51January 17, 2019

Over the last few weeks, I have been telling you about how soil plays such an important part in successful gardening. No matter if you are growing in containers or you have plants in your gardens or if you are growing a lawn, it’s all about the quality and quantity of the soil.

At the end of last week’s column, I told you that there was going to be a secret revealed in this week’s column. OK, here it is. This is extremely important, so I am going to put it into a simple phrase that you need to remember. Are you ready? “Plants are a lot like people. Both like to eat.”

You probably don’t think much about plants needing to eat. Yet that is exactly what fertilizer does for your plants. Fertilizer is the food that your plants need for proper growth. Over the years, I have had people come into the store with questions about their plants. The conversation usually centers on plants that are not growing very well.

After asking a few questions I will ask people how often they fertilize their plants. Many times people will tell me “Well, I water the plants.” Water is good for plants. But water doesn’t feed the plants. Even if you use the best compost enriched soil, you ultimately need to begin a program of fertilizing your plants.

Plants use fertilizer to produce leaves, stems, roots, and flowers and in some cases the vegetables you want to eat. If there isn’t an adequate amount of fertilizer in the soil, then your plants cannot grow properly.

When you first put plants in your window boxes, the naturally occurring fertilizer in the soil will be enough to get those plants growing. At some point in time, that fertilizer is gone from the soil. It is up to you to replace that fertilizer.

The same hold true for your lawn. You may have the best soil but for a nice green, thick lawn, but you still need to be fertilizing the lawn. It also holds true for those trees and shrubs that you have planted in your yard.

For the best growth and to encourage plants to live a long time, you need to fertilize your trees and shrubs. As you can see, one of the keys to successful gardening is to fertilize your plants.

The question that always comes up concerns how often to fertilize your plants. Let’s use tomato plants as an example. Early in the season, you may be able to fertilize once a month. As the plants grow, they need more fertilizer to sustain proper growth. At some point, you will need to fertilize every two weeks. Toward the later part of growth, you may need to fertilize every 7 to 10 days. This holds particularly true when you are trying to get those green tomatoes to turn red. One of the leading reasons those green tomatoes don’t turn red is a lack of fertilizer. This is especially true if you are growing tomato plants in containers.

Now you know that your plants need fertilizer for proper growth. The question is what type of fertilizer should you use and what do those numbers on the fertilizer container mean for your plants. I’ll cover those answers in the next few weeks.

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

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