Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fertilizing the Plants - container fertilizer mixes

I know it is early in the summer, but we have had some really active weather lately.  Between the wind, the rain and the heat, we are getting a compressed version of a whole season in a few days.  All of the rain has helped the lawns and gardens grow, but has definitely been too much for some containers and other plantings.  

If your plants are looking a little tired, this is a great time to give them some fertilizer.  Every time a potted plant gets watered, the soil gets rinsed or leached of valuable nutrients your plants need and want, so go ahead and help them out.  Any type of water soluble fertilizer will do the trick.  Just follow the directions and don't add more than recommended.  Look for one that has 3 equal numbers, like a 10-10-10 or 15-15-15 or even a 20-20-20 formulation or something close to it.  Your pots will thank you by greening up and blooming better for you. 
If you want something more organic, you can make your own fertilizer for container plants.
Dry Fertilizer
This is an all-around fertilizer good for flower gardens, ornamental plants, and lawns. Mix together four parts seed meal, one part dolomite lime, and one-half part each of bone meal and kelp meal. Make sure you measure by volume and not by weight. The seed meal provides nitrogen, the lime balances out the alkaline nature of the seed meal, bone meal provided phosphorus, and kelp meal contributes potassium and many micronutrients. This makes a balanced N-P-K fertilizer. To use, mix it with your garden soil or sprinkle on individual plants. Combine with good organic compost for best results.  In the spring, before planting, sprinkle 4 to 6 quarts in each 100 square foot planting area. Once the crops are established, side dress with more fertilizer as needed.
Seed meal is readily available at farm stores. The other ingredients are available in small quantities at garden shops. For the best prices, order online or buy in bulk.
Liquid Fertilizer
Liquid fertilizer adds a nice boost to house plants and the garden by providing nutrients and trace elements. You can make your own liquid fertilizer using green plants. Put grass clippings, weeds, green leaves from trees, and the leaves of other plants in a large bin. Make sure all the ingredients are fresh. Fill the bin with water,  and let sit for about a month in warm weather. Once it takes on a barnyard smell, it is ready to use. Don't worry about rat-tailed weevils that may be floating in the bin. This is just another sign that it's ready to use.  Before use, dilute to the look of weak tea.

Advanced Fertilizer
Commercial Fertilizer always gives a three number ratio, those numbers are for Nitrogen-N, Phosphorus-P, and Potassium-K.  If you want to mix your own general-purpose organic fertilizer, try combining individual amendments in the amounts shown here. Just pick one ingredient from each of the three groups below. Because these amendments may vary in the amount of nutrients they contain, this method won’t give you a mixture with a precise NPK ratio. The ratio will be approximately between 1-2-1 and 4-6-3, with additional insoluble phosphorus and potash. The blend will provide a balanced supply of nutrients that will be steadily available to plants and encourage soil microorganisms to thrive.
Nitrogen (N) 
  • 2 parts blood meal
  • 3 parts fish meal
Phosphorus (P) 
  • 3 parts bonemeal
  • 6 parts rock phosphate or colloidal phosphate
Potassium (K) 
  • 1 part kelp meal
  • 6 parts greensand

A few last fertilizer ideas
Sprinkle used coffee grounds on your lawn to increase the nitrogen and phosphorus levels, both necessary for healthy growth.  Many coffee shops will give you their used grounds for free just for the asking.  Save your own coffee grounds to use in your container plantings.  Use a soup spoon to ladle them around plants in containers, then work into the soil with a fork.
Build a compost pile by putting organic vegetable and fruit materials, grass clippings, and other lawn debris in a pile or a compost barrel. Turn occasional and add new kitchen scraps—except meat products—and eventually you will have rich soil-like compost. Sprinkle over your yard, use a broom to break up clumps and distribute compost evenly, then water well to help it absorb into the roots.
Using these ideas for homemade fertilizer, you can help your plants grow beautifully.

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