The best way to give plants a good feed


SOUTHSEA GREEN: With Irene Strange

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The herbaceous plants, those which come up year after year, are looking good. I hope you managed to stake them with hazel twigs during the spring – if you did, you can’t see the twigs any more because of the amount of foliage.

Maintenance is quite important at this time of year because the plants do need regular weeding. Also, because of the amount of growth, a feed would be a good idea.

If you want a fast-acting feed, then one which dissolves in water is a good choice. There are a number from which to choose, but do remember these feeds are a bit like tonics.

They do nothing for the soil, but are the equivalent of a cup of coffee – the effects soon wear off!

If it’s to be liquid feeding, then from now until the middle of September you should apply a good soak once every 10 days.

Use the maximum strength recommended on the container, but never add more because it makes the soil water too strong and can mean the plants are dehydrated.

This is because the soil water will absorb the water in the plants, just like old-fashioned weed killers.

A much better idea is to gently fork in a long-lasting fertiliser such as fish, blood and bone, a flower fertiliser or good old Vitax Q 4.

These are all best applied just before rain is forecast and the great thing is that you only need one dose to last until the end of September, after which it’s a waste of money feeding the herbaceous plants.

If you’d like perfection, the best idea is to give a liquid feed first, then the following day add the powdered fertiliser so that the liquid one starts to work. As the effects work off, the powdered one comes into play.

I’m often asked about fertilisers and the reasons why they have different formulations when you read the small print.

Well, all you have to remember is that nitrogen makes plants grow, phosphoric acid ensures a good root and seeds whilst the spice of life itself is potash because it’s responsible for healthy tissues, strength, flower colour and taste.

It’s just that we have to get the proportions right otherwise there are problems.

If we look at leafy plants such as cabbages and the lawn, they all like a high nitrogen feed.

Flowers and fruit need a high potash feed, but they all need some phosphoric acid for the roots.

On the other hand, if plants are a bit slow in growing, then give them a liquid feed which is high in nitrogen. Or, if the flowers won’t bloom, give them one high in potash.

The old boys at the allotments are really clever, as they like to buy what are known as straight fertilisers to mix up their own special formulations.