The Perfect Time And Best Methods To Fertilize

Introduction.

Gardening has got several benefits that make it one of the best and indeed a popular hobby. It’s not only a great stress reliever and good for your heart, but it also gives you a sense of achievement.

If you love gardening, you’d agree that one of the biggest sources of confusion relates to fertilizers.

  • What’s, is the best time to fertilize?
  • How to apply fertilizers?

Most people make a mistake in either of these aspects, only to repent later. In this article, we discuss these key facets.

What are Fertilizers and Why Do We Need Them?

Fertilizers are nothing but the nutritional supplements for plants. Just like any other living being, plants also need certain nutrients to grow and survive. Generally, they obtain these from the soil; but if the soil doesn’t have an adequate quantity of these constituents, you need to substitute with the help of fertilizers.

Fertilizers can be of natural or synthetic origin and can have different percentages of chemicals; available in granular or liquid forms. The primary nutrients that constitute a fertilizer are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K); that’s why term NPK is a common terminology in fertilizers.

Which Fertilizers to Use?

To decide upon the type of fertilizer to use for your garden, you’ve to find out what nutrient is lacking in your soil. Which fertilizers to use can be accurately determined by observing the symptoms of deficiency in your plants. While a lack of nitrogen results in yellow leaves, phosphorus deficiency causes fewer flowers, and a shortage of potassium affects the stem strength.

Now that you know the basics of fertilizers let’s find out more about the right timing for applying and the application process of fertilizers.

The Right Time to Fertilize.

As you can now appreciate, it’s difficult to generalize the best time for fertilizer application. When best to fertilize depends on the kind of plants, levels of nutrients in the soil, and the type of fertilizers used.

Remember is that the fertilizer manufacturer knows best about the optimal application rates; therefore, you must follow the instructions given on the pack. Even if two fertilizers have a similar nutrient content, the application will depend upon their types. Fertilizer may be organic or synthetic, water-soluble liquid, granular, or time-released. More so, different plants will need varying quantities of fertilizers at different stages. Here are a few guidelines:

1.      Shrubs and Trees.

Applying fertilizer at the root level while planting shrubs and trees allows the plants to get a continuous supply of nutrition from the soil at their desired rates. Applying fertilizer at the root level while planting gives a constant and steady reserve of nutrients for the plants, from where they can draw their dose as required.

On the other hand, for trees and shrubs, you need to apply fertilizers on an annual basis. You can fix anytime for application, but the early spring season the best for fertilizing. Note that, if there are no signs of malnutrition shown by the plants, they may be getting their share of nutrients directly from the soil. In such cases, you need not use fertilizers.

2. Perennial Plants.

While planting new perennial plants, incorporate an all-purpose organic fertilizer at the bottom of the pit. Incorporate an all-purpose organic fertilizer will help your growing plants to get their nutrition from the soil; an all-purpose fertilizer will provide adequate amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, etc. to them.

For established perennial plants, just like shrubs and trees, applying fertilizer once every year is generally sufficient. Applying fertilizer in the early spring for perennials like rhubarb, berries, asparagus, etc. is effective.

3. Flowing Plants.

While the spring bloomers like hyacinths and tulips, generally don’t need any fertilizers, specific soils may need fertilizer application depending upon deficiency symptoms. You may fertilize perennial bulbs like alliums and daffodils post-flowering.

The flowers that bloom during summer, such as lilies, dahlias, and gladiolas, need fertilization while planting. A mid-summer fertilization may be necessary for dahlias and other flowering plants that need higher quantities of nutrients.

4. Annual Plants.

Annual vegetables and flowers need more nutrition to grow; therefore, annual vegetables and will require repeated application of fertilizer. Apply an all-purpose granular fertilizer while planting such saplings; this provides them a regular supply of nutrients during growth stages. After that, use liquid fertilizer to supplement their supply every month during mid-summer; the frequency of application should be no more than twice a month.

Optimum Application.

Contrary to the common belief, the growth and health of plants aren’t always directly proportional to the quantity of fertilizer used. If malnourishment is bad, an overdose of fertilizers can be equally harmful to the plants. Just like other living creatures, overfeeding of plants with a particular nutrient leads to problems.

Although you need to ensure that your plants get their share of nutrition, you don’t want to provide too much. An excess amount of nitrogen reduces the production of fruits and flowers while increasing foliage. Overdose of phosphorus hinders the plants from absorbing adequate zinc and iron from the soil, thereby affecting their overall health. If there’s too much potassium, the plants won’t be able to absorb their share of calcium.

