The fact that most plants will grow without any additional feeding can be confusing to novice gardeners. Although plants can and do make a certain amount of food in their leaves, they also derive vast amounts of nutrients, minerals and trace elements from healthy soils. The trouble is most garden soils have been depleted of nutrients by years of plant growth and decades of rain and some garden soils, particularly on new housing estates is a thin layer of topsoil over rubble and more. This food source needs to be replaced or your plants will start to show signs of stress.
To get the best from all your plants, whether they grow in containers or in the soil they need supplementary feeding.
In spring your plants are bursting into growth and preparing to flower so you need to provide a rich, instant food that supports flowers, fruit and foliage. If you are short on time then a long lasting slow or controlled release fertiliser is a good choice, you simply mix it into your soil or planting compost.
But if you regularly water your plants and containers then choose a fast food, which will deliver short bursts of fertiliser to plants that need it now. Choose a soluble powder to make a liquid feed that can be applied to the compost or in emergencies used as a foliar feed.
For the fastest and easiest route you can opt for a ready diluted, ready to use liquid fertiliser, but remember that you are in effect paying for the water! Ready to use plant food is already diluted to the correct level so you simply add it to moist compost. It usually contains high levels of potash and micronutrients that are just what your plants need to perform to their full potential. And because it is ready to use, you don’t need to fiddle about with watering cans and measuring devices. But it is an expensive choice especially if you have lots of plants to feed.
Ready to use plant foods are a great choice if you have just a few plants indoors and out and a perfect feed to administer to hungry or stressed plants.
What is NPK?
When you buy a packet of fertiliser on the container there will be a value for NPK on it, but what does it mean. Simply, it’s the ratio of the proportions of the three major nutrients in a plant fertiliser. To enhance flowers and fruit look for a fertiliser high in K. This is the potash or potassium (K from the Latin word Kalim which means potassium) needed to encourage the development of strong, healthy flowers. Your plants need lots of potash to support the production of flowers.
It’s really essential for fruiting crops like tomatoes and peppers, after all the flowers form first and then the fruit, so you need lots of flowers for a good crop. It is also vital for sustaining plant growth and plays a major part in disease resistant. Plants with a sweetness, such as carrots, parsnips and fruit need good supplies of potash to build sugars and starches.
Your plant food choice needs a generous proportion of nitrogen (N) too, for healthy leaves. Nitrogen fuels daily plant growth, so it’s important for leafy vegetables and foliage plants.
P is for Phosphorous – it’s needed by all plants to encourage strong, vigorous root growth and it also helps with seed germination. Young plants that are still growing their root system and also fruiting plants that are forming seed all need a good supply of phosphorus. It is also very important for root crops, such as carrots, parsnips and Swedes. And it’s needed by lawns to build up the root system and enable the grass to withstand flood and drought better.
Value for money
For the very best value for money opt for a soluble plant food that you dissolve with water in your watering can before you feed. This creates a ready to use fertiliser that can be watered onto the soil and over the foliage of your plants for fast acting results. It’s the perfect choice for containerised plants and it gives fast, effective results. Look for a formulation that contains trace elements and micronutrients, which are important where mineral deficiencies in the soil or compost may be present. Check the packaging to find out how many litres of plant food your chosen product will make.
Richard Jackson’s Flower Power Plant Food is a tried and tested formulation with all the key nutrients that plants need as well as seaweed extract, high levels of potash, a wetting agent to help the nutrients reach the roots and it contains chelated trace elements, as used by professional growers to enhance nutrient uptake. A 1.6kg pack will make 2520 litres (or 554 gallons) of diluted feed.