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Fertilizing – 101

There are three primary chemicals in plant fertilizers; Nitrogen promotes healthy leaf growth to produce chlorophyll; Phosphorus for the development of the root, stems and flowers; and Potassium to help the plant digest and manufacture food. All of these are essential, but too much can damage your plants!

Granular fertilizer delivers food to a plant slowly but has the advantage of longevity. Water-soluble fertilizers are fast acting but must be applied more frequently. If you are looking to boost flower production, we like to mix at about 15-30-15, which is high in flower-developing phosphorus. If you want to green up your lawn, we choose a mix like 25-6-4, which is high in nitrogen. Many fertilizers are formulated for specific plants like roses, bulbs, or vegetables. Be sure to check the label for the N-P-K ratio, as it is possible to use a general fertilizer with close to the same nutrient percentages but at a lower price.

We apply granular and water-soluble fertilizers in several ways, but always make sure to follow a few general guidelines when doing so:

  1. Avoid applying fertilizer on windy and rainy days, you may be fertilizing things that you are not intending to fertilize or letting it simply wash away.

  2. When using a granular fertilizer, make sure that you do not get it on the plant which could cause the plant to burn.

  3. When applying granular fertilizer make sure that the soil is moist or simply water it after applying to make sure to prevent plant burn.

Knowing when to fertilize is just as important as using the right fertilizer!

Applying it inappropriately could be a waste of money and time. Most perennials, annuals, vegetables, and lawns will reward you handsomely if you feed them with a balanced granular fertilizer in early spring. Annuals like to be fed an additional three to four times during the growing season with a high-phosphorus, water-soluble fertilizer.

We recommend fertilizing your annuals once a month during the summer.

Roses, in particular, have insatiable appetites! To keep them fat and happy, feed them with a soluble fertilizer every seven days during their blooming season. “Weekly, weakly” is the feeding mantra for all roses.

One final thought:

Our typical fertilizing practice is to feed only well-established plants—as fertilizing seeds or tiny seedlings will cause burning. And remember, these guidelines on feeding are just that…guidelines. It is always recommended to read the package’s directions for specific fertilizers.


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