While this technique will work with all perennial plants, my focus for this article is really on the perennials in the garden. I will specifically talk about fruit trees. However, this will work on all perennial plants that may be giving you problems.
Let me start by saying that I have never seen this technique mentioned in any book or anywhere on the web. If you ask a master gardener in your county, they will probably say they never heard of it – and may even add that too much fertilizer can be harmful.
However, I can honestly say this technique does work, and with more success than I ever imagined. This technique has come from my own personal experience and has managed to let my apple trees live less than 20 feet from my (and my neighbor’s) evergreen trees. All trees are playing well together and are happy.
Let’s start with a comparison in the human vitamin world. The government gives us minimum daily values for nearly all vitamins. However, manufacturing companies sell vitamins in much higher doses then the minimum recommends by the government because taking the higher amount makes people feel better. Vitamin E comes to mind for me. I take 400 mg every day because it helps me with pain but the government states the daily value needed is only 15 – 30 mg. (Not sure these numbers are correct, I looked up the daily value stat up on the web and found many different values. I combined them all in the range I displayed here.)
The same holds true for your plants. I first learned of this fact when we moved to our house 16 years ago. After the first year, I noticed that my grass always had fungus problems, but my neighbors didn’t. (Mostly I had dollar spot and fairy rings.) I just wanted my yard to look like my neighbors (also required by my HOA or I would have been fined). I put down all kinds of fungicide that I purchased in the home improvement centers.
They worked for a short time, but the problem always came back. So I had my soil tested. I found out that I had no phosphorus and very little potash (potassium) in my soil. I did know that my neighborhood used to be a farm.
I believe that my plot probably had the chicken house on it. Keeping chickens in one spot for many years will drain the phosphorus from the soil. I went to the local feed and seed store and purchased two fertilizers: one 50lb. bag of 0-45-0 and one 50lb. bag of 0-0-60. I spread both (in both the front and back yard) and two weeks later, my lot looked like the rest of the neighborhood! And it stayed that way for 2 years.
My neighborhood has changed quite a bit in the years I have lived here. We have quite a few Leyland Cyprus trees on our property, as well as Arborvitae Emerald Green trees. My neighbors have them as well. Both of these trees carry the Cedar Apple Rust fungus as well as many others.
I got the evergreen trees long before I got the apple trees. Knowing that I might have problems with fungus on the apple trees, we planted three trees anyway. I thought that with a spray management program, I could make it work.
My apple trees are now in their 5th year at our house. We bought two-year-old trees, so I am guessing at the end of this summer, they will be 7 years old. It has not always been an easy co-existence for my apple trees & evergreens. The apple trees told me the second year they were here that they didn’t like living at my house and showed me that by picking up both Cedar Apple Rust and Fire Blight.
I thought, no problem, I will spray! Well, spraying didn’t work! It worked when sprayed right after a rainstorm, but the dew is so heavy here in the summer, that each morning I got up I had more fire blight! That year, I cut off so many dead branches I thought I was going to lose the trees.
We managed to scrape by that year, but I didn’t know if we should pull the trees and forget about growing apples or not. We decided to keep the trees and I thought I would try again in year number 3. I followed the spray recommendations from the University of Georgia and thought that would make the difference. Nope, it didn’t! After a lot of rain in April and May, I thought my trees would die.
While out and about one day in mid- May, I pulled into my driveway and noticed that I had dollar spot on my lawn. I looked at my neighbor’s yards and they did not have dollar spot. I thought, “Has it been 2 years since I put down phosphorus?” I called up my feed and seed store to order more. Then I thought, if this works for grass, would it work for my apple trees as well? I ordered 100lbs. of 0-45-0 and 0-0-60 that year.
I put 50lbs. out for the grass, (spread in both the front and back yard) and then put the other 50lbs. of each concentrating on the 1/6 acre where my trees were located (the trees are in my backyard and also got some of the initial 50lbs. that I put down for the grass.) I added it a bit heavy to the drip line but spread the rest evenly over the 1/6 acre.
I watered it in immediately. I had to use a drip line because the sprinkler would have caused more fire blight on the trees. 1 week later, the episodes of fire blight and new evidence of cedar apple rust stopped!
This has now been made part of the routine care of my apple trees! I add one 50lb. bag of 0-45-0 and one 50lb. bag of 0-0-60 to the 1/6 acre where my trees are located each year. And, as I mentioned earlier, they are now almost 7 years old and much happier trees.
I still used an integrated spray management program, but my emphasis concentrates on the early sprays needed in the spring. I only spray for fungus now about every 4 – 6 weeks during the summer months and apply the spray with a focus on the new growth.
It is a bit of a challenge to know when to spray because the fungicide can damage the trees if it is over 90 degrees when you spray. (That is all summer long for me!) So I try to time it with a rainstorm so the temps are lower. This is something I am willing to accept for the blessing of having my own apples.
I should also state that the phosphorus and potash fertilizers will not stop all incidences of fungus problems with the trees. However, it so greatly reduces the number of times fungus appears as well as greatly reducing the severity of the problem that I now find it completely manageable.
I have only had to cut off a few small branches from fire blight on my apple trees this year. And, it has been over 3 years since I have even seen evidence of cedar apple rust. (I do understand that Cedar Apple Rust is a bi-annual problem, not an annual problem.)
Also, just so you know, I store this fertilizer so I always have 2 years’ worth on hand. When the world ends, I will still be able to manage my fungus problems with the apple trees for a while.
Now, if I can just get the squirrels to stop sampling the apples to see if they are ripe yet! I see covering those trees in netting in my future next year!