4 Options for Fertilizing Trees and Shrubs the Cheap, Easy, and Healthy Way

Choose compost, leaf mulch, wood chips, or biochar over chemicals.

Are the leaves of your maple tree turning brown at the edge? Or do your azaleas have fewer blooms this year? Are your magnolias growing more slowly than you expected?

It can be tempting to look for a quick fix solution and reach for traditional chemical fertilizers, but these can cause real problems in the long run. For example, chemical fertilizers can compromise trees’ root systems, block the uptake of micronutrients, encourage attacks from harmful pests, and cause a host of other issues for plants.

The good news is that the alternative to store-bought fertilizer is free, better for the planet, and widely available in your backyard or kitchen.

Using rotting stuff like compost, leaves, or wood chips feeds the critters that live in your soil. This mimics how trees get nutrients in the forest which means that it is sustainable and doesn’t have any accompanying harmful impacts of store-bought fertilizers.

Here are four ways you can fertilize your trees and shrubs without using chemicals:

  1. Wood chips: Wood chips provide a multitude of benefits to your trees and shrubs. They feed the soil, regulate temperature, regulate moisture, and you can often get them for free from local arborists.
  2. Compost: All of those food scraps left over from meals? They are a feast for the microorganisms living in your soil. You can either make your own compost bin or work with a local composting service to break down the organic matter into rotting stuff.
  3. Leaves: This one is the easiest of all. Just leave your leaves. Instead of bagging up leaves, just leave them where they fall. If you are concerned about your grass, you can rake them into beds under your trees and around your shrubs. Leaf mulch is part of a tree’s natural cycle. It is nature’s way of recycling essential nutrients and protecting the tree’s roots during the harsh winter months. Leaf mulch also fortifies soil by providing rotting stuff, which is the foundation of healthy soil.
  4. Biochar: This option is a bit more advanced. Biochar is organic matter that has been burned without oxygen to produce charcoal. It not only increases the health of your soil and helps with water retention but also stores carbon. It is possible to make on your own but somewhat tricky, so instead, you can purchase it at some local garden supply and farm stores.

The best part about these four options is that it uses materials that are usually considered waste to feed your trees and shrubs. They are also free, readily available, and safe for babies, puppies, and the planet.

Have questions about these alternatives to chemical fertilizers? Send us a message.

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