8 WAYS TO MAKE TREES GROW FASTER

garden full of trees

If you have been planning to start a garden or a small forest in your backyard you don’t want to wait for decades before the tree reaches decent height. Obviously, the growth rates differ but there are ways to boost the growth of trees by following some simple steps.

  • Choose the right species of the tree (Ideally one that is fast-growing).
  • Get the soil tested and provide fertilizers that provide nutrients that are missing from the soil.
  • Remove any small plants and weeds around the tree.
  • Make sure the tree is getting an appropriate amount of water, sunlight, and other nutrients.
  • Make a protective covering around the tree.
  • Prune the tree from time to time.
  • Try providing some root stimulators such as Auxin.
  • Make sure you are not over-fertilizing or over-watering the soil as it can cause the tree to become weak and have diseases.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT WAYS OF MAKING A TREE GROW FASTER?

One thing I have noticed all over the world is that each culture has its own way of optimizing agriculture and botany. We have to remember that the roots of human civilization are embedded in agriculture. A lot of these cultural practices date back thousands of years. So, we cannot completely disregard them as hocus science.

But with the evolution of science, there are more sophisticated methods to specifically nurture the tree and the soil to optimize its growth. This is especially the case in developed countries. There has been a marriage of science and agriculture.

PRE PLANTING

When discussing the methods of speeding up tree growth, let’s start from the very first step. That is, choosing the right tree. This method only concerns those people who are planning to plant a tree from scratch and not looking after an already growing tree.

The tree you are going to choose will basically involve these factors:

  • the climate you are living in
  • the type of soil
  • the look you want
  • and the growth rate

There might be other points but these are the broad ones. If you really want one particular tree and you don’t really care about the growth rate and other factors then the decision is much easier for you.

For others, you should first go to a nearby nursery or a professional and get to know your options. They will have the best knowledge in terms of what trees will actually grow in your area and which will not. They can further tell you which trees will grow faster and which ones will grow slower. You can further cross-reference this with a quick google search.

Once you know your options, weigh the pros and cons and finally make the decision.

After this first step, the second step is to assess the land. This needs to be done before the tree is planted. This step involves taking a note of the quality of the soil, the bedrock, the average rainfall which the land gets, and what are the dry areas.

A very important aspect of planting a tree or speeding up the process of growing is getting your soil tested. Once you know which tree is going to be planted and what the current nutrient build-up of the soil is, you can work towards adding additional things to the soil to make it optimum for that specific species. One thing you should keep in mind while planting a tree is to not have any small plants or grass around it. This increases the competition for water and nutrients.

After getting the soil tested you will know whether to add any fertilizer or not. Remember that over-fertilization will make the tree grow faster from the top but similar growth will not be shown by the roots. This means that the tree will end up having a weak root system.

PLANTING

When you are about to plant the tree, what your first steps are, is going to be very important. First, make sure that the hole you are digging is at least twice as deep and wide enough for the root ball. Remove any grass and small plants surrounding the tree and start putting the soil back in the ground after placing the tree. At this time some places like the Arbor Day Foundation suggests adding 50% of the original soil and potting soil for the rest.

They state that a mixture of potting soil and original ground soil is optimum for the initial growth phase of the tree. In case your soil test came out to be good, I don’t think you need to do this step.

POST PLANTING

Add a bit of mulch surrounding the tree and to make sure that no grass or plant will end up growing in the mulch. You can go for a product like Roundup. It basically acts as a weed killer. Before going for any weed killer, make sure it won’t harm your tree as a lot of the weed and grass killers should not be used near trees.

The next step is to water the tree. During the beginning, you will have to water more to nourish the growth. But as the tree gets older you might only have to water once or twice a week. your watering schedule will also be determined by the season you are in. if you live in a dry region then you will have to artificially water more and vice versa.

Don’t overdo this though in the beginning as too much water will choke the soil and therefore the roots.

I would suggest that you take some steps to protect the tree during the initial phases. You will need to protect it from wild animals, sometimes even your pets, and environmental conditions like strong winds and floods. You don’t have to do a lot, just build a small fence surrounding the tree, you can build it with barbed wires or simply wood.

