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Feeding your garden for Spring

Published: 28th March, 2018

spring feeding in the gardenAlthough most plants make their own food via their leaves, they also need healthy soil with the correct balance of nutrients to thrive and perform their best.  Unfortunately, many of us have garden soil that has been stripped of these nutrients by years of plant growth and decades of rain. This food source needs to be replaced or your plants will start to show signs of stress. To get the most out of your plants they will benefit from supplementary feeding.

In spring your plants are bursting into growth and preparing to flower so now is the perfect time to give beds and borders a kick start by feeding them.

The world of fertilisers can be complex but it all hinges on just 3 letters; N, P and K. These are the 3 nutrients that are essential for plant growth; nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.

Nitrogen gets top billing for spring as it feeds new shoots and plant growth. Nitrogen keeps plants green which is why lawn fertilisers & feeds tend to have a high ‘N’ factor. Fish bone and blood fertilisers are the most common feeds with a high nitrogen content.

Phosphorous builds healthy roots. You can most commonly apply to the garden in the form of liquid fertilisers.

Potassium promotes abundant fruiting and flowering so you often see food for bulbs and blooming plants that are high in this nutrient. It is key in the production of chlorophyll and helps improve disease resistance and general plant health.

Fish bone and blood fertilisers are classed as general fertilisers usually containing equal quantities of N, P and K. They are ideal for use all over the garden in spring. They are slow to release their nutrients and are applied in preparation for the growing season.  Apply in granular form around trees, shrubs and perennials before plants start to grow vigorously. Fish blood and bone can also be used as lawn fertilizer in Spring.

Once spring flowering bulbs have finished blooming use a gentle liquid fertiliser mixed in water and pour it around the bulb zone. You can also use a small amount of granular feed with phosphorous and potassium around the root area and the spring rain will wash it into the soil. This will be taken up by the bulb as food to produce flowers for next year. Do not remove the foliage until it has turned yellow as while it is still green the bulb is using the foliage to collect carbohydrates in the photosynthesis process.

Ericaceous plants are plants that don’t like growing in soils that contain lime. Ericaceous plants include Rhododendron, Camellia, Azalea, summer-flowering heathers (calluna) and even Japanese maples (Acer) among others. They need plenty of iron and other soil nutrients that become insoluble or ‘locked up’ in the soil at high pH, so the plants can’t absorb them. If your soil errs on the side of alkaline, ensure you feed the plants with a suitable specific ericaceous plant feed. These contain all the nutrients needed for great green leaves and masses of fabulous flowers. Because Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Camellias set their flower buds from June to August, it is essential to keep them well fed during this period, as well as feeding in spring.

Garden compost, well-rotted manure and seaweed are also used to feed plants, but contain much lower concentrations of plant nutrients. But they are all excellent at improving soil structure and fertility. Using them as soil conditioners or mulch helps make the plant nutrients already present in the soil more available to plant roots.

A general rule when applying fertilisers is ‘less is more’. Plants can only take up so much, so choose organic fertilisers which are slower releasing and allow the plants to absorb the nutrients over time.

The packaging on the reverse of fertilisers often tells you which kind of fertiliser is best for your particular garden or plant but if in doubt about your garden’s exact needs, visit Henry Street Garden Centre and talk to one of our experts who’ll help you pick the perfect product for your needs.


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