Feeding really does pay dividends. If you see a garden with particularly lush and healthy-looking plants, the chances are they have been well fed and supplied with sufficient water. Giving plants sufficient nutrients will ensure strong growth, abundant flowering and fruit production, and make them healthy enough to withstand pests and diseases.
Types of fertilizer
There are two groups of fertilizer: organic and inorganic. The organic ones are derived from natural ingredients, such as other plants (seaweed or nettles), blood, fish or bone, and generally last longer, although they tend to become available to the plant only slowly after application. Inorganic fertilizers are mineral-based and breakdown more quickly after application.
Feeding used to be a job that had to be tackled several times during the course of a season, and sonic enthusiasts still feed their plants once a week or even more frequently with liquid feeds. If you use modem slow-release and controlled-release fertilizers, however, feeding is something you can do just a couple of times a year.
Slow and controlled release fertilizers both allow the nutrients to seep out into the soil over a period of months, but the latter are affected by soil temperature. Nutrients are only released when the soil is warm enough for growth in most plants.
Liquid feeds are more instant in effect and still have a use, being invaluable when plants need a quick pick-me-up. This is especially true of feeds, which are applied directly to the leaves rather than the soil around the roots, and are absorbed straight into the plant’s system. These can have an effect within 3-4 days, compared with up to 21 days for a general granular fertilizer applied around the roots.
In an established garden, you can apply fertilizer in granular form as a dressing around the plants early in the season, or in soluble form as the plants are watered during the spring. For a new plant, mix fertilizer with the soil as it is replaced in the planting hole around the root hall. Lawns will benefit from dressings of mixed weed-killer and fertilizer in the spring and autumn, keeping the grass healthy, and helping fight the effects of any dry periods in summer and cold spells in winter.
Lack of attention when plants are firstplanted can easily kill them if there hasnot been much rain recently.
The best water to use is rain water. If possible, use water butts or tanks connected to the down-water pipe to collect water that falls on the roof of the house, garage or any other building. Tap water can be used but it is best poured first into a barrel and left to breathe before you use it. This allows time for any chlorine used in the treatment of the water to be given off.
Beware hard water that comes from chalky (alkaline) areas. Although your soil may he acidic, the water from your tap may he collected, where the soil is alkaline. Hard water should not be used on ericaceous (lime-hating) plants.
The most important aspect of watering is to always be certain to give the plants a good soaking. A sprinkle on the surface is not enough. If in doubt, dig well into the soil and see how far the moisture has penetrated through the surface.
There are several methods of watering, but a can is probably best for a small number of plants. Alternatively, a garden hose with a spray attachment can be used. For a large number of plants use a sprinkler or dribble hose.
Container plants require supplementary nutrients to keep them in good health. The quickest way to feed your lawn is with a wheeled spreader and you can usually adjust the delivery rate. Test the rate on a measured area of path first, then sweep up the fertilizer and weigh it to make sure the application rare is correct.
1 Give the plant a good soaking, covering the whole area around the plant where the roots will he. A watering can is ideal for a small area, such as around a newly planted plant that is still getting established.
A controlled- or slow-release fertilizer added to the potting soil at planting time will keep most containers blooming well all summer. Follow the instructions for application rates.
The N:P:K ratio
On the back of the pack of fertilizer, there should he some information about the nutrient it contains, the three most important elements being nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Nitrogen promotes healthy growth of leaves and shoots, phosphorus is needed for healthy root development and potassium improves flowering and fruit production. The ratio is given on the pack because certain plants need some elements in a greater quantity than others.
FEEDING THE LAWN
1. The quickest way to feed your lawn is with a wheeled spreader and you can usually adjust the delivery rate. Test the rate on a measured area of path first, then sweep up the fertilizer and weight to make sure the application rate is perfect.
2 An easy way to give your lawn a liquid boost is to use a sprinkler system into which you can introduce special fertilizer pellets. It will feed the lawn as it waters.
3 A dribble or seep hose is an efficient method of supplying water to exactly where it is needed. It is snaked around those plants that need to be watered and left permanently in position. It can be covered with a bark mulch, to hide it. When connected, it provides a slow dribble of water.
1. Give the plant a good soaking, covering the whole area around the plant where the roots will be. A watering can is ideal for as small area, such as around a newly plant that is still growing and establishing.
2. If you need to water a large number of plants, a sprinkler is a good method of providing water. To make certain that you provide sufficient water, place a jam jar or other container within the sprayed area, to give a rough idea of how much water has been delivered. It should be at least 2.5 cm/1 in full if the watering is to do any good.
3. A hose-ended sprayer like this is a good way to to apply a soluble fertilizer for a quick response. You can use this type of hose-ended sprayer for beds and borders as well as for the lawn.
FEEDING BEDS AND BORDERS
1. Most established plants, benefit from annual feeding. Apply a slow- or controlled-release fertilizer in spring or early summer, sprinkling it around the bushes. Sprinkle it our further where most of the active root growth is.
2. Hoe it into the surface so that it penetrates the root area more quickly.
3. Unless rain is expected, water it in. This will make the fertilizer active more quickly in dry conditions