58January 19, 2011

Plants and people have something in common. They both like to eat.

It doesn’t really matter whether you are growing houseplants or if you are growing flowers or vegetables, you must give your plants fertilizer if you want the plants to thrive. Plants use the fertilizer as food to fuel their growth. If the plants use up the fertilizer that is available in the soil, you must replace that fertilizer in order for the plants to continue their growth.

Our modern plants are hybrid plants. These plants perform in our gardens better than their ancestors.  The plants are bred for disease resistance, their ability to flower sooner and to yield a bigger crop. This applies to our annuals, perennials and our vegetables. The trade off is that these new plants consume a lot more nutrients in order to perform at these higher levels.

Many of you will fertilize your plants when you first put the plants into the ground or into containers. As the plants grow, they soon take the available nutrients out of the soil. In particular, plants grown in containers quickly take the available nutrients out of the soil. Their roots cannot “reach out’ to the surrounding soil in the same manner as your plants in the ground. Container plants will perform their best when you follow a regular fertilization regimen. Many times during the growing season, customers will come into the store and tell me that their plants are not growing well. So very often when the customer is asked about feeding the plants, the customer will say, “ Well, I water the plants.” Once I explain to them the importance of feeding their plants and they start a regular fertilization program, the plants will bounce back. The same can be said for plants in your gardens. Early in the season, you set out little plants in the garden. These plants quickly grow because the plants make use of the fertilizer that is in the soil. As the plants grow, they use larger amounts of fertilizer to fuel that growth. If you don’t replace that fertilizer, your plants will begin to suffer. During any summer, I have had so many people tell me that their tomato plants are loaded with green tomatoes but those tomatoes haven’t ripened. When I ask about how often the plants get fertilized, I usually get a sheepish look. Once the plants begin to get the fertilizer that they need, the tomatoes begin to ripen.

In my mind, it doesn’t really matter if you use an organic approach to fertilizing or if you use a granular or water-soluble powder fertilizer to feed your plants. The most important thing for you to do is to select a fertilizer and follow the directions on the package. The directions will tell you how often you need to apply the fertilizer. Following the directions will then give your plants the fertilizer that the plants need. Take some time now and go to your calendar and flip the pages to the month of April. Make a note on the calendar that says” Begin to fertilize the plants” Once you get into the habit of feeding your plants on a regular basis, you will find that your green thumb begins to form.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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