Published on 04/10/08

Landscape trees ready for springtime snack

By Sharon Omahen
University of Georgia

Whether your landscape has fruit trees, shade trees, ornamentals or a blend, a University of Georgia expert says now is the time to fertilize.

“Unfortunately for homeowners, finding a fertilizer to use all over the landscape can be challenging,” said Jim Crawford, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent in Jefferson County.

Different plants need different fertilizer recipes to meet their individual needs, he said.

“Just like farmers, homeowners will be paying more for fertilizer this year,” he said. “You don’t want to purchase a lot of bags just to use a few pounds of each.”

One stop shopping

To avoid extra expense, Crawford recommends using “good ol’ 10-10-10 fertilizer.” The number pattern on the bag means the mix contains 10 percent nitrogen, 10 percent phosphorus and 10 percent potassium.

“This fertilizer will be sufficient for all your needs,” he said.

For plum and peach trees, apply 1 cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer per year of age, up to 12 cups for mature trees. After harvest, apply 1 pound per inch of trunk diameter up to 5 pounds.

“Just be sure you have the fertilizer down by the time the plants bud out,” he said.

Fertilize a pear tree at a rate of 1 cup per year of age, up to 12 cups. Apply half before the tree buds out and the other half after fruiting.

Figs should be fertilized in late winter, mid-June and mid-July. Apply one-third pound per foot of tree height each time.

Old, established muscadine vines need 3 to 5 pounds of fertilizer now and half of a pound in early June. To make sure newly planted vines get what they need, give each one-fourth pound of fertilizer now. Do it again in late May and again in early July. Two-year-old vines need the same as the newly planted ones. However, three-year-old vines like 2 pounds in March and 1 pound in May.

Shade trees okay

Crawford said most shade trees get enough residual fertilizer when you fertilize your home lawn. “If you are fertilizing the lawn under shade trees, they can get enough from that and no extra is needed,” he said.

If you want to fertilize shade trees individually, Crawford suggests applying 5 pounds per thousand square feet of canopy now and again in June.

For ornamental bulbs, use 3 pounds of fertilizer per 100 square feet of bed.

Ornamental shrubs should receive 1 tablespoon per foot of height or 3 tablespoons per 10 square feet, he said. This should be applied in March and repeated in May and July.

“I can put a bucket under my arm and throw it out just about as fast as I can walk, estimating height as I go,” Crawford said.

Special plants, special blends

Azaleas and specialty plants require specific fertilizer with micro-nutrients added, he said.

For more information on how to care for your landscape plants, contact your local UGA Extension agent at 1-800-ASK-UGA1.

Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.