Even the most novice gardener knows the importance of providing proper feeding and fertilization to a new flowerbed, young vegetable seedlings or even recently planted turf, but many people don't realize that new trees also need good feeding for strong, healthy growth. Fortunately, there are many organic ways to feed your trees so they can become well established and will resist stress, repel insects and be less susceptible to diseases.
- Compost: Compost is the easiest and most common way of organically feeding trees. Compost can be gently mixed with soil in the hole as a new tree is planted for instant nourishment, and adding compost mixed with mulch around the base of the tree will provide ongoing nutrients for the hungry tree.
- Manure: If a ready source of manure is available – ask a local farmer, they generally have plenty to share! – it can be great for feeding trees. Mix the manure with compost or mulch, or add it around the tree's base to gradually decay and provide abundant nutrition for the tree's growth and health.
- Leaf Litter: Instead of raking up every leaf in the fall, leave a layer of fallen leaves, pine needles and other natural debris under the tree for nourishment. If the debris is too thick, run it through a mulcher or mow over the fallen leaves to trim them into smaller, more quickly decaying pieces.
- Remove Turf: Be sure every bite of organic food and fertilizer is nourishing the tree by removing turf around the base so the grass does not absorb the nutrients first. Ideally, turf should be removed to the drip line of the tree – the widest extent of the bottom branches – but if that is too big an area, any ring of bare soil will help. Cover the soil with wood chips or other mulch to conserve moisture and provide further nourishment.
- Water Well: A dehydrated tree will be a sickly tree, and it is important to water trees well so they can more thoroughly absorb nutrients from feeding, and the water will leach nutrients to the roots, bringing even more nutrition to the plant. Ideally, water trees at ground level, thoroughly soaking the roots for good watering that will encourage healthy growth.
- Bird Feeders: Hanging a bird feeder or two in a tree is a simple way to organically feed the tree. Bird feces will fall onto the soil below the feeders, and debris from the feeder will also drop and decay into essential nutrients for the tree to absorb.
- Proper Pruning: Properly pruning a tree will avoid any wasted nutrition. Dead, damaged or diseased branches should be removed right away, and every tree should be pruned occasionally to increase air circulation and sunlight penetration in its foliage. This will help the tree best metabolize the nutrition it absorbs.
- Organic Fertilizers: Many companies offer organic supplemental fertilizers that can be used for feeding trees. For the best option, the soil should be tested before adding any fertilizer to be sure the proper mix of nutrients will be offered to the tree, and because these fertilizers are concentrated, it is critical to follow the application instructions to avoid damaging the tree or unbalancing the soil.
With so many ways to feed trees organically, it's easy to be sure every tree is getting adequate nutrition for proper growth, strong foliage and a long, healthy life.