The Secret to Healthy Arborvitaes: Choosing the Perfect Fertilizer

You’ve embarked on the journey of planting arborvitaes for your screen or hedge project, or maybe you simply want a low-maintenance tree that adds beauty to your surroundings. Now, you’re wondering about the best fertilizer for arborvitae and when to fertilize. In this article, we’ll unveil the key information you need to ensure the health and vitality of your arborvitaes.

Unveiling the Best Fertilizer for Arborvitae

Before we dive into the ideal fertilizer for arborvitaes, let’s understand why certain fertilizers work better than others. The quality and quantity of nutrients in the soil, as well as competition from other plants, play a crucial role in the growth of arborvitaes.

If you’ve recently planted just one or two arborvitaes, it’s best to hold off on fertilizing initially. Give them basic care and observe how they thrive. Conduct a quick soil test to check the pH level using widely available soil test kits. Arborvitaes prefer soil that ranges from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline, with a pH level between 6.5 and 8.0.

If your soil falls within the desired pH range, you’re good to go. However, if the soil test reveals an imbalance and your arborvitaes show signs of poor growth, fertilization becomes necessary. It will correct the soil’s nutrient imbalance and alleviate competition among the root systems of your arborvitaes.

When it comes to arborvitaes, nitrogen-rich fertilizers are highly recommended, especially for newly planted trees. However, since these trees may be competing with others for nutrients, it’s wise to opt for a more comprehensive fertilizer. Look for fertilizers with a minimum nitrogen-phosphate-potassium (NPK) ratio of 3-1-1. The exact ratios may vary among brands, but nitrogen always remains the highest of the three elements.

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Some Noteworthy Arborvitae Fertilizers

Now, let’s explore a few examples of high-quality arborvitae fertilizers available in the market. These will give you an idea of the differences between brands and the considerations you should make before making a choice.

  1. Down to Earth All Natural Tree & Shrub fertilizer: This organic, slow-release product boasts an NPK ratio of 4-2-4. With its high nitrogen content, it caters to the nutritional needs of arborvitaes. It also contains mycorrhizal fungi, beneficial organisms that aid nutrient preservation and root development. One downside is its strong organic odor, which could attract pests and wildlife. However, it remains safe for pets and children.

  2. BioAdvanced Shrub Protect Food for Trees: This fertilizer-insecticide combo, with an NPK ratio of 2-1-1, offers year-round protection to arborvitaes. While it may not have the highest nitrogen content, it is a slow-release product. If your soil is already nutrient-rich, especially in terms of nitrogen, and you desire ease of use along with insect protection, this fertilizer is worth considering. Be cautious, though, as its synthetic nature may be toxic to pets and kids.

  3. Plant-tone All Purpose Plant Food: With an NPK ratio of 5-3-3, this organic, slow-release fertilizer is infused with Bio-Tone microbes, promoting rapid growth in your arborvitaes. It can be used for a variety of other plants, making it useful if your arborvitaes share space with unrelated plants. Like other organic fertilizers, it has a natural odor, but it’s safe for kids and pets.

Whether your soil is acidic or alkaline, remember to choose fertilizers with a minimum NPK ratio of 3-1-1 for your arborvitaes. A high nitrogen content ensures robust growth, easier maintenance, and overall tree health.

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The Timing of Arborvitae Fertilization

For newly planted arborvitaes, it’s advisable not to fertilize immediately. Give them time to adjust to the soil, watering, and new environment. This will allow them to establish a strong root system before introducing additional nutrients. After observing your plants and determining the need for fertilization, apply the fertilizer during the growing season, primarily in early spring, and continue periodically until a few weeks before the first frost or cold weather.

Pruning your arborvitaes is another consideration in early spring. This is when you should assess their pruning requirements before summer. Follow the instructions provided on the fertilizer container for the recommended frequency and distribution method. Typically, you’ll need to spread the granules evenly over the root system area, ensuring thorough watering while avoiding the tree’s trunk zone.

The specific brand of fertilizer will provide guidance on the appropriate amount for each tree, whether the fertilizer should be surface-applied or mixed into the soil, and the formula based on trunk diameter. For mature trees, surface application is usually recommended, while for new plantings, mixing with the soil is preferable. Keep the fertilizer a few inches away from the tree trunk and spread it over the root zone to prevent fertilizer burn.

The Effectiveness of Slow-Release Tree Fertilizer Spikes

While granule or pellet-type fertilizers are most commonly recommended for arborvitaes, slow-release fertilizer spikes can also be effective, especially for mature plants. The number of spikes required increases with the age of the tree, and they should be placed closer to where you water your arborvitaes.

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Caring for Emerald Arborvitaes

If you have emerald arborvitaes, fertilize them up to three times a year between early spring and late June. Granule-type fertilizers are the preferred choice. Instead of mixing them with the soil, let the fertilizer sit on the surface, allowing it to soak in with watering.

Fertilizers to Avoid for Arborvitaes

While many fertilizers are suitable for various plants, some should be avoided specifically for arborvitaes.

  • Holly-tone fertilizer: Designed for acid-loving plants, it is not appropriate for arborvitaes. These trees prefer more neutral, nitrogen-rich fertilizers.
  • Tree-tone fertilizer: This fertilizer, which lacks the recommended NPK ratio, is better suited for fruit trees than arborvitaes.

Maintaining Arborvitaes’ Health

Keeping arborvitaes healthy is not a daunting task. Soil quality and proper watering are key factors in their well-being. Fertilizers help address any soil deficiencies, but inadequate watering, poor drainage, and plant diseases tend to be the primary culprits behind arborvitaes’ decline.

To summarize:

  • Mature arborvitaes require minimal fertilization.
  • Consider the timing and location of planting arborvitaes, as it significantly impacts their success.
  • Optimal irrigation and drainage are crucial. Water slowly and moderately, avoiding flooded soil.
  • Proper plant spacing promotes healthy growth and root formation while reducing competition for nutrients and light.
  • Keep an eye out for pests and diseases, such as twig blight, that may affect your arborvitaes.

Now armed with the knowledge of the best fertilizers for your arborvitaes, when and how to fertilize, and essential care tips, you can ensure the long-lasting health and beauty of your trees.

For more gardening tips and high-quality products, visit Ames Farm Center. Happy gardening, my dear friends!