Feeding your Plants, the Right Way
Plant food basics
A good gardening practice is to use fertilizers in conjunction with organic matter, such as compost, to retain and improve the structure of the soil.
A good plant food contains the main nutrients, Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) and micro nutrients such as Iron, Copper, Manganese, Molybdenum, Zinc and Boron
Nitrogen (N) is required for the formation of leaves
Phosphorus (P) is required for the formation of roots and flowers
Potassium (K) is required for the formation of flowers and fruit
Micro nutrients are only needed in very small quantities and with the main nutrients, contribute to the continued well-being of the plant.
Never apply plant food on dry plants. Stick to the recommended dosage, it is better to apply a low dosage more frequently than feeding seldom but in large amounts.
Plants in the garden need very little feeding in winter. Determine the feeding requirements of plants and feed accordingly. Best results are achieved when applying controlled released fertilizer to the soil prior to planting and continue feeding with a water-soluble plant food.
Types of plant food
Organic fertilizers like bone meal, manure and compost must be broken down by micro-organisms in the soil before the nutrients are accessible to the plants. The actual feeding is therefore a delayed process but it encourages the presence orf beneficial soil organisms and improves the structure of the soil.
Chemical fertilizers are immediately effective as they are absorbed by plants quickly and directly when in solution. The nutrients are bound with chemical salts which can easily burn roots or lead to an excess of mineral salts in smaller pots. This is the reason why chemical plant foods should not be applied to dry roots. Liquid fertilizers and water-soluble fertilizers are mixed with water and are easy to use. Granular fertilizer like 2:3:2 is sprinkled among the plants and then watered in.
A very practical plant food is controlled release fertilizer such as Osmocote. Mix the granules into the potting mix before planting and for a period of up to three months, nutrients are released for immediate use by the plants.