Keep getting your soil tested every year and accordingly adjust if you are putting any fertilizer to the soil.

The last step is pruning. I will get into this later on in the article. But understand that pruning promotes the healthy growth of the tree. It also helps in making the tree look better. If your tree is fruit-bearing then pruning at the right time becomes much more important.

NEW SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH ABOUT TREE GROWTH

This part may not be practical as of right now, but I found this very interesting so do give it a read. There was a paper published in Current Biology by a group of scientists who studied the genetics of poplar trees.

Cambium is the living tissue underneath the outer bark that handles the overall transport and command of the entire tree. There was no proper research on the genetic component behind this growth as of now. This study basically showed how to tap the command center of the tree and tweak some of the factors.

There are two genes, PXY and CLE, these genes are responsible for growth above the ground. scientists figured out how to make some changes in these genes to increase the rate of growth. Now, you might be thinking that the growth rate must have increased by 10-20%, but to everyone’s surprise, the rate of growth doubled.

Although this study was only conducted on poplar trees and it is not known if the same genes are present in other species as well. The practical implications of this finding can be huge, this includes industries, the environment, and basically anything related to timber and wood.

There are three stages of growing a tree that you need to address. During the pre-planting stage, make sure you are choosing the right species of the tree you want to plant. Secondly, the most important part is to get the soil tested for any deficiencies, after this make sure the planting area is free from any small plants and weeds. After planting, add some mulch to the surrounding area and make a well for water to collect. You can even make an enclosure around the young tree to protect it from wild animals and environmental conditions.

DOES WATERING TREES MAKE IT GROW FASTER?

If you went through the previous section of the article you know that watering is one of the most essential factors which affects tree growth. This sounds very simple but in reality, it’s not so easy. You have to keep in mind a lot of things while watering any tree. This includes the overall rainfall, conditions of the soil, temperature, age of the tree, type of tree, etc. Let’s take a look at these factors one by one.

Let’s start with the first stage of a tree’s life, that is, when they are young. Consider this, as a rule of thumb younger trees need more water. After all, these are their formative years. Generally, you will need to water them 4-5 days a week. If you are living in drier and hotter regions then you might need to water them more.

One very important thing that the Texas AgriLife Extension Service based in Houston suggests is to give enough water to younger trees to maximize growth. They also suggest that similar lines shouldn’t be followed with older trees, especially if going through a period of drought. You should only provide supplemental water to sustain their life, not for the tree to be able to grow a large canopy. If the tree ends having a large canopy the soil, climate, and rainfall during the normal rainy season wouldn’t be able to support such growth.

WHEN TO WATER YOUR TREE?

I would suggest doing the screwdriver test with soil especially when dealing with younger trees. When you poke a screwdriver into the soil and you can easily push past 8 inches then the soil has sufficient water. But when there is some resistance by 6 inches it is time to water again.

This method is not feasible with established trees because of course, you can’t find a large enough screwdriver. What you can do is, whenever the soil starts feeling or looking really dry and if it is the dry season, it might be time to water the trees.

HOW TO WATER YOUR TREE?

Again the methods will slightly differ during different growth stages. With younger plants, you should make a small bowl-like shape around the base of the tree. Water it enough till there is some water collected in the ditch. This will make sure that water is reaching the roots.

When dealing with larger and more established trees I would suggest going for a method which provides water slowly but directly to the soil near the roots. Some of these methods include soaker hoses, drip irrigation, although with the latter it can take a long time to fully water a big tree.

Soak up the entire area under the canopy and a little beyond it as well. Add some mulch to the soil as well. this will help lock up some moisture if you are living in hotter climates.

The amount of water you need to give depends on the climate, soil type, and age of the tree. Obviously, you will need to water more in hotter and drier regions. When a tree is freshly planted, you need to water it about 2-3 times a day but as the tree gets older you will need to provide it with less and less water.

WHAT IS THE BEST FERTILIZER FOR TREES?

