Q: What's the best product to fertilize hemlocks? What time of year should I do it? –Mark, Macon, Georgia

A: Roger Cook replies: Hemlock will benefit from any fertilizer designed specifically for evergreens. You should consult your local garden center to see what they have available, stressing that you want to fertilize evergreens specifically. Some products are designed to be spread on the soil and work themselves in. I like to take a pitchfork and punch a series of holes in the ground, then spread the fertilizer so it will move down into the soil. Another method is to use a bar to punch holes 8 to 12 inches deep into the ground and mix the fertilizer down into each hole. Remember that main feeder roots are not found close to the trunk of the tree. Tree roots spread out from the trunk to beyond the drip line of the branches, so concentrate your fertilizing in these areas. Also, remember to use just the amount of fertilizer recommended on the bag, not more. Personally, I like to fertilize from October 15 on until the ground freezes. This way the fertilizer will be available to the tree in the spring when it is flushing out new growth. Finally, while working on hemlocks remember to inspect them closely for woolly adelgid aphid. This pest is much easier to deal with when found early, and if you do find the adelgid, call a certified arborist to treat it.
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