do you need?
Ever wonder if you’re feeding your garden right? What plants need fertilizer? What type and how much should you apply? It can all seem pretty confusing. Here are some fertilizer facts to take the guesswork out of feeding your garden next year:
SHOULD I FERTILIZE EVERYTHING? — The quick answer is no. If you’ve worked lots of organic matter into your soil before planting, then added more every year or two, it may not need extra fertilizers. Some plants actually prefer lean, infertile soil. For example, feeding a tall sedum can make the stems weak and floppy so the plant falls open in the center. And applying the wrong fertilizer won’t help your plants much, either. If you give lawn fertilizer to a lilac, for instance, you’ll get lush foliage but few flowers.
HOW CAN I KNOW I’M BUYING THE RIGHT STUFF? — Just as you do when you buy food for your family, start by reading the label. There are three main ingredients in every fertilizer:
N=nitrogen, feeds foliage
P=phosphorus, produces flowers and fruit
K=potassium, keeps plants healthy and strong
You’ll find them listed in that order on every package. It’s the combinations of these ingredients that determine the best fertilizer for your plants. If you’re not sure what a particular plant needs, try feeding it at a quarter to half the recommended rate and see what happens. A water-soluble fertilizer works well for this because it gives a quick result. If the plant improves, feed a bit more the next time. Or switch to a granulated fertilizer with a similar analysis for long-term feeding. Take a look at the table to see what fertilizer analysis different types of plants need. (The actual numbers will vary from brand to brand, but the proportions will be similar.)