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Fertilizing Plants

March is the month generally set aside to begin feeding many of the trees and shrubs in the garden. Early spring feeding will help get them off to a good growing start early in the season.

You can get full value from the fertilizer you use, if you will follow a few basic procedures concerning application.

The question most often asked about spring feeding is, "What kind of fertilizer do I use for this or that plant?" Spring feeding of individual plants is simple, if you will follow this general rule:

  • Evergreen trees and shrubs, including rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas, juniper cypress and broad-leaf evergreens, are fertilized with a rhododendron-type fertilizer.
  • Deciduous trees and shrubs, which includes fruit, flowering and shade trees, roses, lilacs, forsythia, etc. are all fed with a rose or general garden-type fertilizer. Deciduous refers to trees and shrubs that lose their leaves during the winter.
  • Perennials, annuals and vegetables are also fertilized with a rose or general garden fertilizer.

Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but they are few and far between. You can do most of your plant feeding with these two basic types of fertilizer.

There are several rules you must observe when applying fertilizers.

  • The first one is critical - READ THE LABEL before you apply any type of fertilizer. Application times, amounts and conditions must be followed to the letter. In other words, only apply as directed on the package.
  • Second, most fertilizers should not be applied to dry soils, as the material is apt to burn the surface feeder roots almost instantly.
  • Third, all of the dry-type fertilizers should be watered-in thoroughly, immediately after application.
  • Fourth, it is important to apply the fertilizer out at the drip-line of the plant, as this is where the. feeder roots are located. If you spread the fertilizer up under the plants, you are apt to burn the tender surface roots.
  • As you apply the dry fertilizer, keep it off the leaves of your plants, spreading it on the soil only.
  • Distribute the fertilizer evenly around the base of the plants. Avoid con-centration in any one area.

Here are a few basic tips for fertilizing the various types of garden plants.

Large Trees and Shrubs - By perforating the surrounding soil area to a depth of twelve to eighteen inches and spacing the holes about two feet apart, you can get the fertilizer down to the roots of established trees and shrubs. Water thoroughly after applying the fertilizer. An added advantage to this method of feeding trees is that it encourages the roots of the trees to grow deeper into the soil.

Purple Rhododendron in full bloom.Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Camellias, Junipers, Evergreens, etc. - Use a rhododendron type of fertilizer when feeding these types of plants. Most should be fed twice a year, once in March and again in June. Be careful not to spread the material up under the plants, as it is apt to burn the surface roots; instead apply it at the drip-line of the plant. Follow application directions on the label of the fertilizer you use.

Annuals, Perennials and Roses - Both the annuals and roses will do best if they are fertilized on the average of once a month throughout their growing season. Perennials should be fed in spring and again in the summer. Use a rose or general garden fertilizer to feed them.

Vegetable Gardens - Use a general all-purpose garden fertilizer or a rose-type for feeding vegetable plants. Mix fertilizers into the vegetable garden soil prior to planting. Established garden vegetable plants are side-dressed with fertilizer during their growing season. .

Planting of New Shrubs, Trees, Annuals, etc. - Use one of the specially prepared planting or transplanting fertilizers at planting time. These fertilizers are mixed into the soil according to the directions on the label of the brand of fertilizer you use. The greatest advantage of a planting or transplanting fertilizer is that they encourage root growth, thus insuring better top growth as the plant develops.

You can get your garden plants off to a good start and keep them growing well by feeding them properly, with the correct type of fertilizer.

See Also: Organic Gardening for information on organic fertilizer and composting.

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