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Sunset Maple Tree

Q: Purchased and planted 2 Sunset Maple trees 5/25/03 - 1 1/2 Diameter.

I want to do what I can to properly care for them and ask, (1) when they say that they require plenty of moisture, what does that mean?

I'm in Louisville, Kentucky and have what I would call an average rainfall in the spring and summer months, meaning certainly not a drought period, and, (2) how often and particularly when is the best time to fertilize? Thank you for the help.

A: Red Sunset is one of my favorite maple cultivars. Predictable fall coloring (less dependent on the weather conditions to be a nice bright red), smaller leaves than the regular red maples, and they have a nicely-shaped crown naturally, so they only require pruning to keep them thinned out.

Having said that, in general most trees like 1-2" of water every 7-10 days on average. If Nature provides this, you're good to go. Otherwise, you'll need to supplement.

The best way to apply the right amount is to use an oscillating sprinkler, a coffee can and a ruler. Place the sprinkler beneath the tree, put the coffee can somewhere within the sweep of the sprinkler (I put my coffee can just a couple feet away), turn the water on, go away, come back a little while later with your ruler, and measure how much is in the coffee can (you can use a rain gauge, too, if you like).

When you've got an inch of water in the can you're probably done, unless it's been extremely hot and dry, then go for 2". Water in this fashion beneath the entire spread of the tree's branches, and just once every 7-10 days.

The method for fertilization will in part depend on the type of fertilizer you use. Some fertilizers only last a few months, others will last a full season. Check the labels of the fertilizer you have available to you and decide what's best for your situation.

The label will also tell you when , how, and how much to apply, so always follow the label's instructions. Usually once a year (for fertilizers with a decent residual to them) is adequate, either in spring or in fall.

Never over-fertilize as this can kill the trees. Less is actually better than more in this case.

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Tom Mugridge

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