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Fertilizing trees and shrubs

Q: How often should I fertilize the roots of my trees and shrubs?

A: As a general rule, it is not necessary to use synthetic fertilizers for trees and shrubs unless the plants exhibit a nutrient deficiency. Good soil nutrition and a two-inch layer of compost, such as leaf mulch, placed around your trees and shrubs on a yearly basis should be sufficient for good plant health.

Why is phosphorus, a component of lawn fertilizer, bad for the environment?

Phosphorus is a component of most fertilizers that helps plants to grow. When too much is applied or is applied at the wrong time—such as right before it rains—most of it is washed away and ends up in the local waterways. This type of pollution is called nonpoint source pollution. It causes eutrophication (a reduction of dissolved oxygen in water bodies caused by an increase of minerals and organic nutrients) of rivers and lakes. This reduced level of oxygen in water ends up suffocating fish.