Planning for Feedings

When you try to anticipate the best time for fertilizing the various plants that you’re growing, several factors must be considered:

Soil types: Sands require more frequent fertilizations since they have less surface area on their particles and since the nutrients leach out so quickly.

Types of plants that you’re growing and their comparative vigor.

Age of plant as it exists in your landscape and, therefore, depth and spread of its root system.

Type of fertilizer you’ll be using, notably organic vs. inorganic.

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General considerations…
Fertilize in anticipation of new growth. In most cases that would mean 2-3 weeks prior to that new growth’s beginning.

Organic fertilizers are much lower analysis and much more slowly available for uptake by plants’ roots, so you will apply them less often. But you must be patient – it will take a while to see the results.

Plants take nutrients into their roots as elements in water solution. They don’t discern whether they came from organic or inorganic sources. However, for purposes of the rest of this discussion I will be referring to high-quality inorganic fertilizers that contain upwards of half of their nitrogen (first number of their analysis) in slow-release form.

Feeding St. Augustine is tricky because of diseases that can be promoted by nitrogen.

St. Augustine: Early to mid-April; early to mid-June; early September. (None applied in mid-summer due to propensity for gray leaf spot disease if N is applied in hot weather.

Common bermuda, properly fed, is a handsome and durable lawngrass.

Common bermuda: Early April; early June; early August; early October.

Hybrid dwarf bermudas: Early April; repeat on 6-week intervals until mid-fall.

Palisades zoysia is one of the recommended types.

Zoysias: Early April; Early June; early September.

Buffalograss: Mid-May.

Fescue: Early November; mid-February; mid-April.

Live oak’s massive root system will be predominantly near the soil surface (same with most trees). Therefore, there’s little need to poke holes. Surface feeding as you fertilize the grass will be fine.

Trees: Same schedule as turfgrass. In fact, they will compete with the turf for nutrients so no need to make special effort to feed them. Perhaps make one extra pass around the drip line with the rotary spreader, but be certain you’re not using a weed-and-feed product.

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Shrubs, vines and groundcovers: Every two months beginning early April. If you are feeding new plants or plants that were damaged by cold be careful that you do not overdo things. Be patient as they gear up to start growing.

A handsome collection of annuals and container plants will be made much better by regular feedings.

Annual flowers: Two weeks after planting (half-rate application); monthly thereafter. Water by hand to wash granules off leaves and away from stems.

Perennials: Monthly during periods of active growth and leading up to bloom. Many types will go dormant part of the year. Do your best not to apply fertilizer directly around them at those times.

Fruit trees: As new growth begins in the spring and again in early fall.

Vegetables: Two weeks after planting; Repeat every 2-3 weeks until harvest to keep vegetables growing actively. Sideband the granules along the rows of vegetables and water by hand to wash granules off the leaves.

Container plants: You may prefer to apply a diluted solution of a water-soluble plant food to these each time that you water them. That will give them sustained growth. Many gardeners also include an encapsulated, timed-release fertilizer in their potting soils.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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