Q: I have 5 bradford pear trees that are 2 1/2 years old. They seem to be growing OK but I want them to grow faster. I bought some tree fertilizing sticks and plan to put down 3 4 for each tree, then mulch the roots with some wood chips. When can I expect these trees to get fuller and provide the shade that I need? Is there anything else I can do to help things along the way?
A: Bradford pear is one of the fastest growing trees you can find. The glossy green leaves are attractive all summer and the white flowers in spring are an extra bonus. It=s rapid growth, though, can lead to problems. You have probably already noticed that several limbs have sprouted along the main trunk of the tree. I=ll bet some of them are within a few inches of each other. Consider the situation carefully and imagine what will happen over the next ten years as those limbs grow thicker. The bases of the limbs will begin to crowd each other and will become less strongly attached to the trunk. One day, after a heavy spring rain, you will come home to find one or more of those big branches laying across your driveway!
I think your problem is two-fold: to make the tree grow faster but to avoid having weak limbs. Here is what I would do: Measure the thickness of each tree trunk four feet from the ground. For every inch of thickness, apply a half-pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer six times a year, April through September. For example, if your Bradford pear tree trunk is two inches thick, you will scatter a pound of fertilizer under and beyond the branches of the tree each of the six times you feed it. This will promote rapid tree growth.
To insure that the limbs are strong, begin pruning properly now. Remove any limbs that grow closer than ten inches to their neighboring limb. In other words, make sure no limbs along the trunk are closer than ten inches to each other. This is particularly important for the limbs that occur four to eight feet from the ground. The wood chip mulch you have spread is a great practice to conserve water for the tree. To get maximum effect, the chip layer should be two inches thick and five feet from the tree trunk in all directions.