Discussion in 'Maples' started by Lynn Wilson, Feb 15, 2004.

  1. In regard to fertilizer application, after you have pulled the mulch away from the drip line do you break up the ground and apply the fertilizer or do you just apply the fertilizer to the top of the ground and then replace the mulch.
    I am aware of the tiny fiberous roots on the top of the ground of most of the Japanese Maple cultivors and was not sure if breaking the ground up applying the fertilizer and then replacing the soil was the way to go or just applying the fertilizer on top of the ground and then replacing the mulch was the way to go.
    I appreciate your time.
    Thank you,
    Lynn Wilson
  2. Douglas Justice

    Douglas Justice Well-Known Member UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society 10 Years

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    Vancouver, Canada
    Japanese maple cultivars, as well as other Acer species don't usually need supplemental feeding when grown in the garden (i.e., in soil), unless the fertility is inherently low, such as would be found in a gravelly soil. Plants do require some feeding in containers, but even here, many people apply excessive amounts. Most plants are perfectly adapted to finding moisture and nutrients in the soil on their own. Annual applications of leaf mulch are usually sufficient to grow great trees. (Picture a forest, where leaves fall to the ground every autumn and are incorporated into the soil and transformed by the organisms there--these trees don't need extra fertilizer.) Slower growing, unfertilized Japanese maples usually look more "natural" and suffer less from drought-stress, pests and disease.

    Granular fertilizers (such as the commonly available 6-8-6) generally require incorporation to be effective, and are practically useless in coarse textured soils when applied at the surface. Soluble fertilizers are applied in solution and poured over the soil (or through a mulch). However, this is an expensive and mostly wasteful method for trees, because soluble nutrients are usually quickly leached away. Controlled release fertilizers are also expensive, but more cost-effective, as they can be applied to the soil surface and they meter out their nutrients slowly, usually depending on the thickness of the fertilizer coating and the temperature. If they cannot be incorporated, they are best applied at the soil surface, below the mulch layer.
  3. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Lynn - Whether to fertilize Japanese Maples or not and when to fertilize has been one of my
    most frequently asked questions in my travels to visit Southern and Central Oregon nurseries
    in the past. A lot depends on what type of watering system you are using and what kind of
    soil do you have. There are no easy answers and a lot depends on whether you feel a need
    to fertilize or not, how much rainfall do you get, how cold or warm are your temps, are the
    Maples grown in containers or grown in the ground and in quite a few cases which varieties
    and perhaps species of Maples are you considering to fertilize. One thing we have found
    is that some varieties of Japanese Maples do respond well to fertilization, some do not and
    with some Maples it is probably best not to include a fertilizer with any Nitrogen. A 0-10-10
    may be best for many but not all variegated Maples. As far as variegates one thing we have
    observed in the past is that too much vigorous growth will yield a major reduction in the
    amount of variegated leaves that we can see. Use a 6-12-6 on a Roseo marginatum, Butterfly,
    Beni schischihenge, Orido nishiki, Asahi zuru and Higasayama to name a few and you can
    expect to see a dramatic reduction in the amount of pink and white and in one particular case
    orange in the leaves as soon as the form of Nitrogen that can be readily utilized by the plants
    has been made available to the roots.

    Some varieties of Maples are not strong growers as opposed to other forms that
    can "grow like weeds" for us. A lot depends on your climate as we get around
    4-5 growth cycles or growth spurts in a year where we are. Whereas in areas of
    the Pacific Northwest a grower may only get 2 growth cycles a year. What is
    important is to know your Maple and have an idea as to how it is supposed to
    look like once mature.

    As for your situation I would need to know what kind of drip system are you using
    and how long have you used that drip system on that Maple. Are their more than one
    drippers used for the Maple in question and what volume of spray is being emitted.
    With you using a drip system I would not advice you to use a commercial grade
    fertilizer that is pelleted containing Nitrogen as your watering set up will not
    incorporate the nutrients down into the soil soon enough. A liquid emulsion with
    a drip system can burn the roots of the plant as you cannot nutrilize the fertilizer
    fast enough, unless of course you use a half strength or less solution of a liquid
    fertilizer versus water. If you want to use a liquid form of a fertilizer with Nitrogen
    I would suggest a quarter strength solution with a conventional drip system (yes, that
    is a definite generalization as a lot depends on your system itself and how much water
    is being applied to the plant).

