Have you ever wondered why some people seem to have bigger, healthier plants? Like people, plants need regular food and water. To get the most out of your plants – especially plants grown in containers and hanging baskets – you need to fertilize.
Fertilizing doesn’t have to be complicated. The absolutely foolproof way to get great results for your container-grown plants is with a controlled-release fertilizer. This type of fertilizer looks like small yellow pellets. The amount of fertilizer to apply depends on the size of your container (the rates will be listed on your fertilizer label). Just sprinkle the prescribed amount onto the top of the soil, and make sure not to let any pellets sit on the leaves of your plants. The pellets not only release just the right amount of fertilizer to your plants over time; they are also controlled by temperature. When it’s cooler outside, no fertilizer is released – which is good, because your plants won’t be actively growing in cooler temperatures anyway. The pellets last for months (again, see the details on the packaging), so you should only need a couple applications to last a season. There is no need to worry about mixing up water soluble fertilizers, getting the wrong concentration, or how often to fertilize – a good all-purpose controlled-release fertilizer is a worry-free way to dramatically better plants.
Now if you’d like to know a little more about fertilizer…
All fertilizers are labeled with three numbers. These numbers represent the ratio of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) present in the fertilizers, in that order. In simple terms, nitrogen promotes foliage growth, phosphorous helps plants send down healthy roots and promotes flowering, and potassium builds up disease resistance.
Armed with this information, you can target different fertilizer ratios for particular scenarios. Applying more phosphorous during early stages can accelerate rooting. If you find your tomatoes are big and bushy but aren’t producing much in the way of fruit, you might be giving them too much nitrogen.
Water-soluble synthetic fertilizers make nutrients available to plants right away, and you can give your plants too much of a good thing. Be sure to dilute the fertilizer in water at the correct rate. Fertilize every third irrigation. In between, water thoroughly with clear water and make sure it runs through the bottom to avoid salt buildups in the soil.