Tree Care

Deep Root Feeding

I was talking to folks at the Junior League’s “There’s No Place Like Pelham” evening event Friday night and was asked about deep root feeding for large, hardwood trees. By the way, this event was a lot of fun and hats off to the Junior league for all their hard work! For those of you who are unaware, deep root feeding is a process where nutrients are pumped directly into the root zone of large trees by means of a metal spike inserted in the ground. This can be done with a larger spike and mechanical pump, and there are also smaller, manual versions of this system available.

The question was is deep root feeding really necessary, particularly at the high rates that some tree companies charge for this service? To answer the question one needs to consider where these trees occur in nature. Generally large trees grow in forests which are enclosed eco-systems of their own. The soil is rich with live organisms and fungi that explicitly nurture these trees. The tree’s roots connect and touch. A forest is literally a community, and through their roots, they communicate with each other chemically, share moisture, and condition the soil to meet their particular needs, as well as support other plants that are beneficial to the community.

Trees in habituated areas lack the support of the forest. This can mean that they are not getting their nutrient and water needs met, particularly if they are surrounded by lawns which have very different needs than shrubs, perennials, and trees. Because many of our lawns are chemically cared for, often the soil around trees in our communities is dead and inert. Trees in these conditions will need supplemental nutrition of some kind, and if they have not been fed in some time, deep root fertilization may be just the thing.

However, in the long run, homeowners can feed their trees themselves and without deep root feeding. Two products I highly recommend are from Plant Health Care. These are PHC 27-9-9 and PHC 11-22-22. Like most fertilizers the numbers refer to Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium levels in the fertilizer. These two products are part of the new line of chemical/biological hybrid or bridge products that are on the market. They contain chemical fertilizers in low enough doses to support the biological agents that they deliver as well. The 27-9-9 product is high in nitrogen and for spring use, the 11-22-22 is much lower and for fall use. The key element in these products is mycorrhizael fungii. Mycorrhizae are beneficial fungi that help trees digest nutrients. By applying these products to your  trees regularly, you can optimize the health of your trees and reduce or eliminate the need for deep root feeding. Many trees in suburban areas are struggling for nutrients so consider ways to feed these valuable assets today!

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