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Learn what N-P-K ratio is best for each plant. Fertilizing

The one size fits all theory most certainly does not apply

to fertilizers. Proper fertilization requires a little bit of research and knowledge, something your local greenhouse will be able to assist you with, but let's review the basics. Synthetic and organic fertilizers are identified by their

N-P-K ratio. The first number is nitrogen. Nitrogen assists in the development of strong healthy foliage. The second number represents phosphorus which helps with root and flower development and growth. The last number listed is potassium or potash. Potassium is essential for overall plant health. Fertilizers are available in slow release formulas that

slowly let nutrients into the soil over a set period of time. This type is generally included in potting mixes. Soluble fertilizers are dissolved in water and applied directly to the plant. They are easily stored, simple to apply and work well in soils with high organic matter. These synthetic formulas are water soluble and therefore absorbed by plants quickly. This makes them ideal for providing a boost to plants that are not thriving, just starting out or recovering from pests or disease. Unfortunately, these fertilizers will leach into surrounding ground water if they are over applied, releas- ing all of their nutrients at once. Organic fertilizers include compost, manure, seaweed,

bone meal and blood meal. Many are often sold in concen- trated mixes. Since these fertilizers tend to release half of their nutrients in the first season and continue to break down in the soil over several years it hard to over fertil- ize with organics. Organics are safe and improve the soil, releasing micronutrients necessary for plant growth, but just because organics are safe, does not mean they will work for all plants. Too much compost, rich in nitrogen, can negatively impact root vegetables such as carrots, turnips and potatoes by stimulating plant growth and delaying the development and ripening of fruits. As a rule of thumb, most annuals, vegetables and

container plants will benefit from fertilization, just be sure to ask which type and formula are best for each plant. To confuse novice gardeners even further, the pH

(hydrogen level) of the soil must also be taken into consid- eration. There may be sufficient nutrients in the soil, but if the pH levels are too high or low they may not be absorbed by plants. Acidic soils, containing a pH less than six, are preferred by evergreens, azaleas and blueberries. Alkaline soils, with pH levels greater than seven, are preferred by plants such as lilacs and clematis. Weed little and often to keep up. Soil tests will let you know what minerals are lacking

in your area as well as your soil's pH level. Armed with this information and your list of plants your local garden centres will help you locate the best product for you needs. Weeding

Weeds, they are the bane of every garden and gardener.

They are a continuous, returning issue and each infernal species provides its own problems and requires its own technique for abolition. While herbicides have been moder- ately useful in preventing or killing off various weeds, their use has an equally toxic effect on many beneficial plants, insects and ground water. There does not seem to be any miracle cure for weeds on our horizon. Annual weeds such as chickweed can be controlled with

regular hoeing or tilling but they must be loosened from the ground while they are young, well before flower or seed production. Once weeds go to seed you can look forward to years of dealing with them. Perennial weeds such as dandelions and thistles require

hand weeding to remove their tuberous roots. This is time consuming but the most effective way of ridding yourself of them. The smallest piece of root left behind will develop into another weed so running them over with the tiller just multiplies your problems. Fabrics and mulches will help with future invasions and

limit your weeding headaches. Weeding little and often by hand is the key. Once weeds get too large they will not only have developed extensive root systems that steal nutri- ents from your plants but if they go to seed, you'll have even more to eradicate over the next several years − one dandelion can produce over 2,000 seeds! q

Spring 2015 • 19

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