5 W’s for Fertilizing

                                                                    Article by Kelly Brainard, Owner Ashland Greenhouse

“There are always so many questions about fertilizing.  I would like to go over some of the basics, especially since early spring can be a key time for taking care of fertilizing needs. Always ask yourself:
The type of plant you are focusing on (perennials, annuals, vegetables, ect).
What type of fertilizer to use based on season and the plant(s) you’re fertilizing.
When do you apply fertilizer?  Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter?
Where is the best place to apply fertilizers?  Topically or to the root zone?
Why is this necessary?  What are the benefits of fertilizing?

Since we could write a book on everything mentioned above let’s keep it brief and relevant to what we should focus on in early spring.  This is a great time of year to focus on perennials.  Most perennials prefer a well-balanced or all-purpose fertilizer (all three numbers on the packaging are identical, i.e. 3-3-3 or 16-16-16).  Perennials fed in early spring develop strong root systems which in turn produces larger, healthier plants.  Apply granular fertilizers to the soil around the root zone.

For annuals that are tough enough to be outside early and continue blooming throughout the summer, like petunias and verbena, apply well balanced or slightly higher nitrogen fertilizers. This gives them an extra boost, encouraging growth.  You can successfully use either a granular or foliar fertilizer.  Foliar fertilizers tend to react faster than granules since they are taken up by the plant through the leaves but need re-application more often.  For annuals I like to use granular fertilizer applications in the spring and start using weekly or biweekly applications of liquid fertilizer in the summer. Remember as a rule of thumb – ALWAYS apply fertilizers in the morning. It is less stressful for the plants.

Vegetables are a completely different beast when it comes to fertilizing.  There are numerous techniques when it comes to fertilizing your vegetables.  If it’s grown for leafy greens then apply fertilizers heavier in nitrogen. If it’s grown for the fruit apply fertilizers heavier in phosphorous.  Nitrogen promotes healthy, green foliage and too much of it can discourage fruit development while phosphorous promotes bud and flower growth which encourages more fruit.

When in doubt about fertilizing don’t hesitate to ask a fellow gardener. Some of the best advice is the advice that we share with each other!”

Source: http://AshlandGreenhouses_April2014Newsletter

Happy Soil

Happy Soil
by Denny Morelli
(Notes from a recent talk at Medford Garden Club)

You can’t have good results in your garden if you don’t start with good soil. Top soils are made up of different components including plant and animal residue, moisture, air space and live soil dwelling organisms.

The best thing you can do for your garden is compost, compost and more compost.

Organic content provides food for growing plants, food for bacteria, fungi, earthworms and other beneficial organisms. A total organic content should be at least 6% of the top 4” – 6 “of top soil. It also provides a reservoir for moisture. Organic content also provides temperature stability and weed control.

This water reservoir prevents the tendency of over watering in the summer and the leaching out nutrients in rainy weather. Over watering can be a serious problem as it flushes out nutrients and increases pollution levels in our streams.

The timing and rate of releasing nutrients is important. Organic material helps to control the amount of fertilizer available at any given time. Air space created by the channels made by various organisms provides space for oxygen, moisture and plant roots. Do not rototill. Tilling the soil collapses this delicate structure. It is better to put a layer of 2” – 4” of compost on top early in the spring to let the nutrients sink in.

One problem in planting is that plants are usually planted too deep. Dig the hole, add some compost and plant the plant so it is higher than ground level, creating a small rounded berm. In time it will sink to the level of the ground.

Be careful where you buy compost. Most box store compost may be over a year old and have little nutrients left. Denny’s commercial formula is 40% forest material, including rotted wood, leave, moss and humus; 50% pasture material, including shredded alfalfa, grass and cover crops; 10% dairy goat & chicken manure; and nutrient supplements e.g. seed meal, kelp meal, high protein livestock feed, goat mils and trace elements. Do not use walnut leaves for mulch.

Fertilizers for home gardeners include fish emulsion, which works very fast but needs to be applied often; and Dr Earth, which takes a month to do any good. Be sure to look at the label; a lot of compost has too much magnesium. In the heat of the summer a layer of alfalfa, purchased at a feed store, protects the ground. Denny sells his compost from his farm. Read more here: http://www.ccountry.net/~compost/

Other good sources of compost are Hilton Landscape Central Point and the Grange Coop, who has an excellent compost called Green Planet Compost.

by Emilie Vest

EPSOM SALT

The following information is from http://www.epsomsaltcouncil.org

Epsom salt is also known by magnesium sulfate, a mineral plants need to survive and grow.

Feeding your lawn with it can increase the chlorophyll content and improve its ability to synthesize food leading to lush, healthy lawns.

For vibrant plants and vegetables- Plants suffer if they lack nutrients. By adding just a spoonful of epsom salt you can prevent weak stalks and yellow leaves. Sprinkling epsom salt around the base of a plant will lead to big healthy vegetables.

The council claims by sprinkling a few tablespoonfuls around your garden and garbage cans raccoons and woodchucks will stay away and not harm the animals.

The council recommends the following applications:

Houseplants:
·Mix one teaspoon per gallon of water and feed plants monthly.

Garden Startup:
·Sprinkle approximately one cup per 100 square feet. (10’x10’) and mix into soil before planting.

Peppers:
·Apply 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt with a gallon of water as a foliar spray at bloom time and again 10 days later.

Tomatoes:
·Apply one tablespoon per foot of height for each plant every two weeks.

Roses:
· Apply one teaspoon per foot of height for each plant every two weeks.
· Add a tablespoon of Epsom Salt to each hole at planting time.
· Spray with Epsom Salt solution weekly (1 TBSP per gallon of water) to help discourage pests.
· Soak unplanted bushes in 1/2 cup of Epsom Salt per gallon of water to help roots recover.

Evergreens, Azaleas, Rhododendrons
· Apply one tablespoon per nine square feet (3’x3’) over the root zone every 2-4 weeks.

Lawns
·Apply three pounds per 1250 square feet (25’x 50’) or dilute in water and apply with a sprayer. ·Apply six pounds per 2500 square feet (50’x 50’)
·Apply twelve pounds per 5000 square feet (50’x 100’)

Trees
·Apply two tablespoons per nine square feet (3’x 3’) over root zone every four months.

Do Not use on Sage!This herb is one of the few plants that doesn’t like Epsom Salt.