Not a glamorous subject, but one close to the hearts of any true gardener is fertilizer. When should we “feed the soil”? When should we give a boost to those struggling vegetables in the garden?
Have you ever wondered why those blooming flowers and luscious green plants at your local garden center look so great? Most all of the nurseries are slowly releasing fertilizers into the watering system for the plants. With each and every watering, those lucky plants are getting their multi-vitamins for the day. As we drive down a well-traveled esplanade (like across from the Galleria in Houston) we see such magnificent displays of flowers. They are not only fertilized heavily but they are jerked out and replaced with a totally new installation of plants and flowers each month or so. All this is to say don’t think it’s your gardening ability that’s lacking when your yard doesn’t have all the vim and vigor that you see in other places. You just need to fertilize.
Most gardeners who have magnificent showings of flowers and plants in their yard grow with the best soil to begin with. Then they happily add mulch and fertilizer. We can divide the world of fertilizers into two broad categories: inorganic and organic. Choose to use a combination of the two or be exclusive.
Fertilizer can be applied initially when tilling the soil. An even application is best, spreading the fertilizer and then raking it in to disperse the nutrients. Vegetables and plants often need a boost during growth. Here you can scatter powdered or granulated fertilizer along either side on the row, keeping it off the leaves. Take a minute to hoe in the fertilizer for best absorption. Unless you expect rain in an hour or so, water the fertilizer into the soil so those plants can begin to “feel the love.”
Non-organic options for fertilization and soil manipulation are numerous. The Gardeners Handbook thoroughly discusses the options. Ammonium sulphate (sulphate of ammonia) supplies nitrogen and makes the soil more acid. Nitro-chalk supplies nitrogen without making the soil more acid. Potassium sulphate (sulphate of potash) supplies potassium. Lime is added to soil to raise the pH and lower the acidity (sweeten the soil). Balanced fertilizers are those that contain all the main nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Compound fertilizers are like balanced fertilizers but don’t always contain the three major nutrients. Finally, there are the slow-release fertilizers that contain the major nutrients in a form that is released slowly over a period of months.
Natural options for enriching soil are close to the hearts of many gardeners. Who hasn’t seen the major improvement in plants with the addition of blood, fish or bone meal? Dried animal manures and liquid animal manures are organic options. Fish meal contains nitrogen and phosphorus. Seaweed meal contains all the major nutrients, plus many minor ones and trace elements. Fish emulsion smells bad for a day or so but just watch those plants put on a happy glow and lots of blooms.
Joette is an avid gardener and prides herself on staying up-to-date on the latest gardening activities and tips. To share your gardening news with Joette, call (409) 832-1400 or fax her at (409) 832-6222. Her e-mail is joreger [at] msn [dot] com.