Sunday, April 15, 2012

Love Them To Death

Sometimes we want to do everything possible for our pretty plants.  The motto is water, fertilize, mulch and prune them into perfection.  And then, sadly, they don't bloom or die.  They've been loved to death.

Some plants just want to be left alone.  Today I'll talk about those plants that shouldn't be fertilized.  The reason in most instances is the plant will produce an abundant amount of foliage and no flowers.  Here are a few that don't want fertilization:  

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
False indigo (Baptisia australis)
Pinks (Dianthus spp.)
Rock roses (Helianthemum spp.)
Sea holly (Eryngium spp.)
Bee balm (Monarda didyma)
Speedwell (Veronica spp.)
Cornflower (Echinacea spp. & Rudbeckia spp.)
Most succulants
All perennial ornamental grasses
Nasturtiums  (in all my pictures in this story)

Most commercial fertilizers are basically salts.  Too much can burn the plants or in the case of grasses, they won't absorb water.  If you must use commercial fertilizer, apply at half the strength it's recommended.

If your soil is healthy when you plant, seldom is additional commercial fertilizer necessary.  One exception is plants in pots and window boxes.  The soil is basically to hold the roots in place and do little or nothing to enhance the nutrients.  You can use a time release at the time of potting.  A regular very mild dose of liquid fertilizer is necessary if you want it to be as pretty as those wondrous nursery examples.  BUT, if you fertilize any of the above in pots, they won't be happy.

If your vegetable garden isn't fertilized with dried manure, a general rule-of-thumb:   Fertalize the first time is in the spring, before you plant. The second feeding time is typically halfway through the growing season when your plants are ready to produce.

If in doubt, check each plant variety before you fertilize.  Reversing the effect of too much or the wrong kind is almost impossible. 

Some folks add bone meal to bulbs when planting.  If you have dogs or squirrels, they will smell it and dig up your bulbs. 

Don't get fertilizer on the trunk or stem of any plant.  I don't recommend digging holes around trees and bushes to insert fertilizer - it can burn or damage the roots.  A tree that is stressed from disease or insect damage will usually have more stress if you add a bunch of fertilizer.  If trees and bushes are heavily fertilized too late in the fall, they may fail to go into dormancy or put on a lot of new growth which will have winter kill.

Most large State universities and extension offices have agriculture web facts about fertilizers and how to use them.  They also explain how to read a fertilizer component description. 

Love your plants - just don't love them to death. 

Side Note:  Distinctive Gardens, Dixon, is having a free container workshop April 21 at 10 am.     

No comments:

Post a Comment