Have you ever wondered how and when to feed your plants? All the help you need is right here in my no-fuss guide to getting the best from fertilisers in the garden.
I am often asked: “What should I feed my plants and when is the best time to do it?” And it is a good question! There are so many different types of fertiliser available that choosing the right type for your plants can seem complicated. Wondering how much to add and when to do it can put another layer of complexity on what is essentially a simple gardening task.
Believe me, fertilising can be made simple! And you’ll quickly see the benefits around the garden. It is just a matter of following a few golden rules.
What is the purpose of fertiliser?
Plants require food, water and sunlight to grow well. They obtain the majority of their nutrients through the soil, including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, plus a multitude of other minerals and elements.
There is a limited supply of nutrients in the soil and over time they will either be taken up by plants or leached out by watering or weather. The use of fertilisers is a way of topping up the nutrient supply within the soil as it becomes depleted.
When to fertilise?
The majority of plants will benefit from feeding with fertiliser once a season. I recommend starting with this feeding routine and then watching how your own plants respond. If needed, you can give them a mid-season boost by supplementing with some diluted seaweed extract or worm castings.
Spring is a particularly important time to fertilise the garden as it wakes up from winter and new growth starts to appear.
What type of fertiliser to use
Fertilisers come in many forms that can be applied to the soil. With so many choices available it can be difficult to know what to select.
My advice is to read the packet carefully. Here is what to look out for, and the questions to ask at your nursery:Is it certified organic?
When it comes to growing food and keeping your soil healthy, organic fertiliser is best. It is derived from such things as cow manure and compost. So, make sure there is a statement that the product is “certified organic”.
I am a big advocate for the principle that “what you put in is what you get out” when choosing fertilisers for the soil.What is the NPK ratio?
This ratio helps you choose a fertiliser specific to a plant’s needs. Nitrogen (N) is responsible for foliage growth and chlorophyll production. Phosphorus (P) is needed for healthy root growth and overall growth. Potassium (K) promotes flower development. This basically means:
- For a garden with lots of flowers choose a fertiliser high in potassium.
- For a veggie patch with lots of root vegetables choose a fertiliser high in phosphorus.
- For a garden with lots of green foliage choose a fertiliser high in nitrogen.
Unless you want to feed a specific type of plant, or know exactly what your soil needs at a particular point in time, an all-round organic fertiliser is a reliable option. You can add soil conditioners such as seaweed extract, worm casting and rock dust to the mix too.How much do I apply?
How much fertiliser you need to apply depends on the type of fertiliser and the size of your garden bed, veggie patch or pot plant. The safest method is to follow the instructions on the packet, which will guide you about quantities and any preparations needed.
"Remember that you are growing soil first and plants second. So, think carefully about what you are putting in the earth."