Part 1: Fertilization
If you would like to optimize the performance of your plant, optimize the soil in which the plant lives. Get the soil right and you’ll have a healthier, stronger tree. It’s as simple as that! But how to do that can prove to be a bit of a challenge…
When I first started doing plant health care and fertilization, I would try to determine the deficiency based on the symptoms the plant was exhibiting. This proved ineffective as similar symptoms can result from different soil deficiencies. After fertilizing the plants for years without good results, I tried fertilizing according to soil lab analysis and voilà – the plants improved to near-perfection.
Soil lab analysis is a process whereby a soil sample is taken from the base of the tree or shrub and analyzed for pH levels and to determine what nutrients are present (or not).
With soil, the problem could be a micronutrient deficiency or a pH problem or boron toxicity – all common issues in our area. The only way to really know is through soil testing and analysis. I know I could have saved a lot of time and fertilizer, (not to mention that the plants would have improved much more quickly and the clients would have been happier!), if I had just started with soil analysis.
Good intentions gone bad are common in regards to fertilization. Let’s say you have a citrus tree that’s looking yellow. You go to the local nursery and buy a package of citrus food. You apply it to the tree and instead of improving; it starts to look even worse. Wow! What went wrong?
It seems like simple logic: you have citrus, you give it citrus food. But here’s the problem: citrus food has a lot of sulfur in it to reduce the soil pH. Continual application can eventually bring the pH down below acceptable levels. In most cases, low pH can be as bad as high pH, and may cause the plant to respond with symptoms never seen before.
It’s like most products out there. Just because the label says it’s good, doesn’t mean it is.. When you really think about it, it’s impossible to have a “one size fits all” fertilizer.
Plants can live with nutrient deficiencies. But to grow to their optimum potential, they must have enough of each of 16 critical nutrients, yet not too much of those nutrients to cause toxicity.
The only definitive way to know exactly what is in your soil is through soil lab analysis. With a lab report, custom fertilization can be done that will most quickly improve the soil rooting medium and the plant’s health and vitality.
While there are many factors, including organic matter and irrigation, that help improve the health of plants, fertilization is critical to optimum growth.
Before you head to the nursery to undertake any fertilization, consider getting your soil analyzed first. It’s a good, low-cost investment and in the end, it will save you time and money and allow your trees and shrubs to thrive!