Apart from adversely affecting plant health, the excess fertilizers may also cause water pollution by percolating into the groundwater. This polluted water then feeds the waterways, which leads to damages to the entire ecosystem. It’s therefore, essential to apply fertilizer judiciously.

Best Methods to Apply Fertilizer.

Now that we know the correct timings of the application of different types of fertilizers for different varieties of plants, you’re ready for the next step. Let’s have a look at the best ways of fertilizing your plants. There are several methods of applying fertilizers to your plants; broadcasting, placement, pellet application, and drilling are some commonly utilized methods.

Discussing them all is beyond the purview of this article, and it’ll be done in subsequent articles. Two of the most favorite and effective fertilizer application methods are:-

1. Topdressing.

Topdressing a type of the broadcasting method and frequently used for fertilizers rich in nitrogen. As the name suggests, the fertilizer applied from the top on crops that densely planted. This method allows the plants to easily absorb the nutrients as the fertilizer is in the top layer of soil. However, it has a few disadvantages, like promoting weed growth and underutilization of fertilizer.

2. Side-Dressing.

Side-dressing is a placement method of fertilizer application. The fertilizer is applied out placed in between the plant rows or around each plant. The following side-dressing methods can accomplish it:

Row Placement.

Nitrogenous fertilizer placed between rows of crops such as cotton, sugarcane, maize, etc.

– Individual Placement.

 For apple, papaya, mango, and similar trees and the grapes, the fertilizer placed around the roots.

Comparison Between Top Dressing and Side Dressing.

While the topdressing method is faster and less costly than side-dressing, it needs rains to make it effective. In the absence of rains, the top-dressed fertilizer won’t be able to reach to the place roots and hence gets lost or decomposed.

On the other hand, although the side-dressing method is slower and costs more, the fertilizer is less likely to be lost. It’s much easier for the plants to absorb the nutrients when fertilizer is placed near the roots.

Soil Amendments.

Soil Amendments are nothing but natural organic items that are added to the soil to amend its characteristics. Soil amendments may be necessary to improve soil fertility or other physical properties. In this section, we shall discuss soil amendments for enhancing its ability to support the growth of plants.

As already seen, fertilizers add essential nutrients to the soil; so, what’s the difference between fertilizer and a soil amendment element? Whereas the former can be natural or synthetic, the latter is always organic. Chemical agents can provide the necessary nutrients to the plants, but the amendments hi a step further as they improve the soil’s drainage and texture. The following are the two most effective and useful soil amendments:

1. Compost.

Compost is an organic matter that’s formed through decomposition of organic waste materials such as leaves, fruit, and vegetables remains, etc. This process called composting, and it breaks down organic waste to produce this excellent element. Compost is not only a great fertilizer, a natural pesticide, but also a perfect conditioner for the soil.

An ideal compost will consist of the following three components in the right proportions:

– Greens.

Greens consist of vegetable and fruit waste as well as grass pieces. It provides nitrogen to your compost.

– Browns.

Dead branches, leaves, and twigs compose the brown portion. These add carbon to the compost.

– Water.

It not only allows perfect mixing of the browns and greens but also supports composting.

2. Alfalfa Pellets.

Normally used to feed animals, the alfalfa pellets have been found to have a high percentage (5%) of absorbable nitrogen. It also has some traces of triacontanol, which is known to be a natural growth promoter for plants. Its pelleted form makes it easy to apply. It acts as a slow-releasing fertilizer and hence provides nutrition for a long duration.

Conclusion.

Fertilization is an important activity to get good crops and a beautiful garden. For best results, use the right type of fertilizer at the correct time and apply it in the most efficient method. You must not only observe your plants closely to understand their requirements but also read the instructions given on the fertilizer pack. In case you’ve got any further queries, we’ll be happy to answer them. Happy Gardening!

Organic Gardening – Posthole Composting

Are you an avid gardener? Are you dedicated to producing quality produce or an enviable garden? Studies have shown that not only is composting an excellent way to help the environment to reduce the carbon surplus that the earth experiences, but on a local level, it is an easy and affordable way to enrich the soil in your garden or yard. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “food scraps and yard waste currently make up more than 28% of what we throw away.”[i] Of course, while not all of that material can be reused in a compost, imagine what a reduction in even a small percentage of that number could do for our planet and for the soil!

