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It is now mid-February and the warm weather this week has our plants showing signs of breaking dormancy. The daffodils are emerging, the roses are budding, and our daylilies are starting to show the first signs of new spring growth. Now would be a great time to add some fertilizer to your plants to provide the nutrients they need for the surge of new growth they will be putting on over the next few months. If you are new to gardening and don’t have a lot of experience you may want to try adding a balanced fertilizer to your plants (such as 10-10-10 or 15-15-15) that you can purchase at your local garden center. If you don’t know what those numbers mean don’t worry just ask someone at the garden center for a ‘balanced fertilizer’ and they can assist you in making a selection. What we mean by ‘balanced’ is that the fertilizer has equal parts nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. These are the three primary soil borne nutrients that your plants need for healthy growth. There are other ‘secondary’ or ‘minor’ nutrients but the three primary nutrients (Nitrogen-N, Phosporous-P, and Potassium-K) are the most important ones.
If you are a more advanced gardener and are looking to maximize your plant performance and are willing to spend more time and effort on a fertilization program you might consider getting a soil test. With a soil test you scoop up some of the soil from your garden and send it off to a testing lab for analysis. The lab will tell you exactly what nutrients to add to your soil and at what rate. A soil test will cost about $20 and will take about a week or so to get the results. Soil tests are the best way to know exactly what your soil needs and to ensure that you are not over or under fertilizing your plants.
This is just a very brief overview and in future posts we’ll discuss how to use compost and compost tea to provide organic nutrients to your soil and plants.