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CAROL'S CORNER - Current Observations for the month......July 2005

The fertilizing program I carried out in Spring is paying off in June Bloom.  The bloom is just sensational, from tall bearded iris to potted geraniums.  For years I've wallowed in a bit of confusion regarding fertilizing my plants...and many seasons I just did nothing more than spreading a little homemade compost.  But I borrowed a fertilizing guide from my latest copy of Garden Gate and the guidelines seem to make good sense to me.  The only thing I would add is a special rose fertilizer which I try to apply once a month during the growing season and a special acid loving fertilizer for my rhododendrons and ferns, which I apply in the spring.  Garden Gate gives the following quick guide to feeding perennials:

Early Spring - When the daffodils are blooming, broadcast a granular slow-release organic fertilizer onto your perennial beds with a hand spreader following the package instruction rate.  GroRich, is a good 5-10-5 mix.  The high middle number means it has more phosphorous than nitrogen and potassium.  Phosphorous encourages root growth, which is exactly what you want your perennials to put their energy into now.

If it doesn't look like it'll rain in the next 24 hours, water right after you spread the fertilizer to wash granules from the leaves.  You don't want the fertilizer to burn the foliage.  Watering also helps the granules dissolve and start working in the soil sooner.

Late Spring - When the peonies are blooming, it's time to break out the liquid ocean-based fertilizer, such as fish emulsion.  Neptune's Harvest is good.  Mix it up in a watering can at the suggested rate and water each plant for about 3 seconds.  It's a great opportunity to spend some time looking over each little (or big) plant.  When you sprinkle water-soluble fertilizer directly on plants' leaves, try to do it early in the morning.  As the weather warms up, you may burn foliage if you fertilize later in the day.

Early Summer - This is the lull between spring and summer perennials.  Start using water-soluable fertilizer like Miracle-Gro All Purpose Plant Food with a hose end applicator.  This fertilizer has a formula of 24-8-16.  The high first number means it has lots of nitrogen, which promotes lush foliage growth.  The high third number, or potassium, means it encourages flowering.  Spray this fertilizer over your perennial beds every 10 to 12 days at full strength.  Try to use an even, sweeping motion for a count of five.

Make Mixing Easier - Place a golf ball in the application container.  When you shake the container, the golf ball will help break up the fertilizer granules.  Be sure to shake when there's water in the container but before you actually start to spray your plants.  Spraying and shaking at the same time will give whatever plant is "under the gun" too much fertilizer and could burn or stain the foliage.

End of Summer - Labor Day.  Stop using hose-end fertilizers that promote new foliage growth because you want plants to slow down and get ready for dormancy.  Instead, broadcast another dose of 5-10-5 organic slow-release granules at the label rate to encourage healthy roots so the plants will come through the winter vigorously.

Bulb-Planting Time - Get early blooming perennials off to a faster spring start by giving them a final shot of
fish emulsion.  Only now, instead of foliar feeding, water it in at the base of your plants (1 gallon for large woody plants and 1/2 gallon for smaller herbaceous plants).  Make sure to feed these plants in the fall:  tree peonies, candytuft, hellebores and early blooming clematis.  Never feed roses in the fall--this will only encourage new, tender growth and make the plant more vulnerable to winter kill!