As interest in preserving the environment grows, more people have become interested in how they can do their part. One of the many ways is through composting, or more specifically, posthole composting, which is more than a simple solution for waste reduction.

While you may have heard of the process of collecting organic material and allowing the organic material to decompose, which is known as composting naturally, this much simpler form of recycling is less well-known. Posthole composting is the process of using common kitchen scraps to fertilize and enrich a small area of land or dirt and to encourage nature’s workers to convert organic material into usable soil. It is simple, cost-effective, and provides your garden with invaluable nutrients.

Advantages Of Posthole Composting

Although it may not be the right option for everyone, posthole composting has many amazing advantages:

Traditional composting requires the use of a compost bin or pile. When you think about composting, you may think of a yard with a large pile of leaves, a compost tumbler or bin, or even a 55-gallon barrel requiring constant turning, maintenance, and feeding. On the other hand, posthole composting can be as expansive or scaled-down as you want it to be. No bin or pile is required. All you need is a small bucket to store your organic kitchen scraps such as fruit and vegetable peels, eggshells, and even coffee grounds.

Posthole composting does not require any special containers, location, or a large amount of space. You can compost wherever you expect to plant trees, shrubs, flowers, or vegetable plants. Even raised beds are a good place for posthole composting. All you need is a shovel and your kitchen scraps.

Composting requires the right environment: right temperature, an appropriate amount of moisture, the right organic material, and aeration. This last one may be a stretch for your mind, but a compost pile needs to be regularly disturbed and turned to speed up the decomposition process. When posthole composting, no maintenance or special conditions are required.

Earthworms, although seldom thought of, play a vital role in the world’s ecosystem. Earthworms add value to the composting process and help to speed up decomposition. Earthworms are attracted to the organic material in your compost hole and will flock to the soil in your garden. As they digest the organic material, they also leave behind feces, which provides additional fertilization. They also help to aerate and turn over the soil as they travel along. By digging your posthole 8 to 12 inches deep, you are placing the organic material right in the middle of the worms’ habitat. They will love you for it, and more importantly, the soil will receive the valuable nutrients produced through the process.

Does the cost of keeping your garden beautiful and lush keep you from doing it? Store-bought fertilizers can be expensive and, in some cases, harmful to the environment. Posthole composting is not only inexpensive but more importantly, it’s FREE. In theory, you are recycling waste from things that you already purchased and consumed.

Composting is also a great way to save on the cost of trash collection and space in landfills. By recycling household waste, you are reducing the amount of trash that will now be sent off to a landfill to rot amongst the old tires, cell phones, and water bottles.

Are you concerned about global warming? As the earth’s landfills reach capacity, overflowing into streams, rivers, and the ocean, more and more methane gases are released into the air at an alarming rate. By reducing the amount of organic material from the landfill by composting, you not only reduce the amount of space required in a landfill, as mentioned earlier, but it has the added benefit of reducing the volume of gases that seep into the atmosphere. Aside from the benefits to the soil in your yard, imagine how much you can reduce your carbon footprint by following this simple process.

Let’s be honest. You are very busy, and gardening can be time-consuming in and of itself. You may not have the time to be constantly turning, maintaining, and feeding your compost pile. It takes work! The beauty of the posthole compost is that all it takes is a few scraps from the kitchen and something to dig with. Nothing fancy required and no large time commitment. Just cover up your hole with soil, and you are finished! During the spring and summer, when the ground is not frozen, the entire process should require no more than 5 minutes yet provide substantial value to your garden or yard.

Water is, of course, a critical factor in how your garden or flower beds will grow. Compost helps the soil to retain water so that it can be used when external sources of water may not be available. The organic materials absorb the water and allow the plants to draw from it in between rainfall or watering.

Another advantage to posthole composting is that because of the relatively small amount of organic materials that you are using and assuming the right conditions, and your compost should decompose in a relatively short amount of time, from several weeks to just a few months. Within no time at all, the fruit of your efforts will be enriching the soil and providing valuable nutrients to your plants.

Sometimes referred to as the Dig and Drop Method, posthole composting is very simple. As the title suggests, ‘dig’ a hole wherever you want to place your garden, plants or trees, ‘drop’ in your organic material such as potato skins and eggshells, and top it with soil!

Lastly, vital nutrients are delivered directly to the roots of your plants. What better method of fertilizing your plants than from the source, from the ground up!

