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What you need:
  • Slow-release fertilizer
  • Wooden stake or 1/2" rebar
  • Regular hammer or 3# sledgehammer

Fertilizer should be applied underneath mulch, but what if you already have a thick, semi-permanent layer of mulch (such as bark chips) on your landscape? Here's a way to get optimum results without moving the mulch. For most plants, do this once a year, in either spring or fall.
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Pound a series of holes in the ground following the drip line (the soil area at the outer perimeter of the plant's foliage) of the plant with a small diameter pipe or sturdy stake. The number and depth of the holes depends on the size of the plant. In general, for trees, make your holes about 12" deep and 20" apart, while for shrubs make them 8 to 10" deep and about 15" apart. For small shrubs like roses, make them only about 6" deep and 8" apart.
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Determine the amount of fertilizer you will need for each plant. Follow the guidelines on the back of the container. For this project, a slow-release fertilizer works best. Next, sprinkle the fertilizer in the holes, distributing the correct amount for the plant evenly among them. The fertilizer is now near the roots of the plant, where it can do the most good.
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Backfill soil into the holes and cover them with mulch. Finish by thoroughly watering the fertilizer in unless the soil is already saturated.