This topic is one of the most misunderstood among amateur farmers and botanists. They think of fertilizers as steroids for bodybuilders. A lot of people believe that if you keep adding fertilizers, it is better for the growth and quality of the tree. They don’t know that over-fertilization can ruin the soil and even make it toxic. They also don’t think about which fertilizer to use with which soil and in what conditions. Let’s take a brief look at the Dos and Don’ts of fertilizing your trees.

DO YOUR TREES NEED FERTILLIZERS?

You don’t want to add fertilizer when your trees don’t even need it. To understand this first get your soil tested. You will get a lot of information from this, including the PH level of the soil, which nutrients are present in the soil, and which are not. You will need fertilizer only if there is some deficiency in the soil.

The next step is to check the growth of the plant. Check the color and size of the leaves, also check for the annual growth of branches or twigs. If any of these factors seem a little off, first you should try to find the problem. Not always is the tree deficient, these things can be a result of insects, damage to the tree, soil being too compressed, or any other diseases.

If the soil test came out to be perfect then it is possible that these problems are a result of something else and not a nutrient deficiency.

The next factor is the age of the tree. Fertilizers are more effective when applied at a younger age as the plant or tree requires a further boost to grow at an optimum rate. This is also the age when you can boost its growth by artificially supplying further nutrients.

USUAL NUTRIENTS THAT TREES NEED

Some of the most common nutrients which are a part of most fertilizers are Nitrogen, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, and Sulphur, there are also some amounts of Iron and Zinc. You will get to know which specific nutrients to add to the soil after the test and checking the health of your tree.

DIFFERENT KINDS OF FERTILIZERS AND THEIR USES

The most common fertilizers to use for all-around needs are the 16-4-8, 12-6-6, and 12-4-8. But you shouldn’t go for these if the phosphorus and potassium levels are okay during the soil test. Common fertilizers can be divided into further broad categories with each having distinct uses.

Broadly there are fast and slow-release fertilizers. The name is pretty much self-explanatory, the fast release type will quickly dissolve into the soil and will start acting at a much faster rate. On the other hand, slow-release types will usually have nitrogen which is covered by Sulphur or urea-formaldehyde, this makes it dissolve slowly into the soil.

Usually, fast release types are cheaper but they do have a couple of disadvantages. If you have a young plant, they can cause ‘burns’ which happens when too much fertilizer is added to the soil at once. If you have sloping land or sandy soil, fast release types have a tendency to run off without getting properly absorbed by the plant. Sometimes heavy rain can also make them seep deep into the soil outside the reach of the roots.

Slow release are generally more suitable for younger plants and they have the added benefit of not poisoning the water.

Another category is the natural fertilizers, these include compost, mulch, cow manure, sewage sludge. They are much better for the environment but they take a lot of time to be absorbed by the plants. They also have less concentration of nutrients which means you will have to get a lot of it to truly affect the tree. They do improve the soil texture in the long run. And they also have the advantage of having iron and zinc which is difficult to be found in artificial fertilizers.

Whether your tree needs fertilizers or not depends on what they are missing out on from the soil. Get your soil tested to find out which nutrients to provide. You have options between fast acting which is cheaper but can cause tree burns and water contamination. Or slow acting which is expensive but generally better for younger trees and the soil. You have a further choice between artificial and natural. With the latter having some nutrients which are missing from artificial ones but you will need a lot of it to fulfil the tree’s needs.

wood chips/ mulch

CAN YOU OVER FERTILIZE A TREE?

There are a lot of reasons why you should be careful while adding fertilizers to the soil. Too much of it can cause issues such as weaker growth and be more prone to environmental conditions such as cold, insects, and diseases. The branches and twigs tend to break easily and the tree even produces rank. You should have a rough idea about the amount to use.

HOW MUCH FERTILIZER SHOULD YOU USE?

The amount to use is closely linked to the amount of nitrogen present in the fertilizer. So first check the amount of nitrogen per pound or ounce in your product before moving forward. The widely accepted norm is to use between 2 and 4 pounds of nitrogen for trees and shrubs for every 1,000 square feet of root spread every year.

