Hungry Plants

Carla Allen
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There are so many types of fertilizers on the market nowadays its hard to choose just one. It all comes down to favourites. If you ask any experienced gardener which brand they prefer to feed their plants, they'll likely rattle off several.

Giant blooms like these tree peonies are obtained by feeding plants to make them healthy and strong.Carla Allen photo

Water soluble fertilizers are popular for feeding annuals. They encourage plants to easily suck up nutrients and provide quick return for relatively small investment. For shrubs, perennials and trees, I like using composted sheep manure and Stormcast (a seaweed product).

Roses respond very well to bone meal, and clematis prefer fertilizer formulated for tomatoes of all things.

It’s important to feed plants regularly, especially the annual plants as their roots are so shallow. A case in point are some snapdragons I set in the garden recently. I watered them well with soluble kelp meal when planting to help reduce stress. Two days later they were wilted, but quickly recovered with a few splashes of water soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer mixed at half strength.

This formulation provides maximum benefits from the three most important nutrients: Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium.

Containers also need regular fertilizing because of their crowded conditions.

With so much water being poured in, leaching of valuable nutrients occurs and must be replaced in order for plants to still look healthy and colourful. If you don’t do this, you’ll notice a definite decline in the health of your plants. They’ll also start to suffer the effects of stress and be more susceptible to insect and disease damage.

Hunger signs in roses can include premature petal fall or small, poor quality flowers. Pale or discoloured leaves or small leaves with scorched leaf edges are other signs. A good rose food, applied on a regular basis, can go far in correcting these problems.

It seems for every outstanding rose grower there is an equally outstanding recipe for success. Some of the recommendations appear to be quite outlandish, but do hold some logic in their application. Banana peels have been buried by some about the base of their bushes. They provide potassium.

Alfalfa tea acts as a soluble, fast-acting source of nitrogen and supplies enzymes and trace elements that are not present in chemical nitrogen fertilizers.

You can make alfalfa tea by soaking alfalfa pellets in a large container of water in a sunny area for a few weeks.

Seaweed and kelp -based fertilizers are some of my favourites.  Although it may not be appealing to view it as such, the sea actually acts as a gigantic septic tank for earth. It’s where every bit of trash and trace elements go to after having been flushed through rivers and streams.

Seaweeds found on the ocean floor thrive on these trace elements. It is precisely for this reason that seaweed organic fertilizers have been used for centuries to supplement the nutrient needs of plants.




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