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
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
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