How to Feed Your Plant Correctly

September 28, 2011 by  
Filed under DIY Gardening Projects

If you mulch the soil with well-rotted manure or garden compost you will have already provided your garden with much of the food it needs. Gardeners require plants to put on an unnaturally spectacular display and also to grow in unnatural proximity to other plants. For plants to develop and thrive in this way, you may have to provide them with more nutrients than they might need if they were growing naturally in the wild.

Plants benefit most from food that is supplied during their growing season, i.e. mid-spring to midsummer, but all supplements work best if the soil is damp.

There are three main minerals your plants may need:

1. Nitrogen (N) – encourages leaf growth and is particularly useful for grass and leafy vegetables. A deficiency is indicated by weak stems and small leaves.

How to Feed Your Plant Correctly

How to Feed Your Plant Correctly

2. Phosphorous or phosphates (P) – important for most development and necessary for young plants, root vegetables and fruits. A deficiency is indicated by stunted stems, small, purplish leaves and low fruit yield.

3. Potassium or potash (K) – helps the plant produce flowers and fruit and is also necessary for potatoes. A deficiency is indicated by yellow or brown leaves, a low yield of flowers or fruit and a tendency towards disease.

Small amounts of calcium, iron and zinc are also needed but it is rare to have to add these.

In practice, your plants are unlikely to suffer from a serious deficiency of anything. However, if you ask a lot from your plants it can help to feed them, for example, potassium or tomato food will extend the flowering season of annuals. You may be able to establish a good balance simply by mulching, but in a small space and especially in containers a little extra food can help. Whatever you are using, always be careful to follow the instructions as too much of a supplement can be as harmful as too little. The ways to add nutrients are as follows.

– Solid food – granules can be sprinkled around the base of the plant or put into the soil at the time of planting. Slow-release sticks of fertilizer can be stuck in the soil, and animal manure in pellets can be scattered on the surface. Try to avoid contact with the leaves as they can be scorched.

– Liquid food – this is administered via a watering can or hose attachment. Again, avoid too much contact with the leaves.

– Foliar feed – this is taken in via the leaves. As it goes directly into the sap it is useful for sick plants that may not have a strong root system. Spray during still dry evenings to get the maximum benefit.

Always choose organic feeds because these will benefit your plants without harming the environment. Ask for advice when buying food at your local garden centre as many of the staff will have gardens in the area and know what is most suitable. If you have children or pets always check that the product you are using will not harm them.

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