Feeding Fertilizer To Your Plants.

By: Susan Sportman

Fertilizers put back what the rain and plants remove. Itís as simple as that, but the details of correct fertilizer usage are not so simple. Garden plants vary greatly in their needs, and correct timing can often be all-important.

The standard plan is to purchase a branded compound fertilizer. It is possible to prepare a home-made mix, but some skill is needed. Not all straight fertilizers may be blended - for instance, avoid mixing lime and sulphate of ammonia or super phosphate of lime and nitrate of soda. Some mixtures quickly set rock hard if conditioning agents arenít added - one of the best conditioners is Bone Flower.

Lawns; Every lawn needs a nitrogen-rich compound fertilizer when growth becomes vigorous in spring. Use one like Toplawn which includes a weed killer. If the lawn appears pale in midsummer, water on a liquid Lawn Tonic or sulphate of ammonia. Autumn treatment is for the keen gardener only. Never use quick-acting nitrogen, this is the time for a product with phosphates, potash and a tiny quantity of slow acting nitrogen. Using quick acting nitrogen often leads to disease.

Roses; Use a mixture of 1 part soil, 1 part moist peat and 3 handfuls of Bone Meal per barrow-load for filling the holes at planting time. With established plants, use a potash-rich compound fertilizer which contains magnesium and gypsum. Spread 1oz of Toprose around each bush before the leaves are fully open and repeat the treatment in June or July. Donot feed Roses after the end of July or frost-sensitive growth may occur.

Greenhouse Tomatoes; Regular feeding is important for greenhouse vegetables such as Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Aubergines etc. The best plan is to purchase a potash-rich liquid fertilizer. Trials have shown that the little-and-often technique is better than a small number of heavy feeds. Use a low-strength solution for every watering until the plants are in full fruit. Increase the strength once heavy cropping has started. Outdoor Tomatoes should be fed every 10 to 14 days.

Trees and Shrubs; The conventional recommendation is to use a routine dressing of Growmore all around the plants in spring, but the challenge with trees is to get the fertilizer into their roots. The best plan is to use a specific Tree and Shrub fertilizer and pour it over the leaves ans around the base of shrubs in the spring. For trees, spike the ground under the leaf canopy with a fork to the total length of the tines before feeding.

Vegetables; A base dressing should be applied shortly before sowing or planting. Growmore is an old favourite and remains as popular as ever. Fast maturing crops will require no further feeding. Vegetables which take longer to mature will require another top dressing during the season. Using a soluble fertilizer , such as Instant Bio, which can be dissolved in water and applied by using a watering can. Sulphate of ammonia can be used to give a quick boost to greens.

House Plants; There is many house plant feeding techniques these days. There is sticks, steady-release granules, tablets, feeding mats and so on. Whichever technique you employ, remember to scale back the amount of nutrients when the plants are resting - the winter months for foliage plants. Adding a few drops of liquid fertilizer into your watering can remains by far the most popular method as itís easy, inexpensive and provides control of the nutrient supply.

Fruit trees and Bushes; The general principle is the same as that for the ornamental trees and shrubs, but there are a couple of additional factors. The greater demand for nutrients is when the tiny fruits are beginning to swell, at this stage it is necessary to use a potash-rich feed. Never use a feed that is richer in nitrogen than potash once fruit has formed. Most fruit trees and bushes respond to foliar feeding, especially after pest damage.

Flowers; Work a powder or granular fertilizer into the surface during soil preparation before planting. Most flowers will need feeding in spring, sprinkle Growmore around perennials. Feed large and leafy plants such as Chrysanthemums and Dahlias with a liquid fertilizer on a regular basis. Annuals and alpines, however, need much less feeding - just the once when they are coming into flower.

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