    People can come back at me in regards to drip systems but I am "old school"
    as I prefer bubbler heads running off a drip line or at least a dripper with
    a three-prong spray head and more than one head to better apply the water
    evenly over the better part of where the root system should be.

    Some people are dead set against fertilizing with a granular or liquid
    fertilizer but instead prefer to use a mulch of predominately pine or fir
    ground bark which will help aeration of the soil and will still provide
    some nutrients to your plant. Certainly not all of our quest to fertilize
    our plants involves the incorporation of Nitrogen. In a lot of cases it is
    the micro-nutrients that our plants may need and symptoms of nutrient
    deficiencies are not always visible to us. Should your plant become
    chlorotic then you have a problem as Nitrogen will mask the chlorosis
    by a possible quick-fix greening up of the leaves but when the plant
    becomes stressed the yellowing will show up all over again and can be
    quite difficult to correct the next time.

    In my mind too much emphasis has been placed on Nitrogen as a panacea for
    fertilizer problems as our culprit may indeed be a Calcium, Iron or a perhaps
    a Manganese deficiency instead should we have a deficiency at all and to be
    honest, in Maples deficiencies are not all that common but in the San Joaquin
    Valley we do on occasion see some nutrient deficiencies that many other areas
    of the Pacific Northwest seldom ever see or ever have to endure.

    For you a granular 0-10-10 with some micro-nutrients lightly sprinkled on top of
    the soil a good distance away from the trunk of your Maple might not be a bad idea
    for you considering that your mulch can act a fertilizer in its own way (no, I do not
    plan to get overly technical here). The only form of liquid I could suggest is
    also a 0-10-10 with some micro-nutrients in its content also. I would not use
    a fertilizer with Nitrogen at all for your program.

    The only times of the year I can recommend to use a fertilizer is in the Early
    Spring either right at juvenile growth or during the first growth spurt and
    during the Winter using a 0-10-10, especially for container grown plants.
    In the ground a 0-10-10 fertilizer may not be a bad idea for you but that is
    your choice depending on if your Maple does not color up well in the Spring
    and the Fall and the factors are not solely due to climatic or environmental

    I do agree that in most cases a commercial fertilizer is not needed for Maples
    but where we are located a low or no Nitrogen fertilizer supplement can be a
    very handy tool for us.

  4. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    I've been out of the Maple game essentially for 9 years after my mentor in Horticultural plants
    for just over 10 years Donald Kleim of the since defunct Henderson Experimental Gardens
    passed away. A lot of you out there would not have several varieties of Maples today had it
    not been for Don Kleim, either from his original imports of plants from Japan and elsewhere,
    as well as the plants that he grew along and monitored of which some varieties later became
    nursery trade introductions. The "old guard" in Maples worldwide know exactly who Don
    Kleim was.

    The problem that I now have is after awaking from a I really do not want to have anything to
    do with ornamental plants stupor is that I've since learned other people whom I was fortunate
    to know and talk to about Maples in years past have also since passed away. It appears I am
    all alone now as I have no real backups in place for when I really "step in it" and could use
    someone to either condemn me for being foolish or be a sounding board when needed for
    when I write something based from first hand practical experience and no one likes my input
    at all.

    No matter what other college level degrees I may have been accorded I am an Agronomist
    by trade, even though my specialty areas have seemingly always been Fruit & Nut trees and
    Citrus. I will not go into detail in this forum as to who and what I am but I will let out a
    secret now in that I've had a Pest Control Advisors license in Fertilizers ever since its inception
    back in 1974.

    I realize that fertilizing Japanese Maples is not something that many of you will need to deal
    with any time soon, at least that is what my perception is based on what I know from years ago
    until my re-awaking from my being brain dead towards a group of plants I have been growing
    as a plant collector for over 20 years. It mattered not to me what others were doing in Maples
    as I had my 100+ varieties to deal with and I was happy with what I already had and felt I did not
    need any more for a long while. I did have 15 varieties come in to me recently to serve as a
    rejuvenation of sorts but I just do not feel right about writing much on plants yet in this forum
    or in the other forums offered by such a great host - UBC. It is going to take a while for me to
    get back up to "speed" with Maples again. Essentially I fell in love with Maples and then fell out
    of love with Maples and am now wanting to know if the marriage can still work or not. That is
    where I am at today.

  5. Elmore

    Elmore Active Member 10 Years

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    North Alabama USA

    If not a marriage, how about a ... civil union? Better yet... a graft union.

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