant, so I don't know if applying this product during the height of summer would be appropriate...

    Anyhow, hope this helps!
     
  5. emery

    emery Renowned Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    It's only been a couple of months since we had this discussion: http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/forums/showthread.php?t=75834. Well, if you want to see more black bark, be free with the nitrogen! :) To kill it outright, use ammonia-based fertilizer. I call this "the blue death" (it comes as blue granules here).

    Seriously, if your tree is showing bacterial bark damage -- which I assume has healed since you're talking about next spring -- that means that very probably all is not right with the roots. John has given excellent advice, too which I will add this over-simplification: as go the roots, so goes the top. That is to say when the roots grow, the top growth will follow.

    To both Squeezied and Rufretic, I'd hazard to say that these plants are not yet established. How long does it take to establish in the landscape? There's no quick answer. It varies. Poor soil conditions can stretch out the time (not that I think that is the case with the SK in question). It can certainly be 3 years. Sometimes even in pots it can take a few years to build up sufficient root mass if a plant has been weakened for some reason.

    If you must fertilize, listen to Andrea and pick something very mild, or specifically directed at the roots.

    Just MHO.

    -E
     
  6. Kaitain4

    Kaitain4 Well-Known Member Maple Society 10 Years

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    I use HollyTone and GardeTone fertilizer from Espoma. Low nitrogen, organic, and loaded with Mychorrizal fungi. My maples love it! I use it on everything - new grafts, maples in pots, and maples in the ground. Available at Lowes and other garden centers, and reasonably priced.
     
  7. RJ intx

    RJ intx New Member

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    Hi K4, et all,
    How long have you been using HollyTone and GardeTone fertilizer? A what rates and how often? You use just one of these products on your maples or both?

    Do you use any other products that you've noticed the JM's really respond well to?

    I've been using an organic granular product along with some worm castings. So far, so good.

    RJ
     
  8. Poetry to Burn

    Poetry to Burn Active Member

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    There is some very good advice here. i like to use a light dose of nutricote 18 6 8 w minors. top dressing with compost is also a healthy practice.
     
  9. Gomero

    Gomero Well-Known Member Maple Society 10 Years

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    I did not contribute to this thread but it is informative to learn about other options. I stopped using fertilizers on my maples (potted or in ground) four or five years ago. I do sprinkle some Mychorrizal fungi in the roots when planting or transplanting. Those in the ground get their nutriments from the generous layer of mulch I add each winter and those in pots get a top layer of rich oakleaf compost. My approach is to obtain solid, healthy growth not fast growth. Since I stopped the fertilizer I have rarely seen those spurts of unsightly leggy growth that plague many maple enthusiasts.

    Gomero
     
  10. bigjohn33

    bigjohn33 Active Member

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    Hi
    Following gomero's advices, i also stopped fertiliser
    I only apply lombricompost ar the end Of november and the différence is stunning
    No more leggy ugly growth
    Less die back
    Spectacular spring colors
     
  11. Atapi

    Atapi Well-Known Member

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    Hi JT,

    Are you using the full recommended dosage from the bottle of 0-10-10 fertilizer or different?. I am planning to apply them in the next couple weeks thus any tips are appreciated. Steve
     
  12. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    Hi Steve,

    If the fertilizer is organic, then you can go with the recommended application rate (but I tend to still go slightly less than recommended as insurance). If its a chemical fertilizer go 1/2 the recommended application rate to be safe.

    My tip would be to check your mulch out and consider adding additional mulch to the root zone of your Japanese Maples to give them extra insulation against the cold of Winter.

    Take care,
     
  13. Atapi

    Atapi Well-Known Member

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    Thanks JT. Mine is not organic so i will go with 1/2 dosage then.

    While you brought up the mulch thing, last year when you recommended to plant and mound tree a bit higher than the ground level since I have lots of clay on my garden. So how do you keep the 'pine bark' mulch around the trunk and its parameter for not running off?. Tks.
     
  14. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    It should not be mounded up with a steep slope, which is the only way that I could imagine mulch washing away. If this is the case, widen the beds and add some more soil to lessen the slope. You may get some mulch that eventually migrate down, so you can use a boarder to keep it in the bed and out of the lawn. Or remove grass 3"to 4" inches away from the bed edge and add some clay and compact it to make a shallow trench like area to keep weeds out of the bed and mulch out of the lawn.
     

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