Words of Caution For Posthole Composting

While there are a vast number of advantages to posthole composting, I will also caution you about several things to avoid doing in the process.

  1. Be sure to dig your hole at least 8 inches deep but no more than 18 inches to prevent animals from catching the scent of the decomposing materials and dig it up. The deeper the hole, the more likely that the nutrients will simply seep into the groundwater, not providing your plants with any of their life-giving value. The best place for your scraps is in this area between 8 and 18 inches below ground level, where it will still receive water, yet the valuable nutrients will not be in jeopardy of being washed away.
  2. It is not recommended that meat or dairy products be included in your scrap bucket to be composted as the strong scent of rotting meat will draw rodents and dogs to your compost hole. Besides the fact, the odor will be highly unpleasant to you and your neighbors!
  3. Be sure to chop up kitchen scraps into small pieces to promote the decomposition process. Onions and potatoes, in particular, tend to sprout new shoots before they begin to decompose. Even the onion skins may be a bit tough on the process, so be sure that they are wet before putting them into your posthole.

We have briefly mentioned the types of things to add to your compost hole, but let’s look at it a little “deeper.” Meat and dairy products should not be included in your compost mix nor grease and bones. Not only would animals be attracted to your yard and potentially dig up your flower beds, but these materials require a much longer time to decompose.

Compostable Items To Posthole Compost

So, what exactly should you be putting into your kitchen scraps bucket? If you are like me, you have a small bucket the size of a children’s sand toy neatly stashed in your kitchen. As you go about your daily routine, cutting, chopping, consuming, you can toss the scraps into this bucket, allowing for easy, small quantity composting. In other words, one bucket, one posthole. You should chop or break up any large pieces to ensure that they break down quickly and easily. For example, crush eggshells to speed up the process.

What do I include?

  • Vegetable and fruit skins, rind and core
  • Leafy greens
  • Coffee grounds (toss the filter in there too!)
  • Corncobs/husks
  • Old bread
  • Peanut shells
  • Tea leaves
  • Eggshells
  • Cut flowers        

You may also want to include other household waste, such as:

  • Black and White newspaper (color or glossy newspapers will not break down the same way)
  • Pet and human hair
  • Cardboard cut into small pieces (remove any shiny material or plastic/tape as this is not biodegradable)
  • Ash (wood only)

How-to Posthole Compost

Posthole composting is an amazing, environmentally friendly way of enriching your garden and yard. To supplement the organic material, you can also add small amounts of organic fertilizer, such as alfalfa pellets, to speed up the decomposition process. When filling your posthole, be sure to casually toss in the organic material rather than compact it down. Space allows it to breathe and encourages microorganisms to congregate. Before covering the kitchen scraps with the soil that you removed, consider placing the grass or weeds that you removed when digging the hole on top, upside down, adding their nutrients and organisms to the composting process.

In my list of compostables above, you will see, pet and human hair. Although this is not necessarily a “kitchen scrap,” it does provide several added benefits in your posthole compost; hair helps to deter rodents from trying to gobble up the rotting delicacies that you have buried, and it slowly releases nitrogen, which is a crucial ingredient in turning your discarded food into nutrient-rich soil.

To the seasoned home gardener, posthole composting may seem inferior to traditional composting. However, the result is the same, an organic mixture that not only enriches and fertilizes the soil but also helps to save our planet, mother Earth, for future generations. Whether you plant right away on top of the organic material or you wait until it has decomposed, the composting process will certainly enrich the quality and beauty of your garden or produce.

“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is the EPA’s promotion phrase to save money, energy, and natural resources. If every one of us were to attempt to follow this simple slogan, we could make a dramatic difference in the environment, the quality of our soil and those things which it produces and certainly, improve the quality of life for all of us. Composting is each person’s small contribution to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Posthole Composting A Summary

Posthole composting is not only inexpensive and ecologically sound, posthole composting may be the perfect option for gardeners but may have limited space, time, resources, and energy! There is no right or wrong in posthole composting, but rather it is simply part of nature’s recycling program. Posthole composting’s creates homemade fertilizer, which provides your garden with the nutrients needed to thrive and grow. You are just facilitating the decomposition process. Happy composting!

Coffee Grounds in the Garden

Coffee Beans and Grounds
Coffee Beans and Grounds

Coffee grounds are one of the kitchen wastes and business, which can be recycled in the garden. So then, the discussion becomes how to use the coffee grounds.  Using coffee grounds in the garden, basically, come down to composting. There several approaches to composting, which can be applied to coffee grounds.

