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It's Time to Fertilize
Now is a good time to add some fertilizer to your annual containers gardens. Annuals are “heavy feeders” – they require a lot of nutrients to keep up their show of flowers.

Picking the right fertilizer is important. Let me help by explaining a little about fertilizer analysis so you can feel comfortable that you are making the right choice.
The analysis is actually the three large numbers you see on every fertilizer label – put there by law – such as 10-20-10 or 10-10-10 or 18-46-0. These numbers represent the percentage (by weight) of the three major nutrients required for healthy plant growth, always in the same order: nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (N-P-K – the symbols from the periodic table).

The first number is the percentage of nitrogen in the bag. So a bag of 24-8-4 has 24 percent total nitrogen. Nitrogen provides plants with the ability to produce more chlorophyll, so they look greener and grow faster. Early season nitrogen fertilizer helps your annual plants grow big, fast.

fertilomeThe second number in the analysis is the percentage of phosphorus in the mix.  Phosphorous aids in root development and increases flowering ability and bloom size. The fertilizer industry smartly markets high phosphorus fertilizer as bloom booster. High-phosphorous fertilizer is the fertilizer to use on your container gardens now. You can place up to 4 tablespoons of a water soluble fertilizer in your drip irrigation system’s fertilizer canister or use a watering can.  I like Fertilome Rooting and Blooming (9-59-8). If you want something natural and organic, sprinkle bone meal (0-12-0) on the soil.

The third number represents the percentage of potassium. A bag of 24-8-4 has 4 percent potassium in the mix. Potassium has many functions: it guards the plant against diseases; aids in drought protection and cold tolerance; and helps root development and photosynthesis. You might consider using a high-potassium fertilizer if insects or disease have caused damage to your plants.

You’ve probably noticed that the sum of the percentages don’t equal 100 percent. That’s because there are other nutrients and filler product in fertilizer mixtures. This filler helps to apply the nutrients evenly over an area or aids water solubility.

Feed your plants now and be rewarded with more flowers next week!
What I'm doing in my yard...
  • front-flowers

    "Management by Walking Around." If you've ever worked at HP or had a management class, you've probably heard of this strategy. I don't know if it works well with people, but it works great in the yard. By regularly walking around the yard, I notice things before they get out of hand. For example, I noticed caterpillars were eating my Brussels Sprouts, a drip line had come unplugged and was spraying randomly, and that a nasty crop of thistle was starting to bloom in the back corner. I also noticed that my Butterfly Bush and Liatris by the fountain are starting to bloom and look fantastic! Honestly, this picture doesn't do them justice.

  • With tears in my eyes, we removed the deceased plum and cherry trees. Wow, my front yard looks different without that plum tree! Now I'm trying to decide what I want to replace the plum - either an Eastern Redbud Tree or a Thunderchild Crabapple. If you have either of these trees in your yard and have some advice about them, I'd love to hear it!

  • Trimming back the Petunias. When the Petunias start getting "leggy," I cut them back by 1/2 to 2/3 on each branch. It's hard to do because I'm cutting off all the flowers but I know I'll have more flowers in another week or so on prettier, compact plants. It's best to trim back your plants in the evening to avoid leaf burn.

  • Harvesting the sour cherries from my remaining tree. Four quarts and counting! 

  • Deadheading (removing spent flowers) and pulling weeds - my near constant summer chore.

What I should be doing in my yard...
  • daylily-seedpodsDeadheading and pulling weeds. While walking around I noticed some of my Daylilies are creating seedpods (like you see in this picture). Since I'm not looking to propagate Daylilies (the seeds wouldn't necessarily grow like the parent plant anyway), these need to be removed so the plant puts it's energy into its roots instead of the seeds.

  • Spraying my apples for Coddling Moth. This moth's larvae is the  "worm" inside apples. I see on my apples evidence of their activity and need to spray now. I use a combination of horticultural oil (which smothers the larvae inside the apple) and Pyrethrin (an insecticide which kills the adult moths). Coddling Moths can destroy an entire harvest of apples but a well-timed spray will take care of them.

  • Turning/harvesting the compost pile. Obviously, I don't really want to do this. My excuse this month is that it's either way too hot or too wet from the sporadic rain to want to get in there and do it. Maybe next month...

spacer.gifIf you have questions about what you're doing or what you should be doing, ask meI won't pretend I have all the answers, but I always like to talk about plants!