The amount of area covered by the root is about 1.5 times the crown spread. If you are dealing with younger trees then you can add a bit more as they have more needs.

In case your tree is growing in a lawn and you have been regularly fertilizing the grass, then you shouldn’t need additional fertilizers. The roots will be able to absorb a lot of the fertilizer already added to the grass. Only add something if you see any problems in the growth of the tree. Also, check if the product being used in the lawn is harmful to the tree or not.

WHAT SIMULATES ROOT GROWTH OF A TREE?

A tree with disproportionate growth in the upper part having weaker roots is highly susceptible to environmental factors such as wind and rain. You need to make sure that the root system is going through the same level of growth as that of the canopy. Let’s take a look at some of the ways to ensure this.

The first step is the same as that for the canopy, make sure that the tree is receiving ample amounts of nutrients. Especially Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. Phosphorus helps in building a healthy root system while Potassium is responsible for making the cell walls thicker. This will protect the tree from environmental stresses.

There are some additional hormones that you can provide to the tree to promote stronger and faster growth for the roots. One of such hormones is Auxin. It is responsible for regulating a lot of processes such as earlier root formation and increasing the speed of root growth.

I would also recommend using microbial fertilizers for promoting root growth. They serve two functions, the first being protecting the roots from insects, infections, and pathogens. The other function is breaking down nutrients so that they can be easily absorbed by the roots.

Make sure the tree is receiving adequate amounts of nutrients notably Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. In addition to this, you can add hormones such as Auxin and Microbial biofertilizers to further strengthen and stimulate root growth.

DOES PRUNING A TREE MAKE IT GROW FASTER?

For people new to taking care of trees, cutting off some part of the tree to promote growth seems like an alien concept. It doesn’t logically make sense to do, but wait until you find out the benefits of pruning your trees.

  • To begin with, it helps in increasing the strength of the roots. The more branches your tree has and the larger they get, they start putting pressure on the trunk and roots of the tree. This increases the chances of trees being toppled over. Cutting down some parts of the trees can promote better root growth and stop them from shifting too much beneath the ground.
  • Pruning supports fruit growth in edible trees. This is because when you cut down branches that are dead or not active, the energy which was being delivered to them is diverted to more productive parts of the tree. This increases the fruiting ability of a tree.
  • When you eliminate branches that are dead or have some sort of an infection or pest problem, in a way you are saving the entire tree from being affected. Removing dead or infected branches will also lead to new ones being born.
  • You need to make sure that you are pruning off branches that may cause damage to each other because of their positions. You can also consider pruning off old branches which are not productive anymore. Pruning is also done to increase the overall canopy height. But don’t ever prune more than 33% of a tree.

To sum it all up, pruning can be very beneficial as it protects the tree from diseases and pests spreading from one branch to another. It also promoted fruit growth, healthier roots and helps a tree become more sturdy.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Everyone wants to increase the growth of their tree. While making efforts to promote growth you don’t want to make a fatal mistake that can cause the tree to be damaged. That’s why before you do anything you should have all the basics cleared. I will try to address some of the most common questions related to the topic, hope it helps.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU ADD FERTILIZER TO THE SOIL?

Usually, you don’t need to add fertilizers more than once or twice a year. Even this should be done after getting your soil tested to see if it actually needs anything or not.

HOW OFTEN DO YOU NEED TO PRUNE TREES?

This decision is very subjective to the type of tree and condition it is in. Sometimes it needs to be done every year while in some cases it can be done every couple of years. If it is a fruiting tree, I would suggest doing it before the fruiting season.

HOW TO KNOW IF YOU ARE OVER WATERING THE SOIL?

If the soil feels clogged by water and it becomes too dense then you should start cutting down on the amount of water.

CONCLUSION

To sum it all up, some of the best ways to increase the rate of growth of your tree is to provide them with specific nutrients that they need and are deficient in. Along with this pruning from time to time and adding hormones like Auxin helps promote root growth as well. Make sure the tree is receiving enough sunlight and water especially during dry weather. There are different steps that you should follow in all three stages of planting a tree, which are Pre, During, and Post planting.