The Need for Feed - Get Familiar with Fertiliser
We all know that without a balanced diet our health can suffer. It’s the same for plants too, which is why there appears to be a bewildering array of fertilisers on the market to assist the propagation of everything from houseplants to lawns and dahlias to cucumbers.
If this all seems a bit confusing, then pop down to your local store for some friendly advice and the right products to help you get the best from your garden this summer.
Most plants need three major nutrients to thrive: nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Plants need these nutrients for different reasons. Nitrogen promotes leaf growth, phosphorous is for the roots, and potassium is needed for flowers and fruits.
The ratio of these elements contained in different fertilisers is an indication of their intended use. For instance, a product branded ‘general purpose’ will contain equal nutrients and will therefore aid all-round growth, whilst others will contain higher proportions of a particular nutrient. A tomato fertiliser is designed to promote crops of plump fruit so it will be high in potassium, whereas one designed for reinvigorating a lawn in spring will be high in nitrogen.
To maintain healthy growth, plants also need other nutrients such as calcium, sulphur, magnesium, iron, copper, boron and manganese. Smaller amounts of some or all of these trace elements are found in most good general fertilisers.
So, if it were as simple as this there would be just three fertilisers on the market, right? Well, in theory maybe. But in practice, different types of plants take up the goodness from fertilisers in different ways. Hence we have:
Controlled release fertiliser - Ideal for containers, these generally come as granule form mixed into compost and designed to release their nutrients over a long period of time, some for up to 12 months.
Slow release fertiliser - Good for feeding plants in the soil. Usually applied as a powder that can be scattered around perennials, trees, shrubs and vegetables. This is often known as top dressing.
Fast acting fertiliser - For plants in need of a pick-me-up. These are ideal if a plant is suffering from a deficiency and are usually applied in a liquid form that can be absorbed by the plant quickly.
During the growing season, hanging baskets, window boxes and containers should be fed once a week, using a liquid feed applied from a watering can.
Other 'greedy' flowering plants, such as sweet peas, clematis and roses, will benefit from a mid-summer 'top up'. Sprinkle fertiliser around plants and water in. There's no need to feed in late summer. This only encourages a flush of late, lush growth that may suffer early frost damage.
The right fertilisers will help ensure you have a blooming good summer. You’ll find just what you need at your local Home Hardware together store with a crop of tips and advise from our friendly staff.