The Value Of Coffee Grounds As Fertilizer

  • The three principal nutrients by which the value of fertilizer is typically measured are; Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K). Measured by those nutrients, Coffee grounds do have value as a fertilizer when used as compost or applied directly as a soil

The NPK Value of Coffee Grounds

  • Nitrogen (N):28 percent
  • Phosphorus (P):06 percent
  • Potassium (K):6 percent

How Much Coffee Grounds To Use

  • When using coffee grounds as compost or when applied directly as a soil amendment, the volume of coffee grounds should be limit to more than 20 percent of the soil or mix to which it is being added. This rule applies to sheet, trench, and/or postal composting.

Coffee Grounds As Mulch

  • Coffee grounds are generally, fine ground and easily compacted so much so that they can form a barrier not allowing air and water to pass through your mulch. For this reason, coffee grounds are generally not recommended for use as mulch.

Sources of Coffee Grounds

From you Own Kitchen

  • An obvious source of coffee grounds as your own kitchen, Americans tend to drink coffee nearly every day so rather than throwing your coffee grounds in the trash toss minute compost bin and use of her garden fertilizer.

From Your Local Coffee Shop Or Restaurant

  • If you’d like to have more coffee grounds or you’re not getting enough coffee grounds for your purpose from your own kitchen, there are several local opportunities to acquire coffee grounds. In my local area, there are coffee shops like Starbucks or on the grind from which coffee grounds can be readily obtained. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen signs in the local Starbucks saying to ask the barista for coffee grounds for your garden. However, coffee shops may be an obvious choice, but there are any number of restaurants and cities and towns which can be taken advantage of with a little creative negotiation with the owner-operators.

Related References

Epsom Salt In The Garden

Bag Of Epsom Salt
Bag Of Epsom Salt

Occasionally, I hear someone recommending that gardeners use Epsom salt. I’ve even seen it on television were some supposed master gardener will come out and say you should use Epsom salt for this or that. So, having been recently asked, once again, about Epsom salt, I thought I would put down a few notes which may be helpful to fellow gardeners.

What is Epsom Salt?

  • Epsom salt is a very simple crystalline chemical mix magnesium, sulfate, and trace amounts of water.

Is Epsom Salt A Fertilizer?

  • Actually, Epsom salt would not be considered a fertilizer. It could be regarded as a nutrient as common garden plants require some magnesium, but it is not one of the three constituents of fertilizer, which are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) (NPK). Epsom salt has no measurable quantity of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K)  (NPK)

Magnesium Deficiency in Plants

  • Magnesium deficiencies can occur in soils, but it’s not usually much of a problem. And the only really trustworthy way to know if your garden soil has a sufficient magnesium unit is to have a soil test performed.
  • Generally, if you have been taking reasonable care of your garden and adding some soil amendments such as compost, you shouldn’t have much of an issue with magnesium deficiencies.

Does Epsom Salt Control Pests?

  • The short answer is no, nor does it repel the usual garden pests.

Does Epsom Salt Control Plant Diseases?

  • Here, also, the short answer is no; Epsom Salt does not control or kill any common garden disease.

Does Epsom Salt Make Plants Grow Better?

  • Also, no; unless your soil has a magnesium deficiency and Dolomitic lime may actually be a better solution; especially, when combined with some fresh compost.

Preventing Blossom End Rot (BER)

  • Blossom End Rot is a calcium deficiency coupled with an improper watering regiment. Blossom End Rot (BER) is not a magnesium deficiency. Adding Epsom salt, magnesium, will not fix the problem.

Should You Use Epsom Salts?

  • I would very strongly recommend a soil test first if your soil test shows that you have a magnesium deficiency:
  • Consider using Dolomitic lime, rather than Epsom salt. However, if your soil test indicates a magnesium deficiency and your soil PH level support it.
  • If you choose to use Epsom Salt to address the magnesium deficiency, you will need to use it in moderation and perform multiple, regularly scheduled, applications throughout the growing season.

Conclusion

While some gardeners do use Epsom salts, there are other better alternatives for providing magnesium. Therefore, I find that I cannot in good conscience recommend it to a fellow gardener.  If you feel that you must use Epsom salt, then plan it carefully and remember that more is not always better.

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Related References