Sorry Miracle Grow, but you are a prime example of what I mean. They claim
they can sell you plant food.
1st, trees are autotrophs and not heterotrophs.
Autotrophs make their own food. Heterotrophs have to have it made for them.
Most plants, there are exceptions, are autotrophs. The ghost flower is an
exception. It has no chlorophyll therefore cannot photosynthesize. It gets
its food from other plants by means of the bicarbohydrate transfer of
plants. You will still not find plant food in a bag on a shelf. They say I
play word games. Think for a minute, Consider poor Joe who liked alcohol.
Drank methanol rather than ethanol. He then quickly learned, as his brain
got burned. That words are important after all.
The point is that people who do not understand plants really think they are
feeding their plants by adding elements (fertilizers). I called them the
other day (MGrow)and the guy tried to convince me that elements were
nutrients. You can put a element in a nutrient but you can not put a
nutrient in an element. You can put a file in a folder but you cannot put a
folder in a file. I think it is a serious problem. The guy told me that
they add N-P-K and that's all you need because the other essential elements
are there. Short of a soil test I find that hard to believe. By adding
nitrogen you increase the plant in mass. However , when you do that you
increase its requirements for food for defense. You increase the demands
for the other 16 essential elements and water when you increase the size of
the symplast of the plant.
The more nitrogen you add the more the chances are you will get sucking
insects. They say that's ok, heres somethiong to kill the sucking insects.
They want me to believe that adding food causes sucking insects? A good
example of this is the xmas tree farms. They sock the trees with N for big
growth yet they have lots of sucking insects. Another example is if you
have fire blight. Adding N will increase your plants problems. Does that
mean by feeding the plant we increase fire blight? Silly. But thats want
the product pushers want you to believe.
What the guy from M. Grow did not understand was that if calcium or boron is
lacking you will have problems. Nickel was added to the list of essential
elements by Penn State.
There are 17 essential elements. They are required in different amounts by
the plants. I do not refer to micro elements as minner elements because
they are anything but miner. Try telling that to M. Grow.
Its my responsability as a arborist to prov ide sound information to
clients. Would you go to a doctor who said you were an autotroph. What if
he said he had a bag of chemicals to help you photosythize. Thats silly.
Just as silly as plant food in a bag for autotrophs. They know this at M.
Grow. People like to feed their trees so they calkl it plant food. Ask
them, that's what they told me. I am not against fertilizing after proper
mulching. Remember there are 17 essential elements.
If your tree is deficient in boron, then by adding boron you may help the
plant. Its just not that simple. pH for starters plays a key role. If you
have high pH soil for your pin oak, you could add all the iron in the world
and it would not make a difference. Microorganisms alter chemical elements
so they can be absorbed. Properly adding composted wood chips and leaves
stimulate and feed such organisms. We can FEED the SOIL with composted wood
and leaves providing carbohydrates to soil organisms.
We can feed the system, not the plant. Nitrogen is an energy source for
decay fungi or rot. Add nitrogen to your compost pile and it will stimulate
the microorganisms thus speeding up the decay (rot) process. You can also
stimulate root rot of trees by fertilizing the soil around the infected
roots with nitrogen. HOW IS THIS FEEDING THE TREE?
Food is a substance that provides and energy source, mostly. Nutrient is a
substance that provides an energy source, elements, and other substances
essential for life, in types and amounts that can provide a healthy life.
Fertilizer is a substance that provides elements, as salts mostly, or in
bonded forms, that require microorganisms to alter to forms that can be
absorbed by plants. I do not call elements - nutrients, however nutrients
would contain elements. You can put a file in a folder but you can't put a
folder in a file. A list of elements can be found here:
17 Elements For Life - Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Phosphorus,
Potassium, Calcium, Sulfur, Magnesium, Manganese, Iron, Copper, Boron,
Molybdenum, Chlorine, Zinc, Nickel [Sodium, Cobalt, Selenium?]
14 essential elements are obtained by trees from the soil. I do not have a
list of which ones they are.
Wood is the substrate of the base of the food web, the mycorrhizal fungi.
Mycorrhizae tend to be abundant in composted wood such as nurse logs. We
had great success at tree biology workshops finding mycorrhizae during dryer
times, in and about nurse logs. I believe, you don't have to agree with it,
please, just think. I think that by applying mulch as I recommend under
mulch here that you facilitate the mycorrhizae rather than just adding
fertilizer. Not that its bad in any way, fertilizer i.e.. Over
fertilizing with nitrogen is a serious problem for trees. Over nitrogen
leads to sucking insects.
Mulching - http://home.ccil.org/~treeman/sub3.html
http://www.treedictionary.com/DICT2003/M/ Look up "Mulch"
Did I say - Mycorrhizae are organs that facilitate the absorption of
elements essential for healthy growth. Mycorrhizae resist the Demons Of D.
Mycorrhizae facilitate the absorption of elements. Demons of D are those
things that add up to the big D word DEATH. E.g., Depletion, disruption,
and dysfunction. Elements can be depleted. Disruption, you get hit my a
Mac truck. Dysfunction, some organ such as mycorrhizae may not function.
Major Elements C; H; N; O; P; K; S; Mg; Ni; Fe; Ca; Zn; Mo; Mn; B; Cl; Cu
There is the law of the minimum. It states the element that is deficient
the most, would be the determining factor in the health of the tree.
I think research would be wise in the search for the optimum fertility level
I did some soil testing in the upper four inches of soil and from at and
about nurse logs in old growth forest which contain hemlocks and white
pines. And much more. Here is my average on my testing for the latter.
These where five test. 3 test sites where in Allegheny National
Forest(Hearts Content) Pennsylvania
and two where in Allegheny National Forest(Tionesta Scenic area)
Results are in Pounds Per Acre PPA. AVAILABLE ELEMENTS
Did not get B or CU.
Organic matter was 29.32%
Ex Acidity 81 ME/100G
Salts mmho: 0.01 mmho/cm
Water Soluble mg/kg B 1.0738
ACID Soluble (mg/kg)
Ni 5.71 (Penn State discovered the element Ni to be essential in small
The CARBON TO NITROGEN RATION was 27:1
pH 4.2 WOW
That would be a goal of mine if I was going to provide essential elements
professionally. I did not see to many people in the old growth sections.
There was more calcium at a nurse logs in a separate test.
We don't feed trees, however, we can feed the soil with composted wood
(chips and nurse logs) and leaves. We can feed the system.
I have some results for some sick hemlocks (elements in soil) If anybody
would like to share results please contact me and we can discus fertilizing
hemlocks and white pines.
What are you thoughts?
John A. Keslick, Jr.
Beware of so-called tree experts who do not understand tree biology.
Storms, fires, floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions keep reminding us
that we are not the boss.