Pine trees (Pinus spp.), like most plants and trees, draw nutrients from the soil. If you want to feed your pine tree, it helps to know the pH of the soil in which your tree is planted. That's because pine trees generally like soil that is slightly acidic.
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What to Feed Pine Trees
Once you know the pH of your tree, you can decide if your tree needs fertilizing. Many gardening experts say if your tree is growing well and has good color, you may not need to fertilize at all.
But evergreens in the woods do absorb nutrients from leaves, twigs and other ground debris that are common in the forest but less common on tidy lawns. If you have recently transplanted pine tree, make sure you water it well and don't be too anxious to apply fertilizer right away.
If your soil is alkaline, a heavy clay soil or very sandy, you should get your soil tested, and then determine what kind of fertilizer you need. Most likely, you'll want a fertilizer that provides nitrogen to your pine tree. The amount you'll use depends on the size of the tree, but 1 pound of nitrogen is adequate for a mature evergreen.
How to Fertilize Pine Trees
Once you've decided what to feed your tree, you'll need to take care to apply it correctly. Incorrectly applying fertilizer to a pine tree can kill or damage it. Fertilize in early spring, just before or while the tree is actively growing. If the tree is growing, you will see new green shoots on the tips of the branches. Don't fertilize too early, however, because the tree may not absorb nitrogen when it's still dormant.
Use a slow-release fertilizer with a low dose of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus to avoid harming the roots. You want the fertilizer to be absorbed slowly, not quickly, for healthy growth. Make sure you water the tree when you fertilize to keep it hydrated. One way to spread your fertilizer is to apply it to the ground above the roots and water deeply after application.
If you have grass surrounding your pine tree , you can inject fertilizer into the soil using a needle, about 6 to 18 inches into the ground. You can also use a crowbar or metal rod and make holes 2 inches around and at least 8 inches deep, spacing the holes 2 feet apart around the tree, working 18 inches to 3 feet away from the tree trunk.
After Adding Fertilizer
Once the fertilizer and compost are added, spread mulch so that you have a 2- to 4-inch layer around the tree. Make sure you don't spread the mulch directly around the tree trunk. Keep it about 3 inches away from the trunk.
The mulch will help the soil retain moisture levels, add some organic material while breaking down and prevent weed growth. However, do not lay plastic sheeting or landscape fabric below the mulch. Continue to water your tree regularly and enjoy your healthy pine tree.
Karen Gardner spent many years as a home and garden writer and editor who is now a freelance writer. As the owner of an updated older home, she jumps at the chance to write about the fun and not-so-fun parts of home repair and home upkeep. She also enjoys spending time in her garden, each year resolving not to let the weeds overtake them. She keeps reminding herself that gardening is a process, not an outcome.