Pros: Easy to use, work
Cons: A little expensive
We moved into a home that had been placed in the middle of a 2 1/2 acre field. Along the back was a stream and a strip of woods. The rest was mostly wild grass. We have been breaking up the lawn with trees. We plant a few each year.
Our land is on Maryland's Eastern Shore. It is far enough from the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean that we don't have the problems associated with salt issues. The land, however, is very well drained, mostly sand. The mid-Atlantic Seaboard has had four dry summers out of the six we have lived here.
Until last year, the deciduous trees we had planted seemed not to be growing very much. A few, mainly Eastern Redbuds, had died and been replaced along the 100' gravel drive to the house. The small dwarf orchard of eight fruit trees, apple, peach, pear, and plum, hadn't shown much desire to bear well.
The other spring-blooming trees were okay but not really showing spectacular color or growth. The trees grown for foliage appeared healthy but seemed not to be increasing much in girth or height.
Enter Miracle-Gro Tree & Shrub Spikes
Last spring we gave up on spreading fertilizer specially formulated for each type of tree and got a couple of packages of Miracle-Gro Tree & Shrub Spikes. Since most of our trees are young, it took only one or two per tree to feed per the instructions. We placed them as instructed and waited.
The following is from Miracle-Gro's website:
How to Apply
Place plastic cap provided on top of spike.
Drive spike into ground around tree or shrub following the dripline.
Spikes should not be placed closer than 2 feet from the trunk or center of tree or shrub. If the dripline is closer than 2 feet, insert spikes 2 feet away from center of shrub or tree trunk.
Remove plastic cap, saving for future use. Continue to drive spike into ground 2 inches below the soil surface.
Use the diameter of the dripline of the tree or shrub as a guide to determine the number of spikes needed per plant. Store unused spikes in a dry place, ideally in a sealed plastic bag.
Dripline Diameter Number of Spikes
4 feet 1 spike
6 feet 3 spikes
8 feet 5 spikes
10 feet 7 spikes
12 feet 10 spikes
15 feet 16 spikes
When to Apply
Once per season (once in early spring, once in mid fall). Apply when the ground is soft and moist. If the ground is dry, wet before driving spikes.
Last summer was the most serious drought condition, coupled with heat and dry wind, that we have experienced since living in Maryland. Water restrictions were placed state wide in mid-summer, even for those of us on wells and septic systems. The farmers in the area, even those with irrigation, had poor crop results.
We quit watering when the ban went into effect, but did put water bags around the newest trees, an Eastern Redbud replacement and a Purple-leaf Plum, planted that spring. Frankly I wasn't too impressed with what I saw. I figured I had wasted my money.
Not one to give up easily, I drove in more Miracle-Gro Tree & Shrub Spikes in the fall after the September rains had softened the ground. This past winter was wet, with one snow of 2 1/2 feet. The drought of the last two years was officially declared over a couple of months ago.
When I was doing my spring tree trimming it seemed the trees were bigger and more sturdy. I had taken a couple of height and girth measurements the previous year. New measurements indicated better than average growth for the young trees, even in the horrible growing conditions of the previous season. None of the trees had died or looked sickly. Buds were forming at the tips of most of the branches, no winter kill evident.
We have now driven Miracle-Gro Tree & Shrub Spikes in for the season this year. Most of the trees are past bloom stage and are leafing well. Although it's a little early to be certain, it looks like the small orchard is preparing a bumper crop of fruit. The leaves are healthy, blooms were plentiful and beautiful. The thornless locusts, the last to leaf, have beautiful leaf color and the leaves seem to be larger than in previous years.
Minor Elements: MicroMax? Nutrients (Iron & Maganese)
We use a 20 ounce dead blow hammer to drive in the spikes. With the plastic top on the spike, we drive it in until it is nearly flush. In our sandy soil, this is easy. Pulling off the plastic top, we drive it down an inch or so more. For most of our trees, we use 1 or 2 spikes, placed evenly around the drip line (at least 2' from the center of the trunk).
Given the results during a year nothing could have been expected to help, we plan to drive these life savers into the ground this fall and every spring and fall to come, at least until the trees are firmly established.