Fertilization schedule key to happy plants


 TORRINGTON – Have you ever had annuals, perennials or vegetables that never look as full or bright as they did when you first brought them home? This, according to Jeff Jones, is a problem many people run into.

Jones, who owns Great Gardens, said a reason for this is a lack of continued fertilization.

“Part of the reason things look so good here is we fertilize once a week,” Jones explained.

Great Gardens uses a liquid fertilizer that runs through their irrigation system. The same fertilizer, called Nature’s Source, is available to customers at the greenhouse.

Often, gardeners put fertilizer in the soil when they plant and that is the last time they fertilize.

“Most home gardeners rarely fertilize because it takes time,” Jones said. He likes to recommend a garden hose attachment that distributes fertilizer while watering. Jones said this is usually the quickest method. Other types of liquid fertilizer can be mixed into a watering can.

According to Jones, fertilizing plants every week or two makes a big difference in how they look.

Jones said when he plants his vegetables, he puts a long-term fertilizer in the soil. Then, he waits about two weeks before starting with liquid fertilizer.

Liquid fertilizer can be absorbed through the soil, but also through the leaves of a plant. 

“If they absorb it through the leaves, it helps things immediately,” Jones said.

Great Gardens offers chemical based products and organic products.

“Generally, the organic fertilizers are based on chicken litter,” Jones said.

For those who are not familiar with fertilizing their plants, there is a wide variety of products to choose from. Generally, the three elements listed on the label are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Along with these, there can be several trace minerals to help plants grow.

On a fertilizer bag the three numbers (for example, 18-24-12) show the amounts of minerals in a fertilizer. In the example, nitrogen would be 18, phosphorus 24 and potassium 12.

Jones said essentially, a high nitrogen number will allow for a lot of vegetative and green growth. It will make the plant bigger. Phosphorus, the middle number, will help a plant bloom. Potassium, the last number, will keep a plant green and healthy looking.

One of the fertilizers sold by Great Gardens lists the numbers 9-58-8. That higher amount of phosphorus will help out blooming plants. 

“When your plant is blooming or is setting flowers, that’s the most energy it uses anytime during its life,” Jones said. “So, during a blooming period, that’s when it needs some extra fertilizer to give it all the energy it needs.”

Jones said right now he has been applying extra phosphorus to tomato plants to keep them the right color.

Along with regular fertilization, Jones stressed the importance of a watering on a schedule, because the plants will acclimate to that schedule.

“If I have hanging baskets at my house that need watered every day, I’m going to water those probably first thing in the morning,” he said. Setting up a drip system is the most effective.

Later in the summer, Jones said hanging baskets and tomatoes will need more water because their root systems become larger.

Though watering seems simple, it can cause a significant amount of damage done improperly. Jones said plants are more likely to recover from underwatering than overwatering.

Jones said he also receives questions about tree planting. He recommends a rooting hormone to get the roots to grow faster. He does not recommend adding any extra supplements to the soil, since the tree needs to acclimate to the soil where it was planted.

The staff at Great Gardens is willing to help their customers with growing problems or insect problems. Jones said last year, many were having issues with grasshoppers and the greenhouse provided customers with products to rid their plants of grasshoppers. They also carry iron supplements to green up plants that have turned yellow in the summer.

“Being open year-round has really made a difference,” Jones said. “It gives people now just place to buy something but someplace to go and ask a lot of questions.”

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© 2021-The Torrington Telegram

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