Feed and nutrients for different types of plants

In order to develop properly, maintain strength, keep a good vitamin balance and present the best looks possible we need nutrients. It is obvious; a well-balanced diet with plenty of variety helps us be at our best. The same goes for animals with lots of products now available on shelves. The same also applies to our plants, both indoors and outdoors. When we put it like this, it makes perfect sense. However, when I chat with our customers it not always is this simple. That is why it is going to be about feed and nutrients for different types of plants today. Just to make it a bit easier to remember and understand and to make your plants look best.

Gardening outside really takes off around March, with tree and hedging planting, perennial and shrub maintenance, pond cleaning and so on. Most plants only really wake up at that stage and are in need of extra nutritional help from us. This time of year it is mostly about strengthening the root system, helping it to develop and in turn deliver better amounts of nutrients to the plant later on. In my opinion, there is nothing that works better for this than blood, fish and bone, bonemeal or root growth with mycorrhizal fungi.

Any one of those three options is packed with great stuff that will make your plants strong and healthy. The first two options are exactly what it says on the tin, so be prepared for a bit of a scent when you open the box. What I do is sprinkle it around the base of my plant and water it gently down straight away. This way it does not attract any of my dogs or cats. And even though you can’t really overdo this feed, one little handful is plenty. You will see great and long-lasting results with this food. It is suitable for all plants outside, whether it is hydrangea, lily, nepeta or banana tree, this stuff works for all. Use it in the springtime, from February to April, depending on when you manage to get out into the garden.

When all is well and we are heading for June or so it will be beneficial to think about another dose of healthy grub for the garden. Most plants are now in full swing, many producing blooms and so all the energy is gone towards the flowers. They will definitely need a bit of help and nitrogen and phosphorus would be high on the list of feeds to use. There is a good selection of feeds that contain both of those, so no worries there.

I would like to tell you about the one I am using, both in the garden centre and at home. It is a liquid seaweed extract with added iron. Iron!- you say, isn’t it only for ericaceous plants? The short answer is yes, but! The amount of iron added to this feed is not very high, so it will not change the acidity of your soil all on its own, and I do find all of my plants benefiting hugely from this feed.

Leaves are definitely much healthier and greener, blooms stay on for longer, and even my cucumber plants are producing greater amounts of fruit. Olive trees are much fuller, and roses keep flowering for longer so all in all a great feed for this time of year. It comes in a 1-litre bottle and lasts a good bit, depending of course on the size of your garden. But you could also get creative, especially now, when we should watch our pennies a bit.

We are lucky to be living close to the sea, and how nice it is really to go for a stroll on the beach once in a while. Take a little bag with you and pick odd bits of dead, detached seaweed lying on the ground. When you get this home, put it into a container and fill it with water. Cover and leave for a week or two. Add a bit of sequestered iron, or any other iron food you might have, and off we go!

Now for acid-loving plants such as camellias, rhododendrons, heathers, azaleas, crinodendron and so on you will need a bit stronger stuff than the seaweed with iron. There is a huge selection of ericaceous feeds in every garden centre. They do not cost an awful lot either, so try and get one if you are growing any of those plants. Slow-release granules are possibly the easiest but have a look at what is on offer, you might prefer liquid form.

For roses, there is nothing better than a touch of manure once a year, really. I always apply this to the bases of all my plants in the late autumn. I do not dig it in, mix it or whatever else, literally just drop it gently around the plant and let nature do its job. Come spring with the amount of rain we have in Ireland all the nutrients would be washed into the soil below and when my rose wakes up the food is ready to be absorbed.

That really is all I do. Plants seem happy, and there is no need for overcomplicating things. All the basic needs are covered there without going to too much fuss. Of course, there is plenty of specific feeds for specific things like foliar feed for buxus plants, citrus feed, bonsai feed and so on. If you need them, you need them. But those are feeds targeting special types of needs and plants. For good all-rounders, the lot mentioned above will do just fine.

I will quickly touch down on indoor feeds for everyday use. Again, should you require a specific type for a specific issue, ask in any garden centre. Otherwise, if nothing bad is happening to your indoor collection a potassium concoction or calcium mixture will sort it out. Both are homemade, easy to prepare and we will be using leftovers, so recycling at its best!

When you finish your marmalade or jam, wash the glass jar and lid. Eat a banana or two and put those peels into one of your glass jars. Fill it with cold water, screw on the lid and keep it for a week or two. Water your plants with this mixture once or twice a year, the results are great. The other jar is used for a few raw cracked eggshells (not from boiled eggs!). Crash the eggshells into the jar, fill it with cold water, screw the lid on and keep it for a week. Water with this once or twice a year again. Results guaranteed. To be honest, this is all you should be doing when it comes to general feeding. If you don’t fancy DIY-ing get yourself an indoor Baby Bio feed, it does the same job!

Whichever way you think you want to go about it, please do. Sometimes our soil is not good enough to keep up with all the supplement needs of our plants. Especially when they are in pots or containers. Good compost will always only last that long, and after that it is up to us to keep the plants happy. When they are happy though, they show it and make us proud!

Thank you

Magda O’ Byrne


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