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What do Maple Trees
(and other trees) feed on?

Q: What nutrients do a maple tree feed on?

A: Basically, trees have the same overall requirements when it comes to nutritional needs.

Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are the 3 main elements trees need. Nitrogen is essential for twig elongation (growth) and good foliage color, and phosphorus is needed for strong roots and proper fruit and flower development. Potassium is believe to provide a number of benefits, including increasing root growth and drought resistance.

These elements are represented as the 3 numbers you see on a fertilizer container, and are commonly referred to as NPK, their symbols on the periodic table of elements. So, if you see a fertilizer container that has 32-7-7 on the label, this means that 32% is Nitrogen (N), 7% is phosphorus (P), and 7% is potassium (K).

Nitrogen is the element trees need the most of, so it usually makes up the largest amount of a fertilizer container.

Some fertilizers are what are known as "complete" fertilizers. This means they not only contain the NPK, but they also include some other elements that trees need in much smaller amounts than the NPK. These include calcium, magnesium, boron, iron, molybdenum, manganese, sulfur, chlorine, copper, and zinc. All of these elements contribute in their own unique way.

Most fertilizers do not contain these "micro-nutrients" as we call them because it makes the fertilizer very expensive, plus they are required in such small amounts that the soil usually contains enough of them. If a deficiency of one of these arises, which is not very common, it can be treated on an as-needed basis.

Suffice to say that if you find a fertilizer that contains the 3 major elements and you follow the instructions on the label as to how to apply the fertilizer, how much, and how often, you should see results within a year's time.

You can also have your tree(s) professionally fertilized. Most tree companies use a slow-release form of nitrogen fertilizer that provides season-long nutrients, so it may be worth the time to seek some cost estimates from professional arborists.

Ask our Arborist a question. E-Mail us at:

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Tom Mugridge

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