Wednesday 2 December 2015

Buying professional fertilisers

New readers might be surprised when I keep going on about my Yaramila. They might also wonder how this compound satisfies most of my fertiliser needs. When they check at their gardening store nothing anywhere near like it is to be seen.

We are back to the issue of separate professional and amateur horticultural markets. Not like the pesticide market supported by a pseudo legal framework that leads  the gardener into thinking he is committing a sin should he sniff out a source of professional product! 
With fertilisers there is a barrier too. The grower trade is just not interested in selling small packets of often useless chemical to ignorant gardeners who ask silly questions. They are happy however to sell the same useless popular illusions in large quantities to those gardeners who discover a professional store.

About my Yaramila
Note the analysis
It’s not that this fertiliser exclusively is the best thing since sliced bread!  A stupid analogy, it would be more accurate to compare it with Brenda’s lovely homemade manna. 
The point about growers’ fertilisers is that the better ones provide a balance of nutrients  usually including nitrogen, phosphate, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulphur and a blend of common trace elements. They are usually concentrated and sold at competitive price in 25kg bags.
It is not in my brief today to discuss whether your garden is actually deficient in any nutrient at all and how much extra might benefit your plants. Many gardening situations require no fertiliser at all. 
Perhaps amateur fertilisers are not such a bad thing. They may be next to useless and in the case of bonemeal completely useless but they do satisfy the gardener’s emotional aspirations and if used in excess do little harm.

Several professional fertilisers are comparable to Yaramila and if my local East Riding Horticulture stocked a different but similar product I would  buy it.
I particularly like Yaramila because of its concentration, balance and wide nutrient content. It is so formulated that its granules come as a hard prill. This makes it easy to spread when I apply it. I can even dribble a few granules through my fingers to top dress my houseplants. 
I don’t find it to be deliquescent and become wet when stored - even for several years - in an opened bag. Some fertilisers like the dreaded 20:10:10 do and after a few months turn to slush!
Don’t make the mistake that because prills are hard they are slow release. They are not and when scattered on the soil surface rapidly dissolve in rain and wash in. As a no dig gardener it would be anathema to me to work fertiliser in. Do not apply such soluble products touching delicate plant roots!
Although such fertilisers have soluble content they are usually unsuitable to dissolve in water to make a liquid feed. Regular readers will know I do use Yaramila as a light top dressing to my container grown plants as a time saving alternative to liquid feeding.

Professional growers who have the economy of scale and specialist product lines might chose a different analysis of Yaramila than I do

A visit to East Riding Horticulture.

Somewhat  daunting
This trade horticultural supplier is for me a short drive to Sutton upon Derwent. Were it not owned by a former student and had I not been buying stuff from such places for the last fifty years I would be somewhat intimidated! You drive into a yard packed with all kinds of durable materials stacked between industrial barns. What appears to be a small bungalow is the sales centre. When you enter you find several busy offices. You poke your face through a door and eventually someone looks your way. 
This hurdle over they are really friendly and you make your order. They usually ring their storeman to check the product is in stock. They make out a chitty, take your money and direct you to the store. If the storeman is busy you find him in an Aladdin’s cave filled with wondrous products. He carries your purchase to your car and you drive away.
If all this scares you it might be easier to order by telephone and pay for delivery! 

Rub the lamp
Friends who comes to stay often demand I drive them round to my supplier to buy their Yaramila. Harry Kennedy felt that all the Preston rain had depleted his garden and later reported subsequent stimulation. Brother-in-law Dave wished to upgrade from growmore. Both thought £23 well spent on 25kg Yaramila. Why that’s less than a pound a kilogram!
(I often recommend growmore to those amateurs who only want small quantities. Also to those who might get carried away with highly concentrated professional product - you should apply fertilisers such as Yaramila at lower rates. There are a few excellent amateur general fertilisers but they are not my subject today. They are usually inorganic.)
I used to use inorganic growmore which supplies three major nutrients, N P and K

Use your Yaramila prill at half the rate you would apply growmore
Most counties have similar suppliers. Most are a little more user friendly although there are a few that act as if they are doing you a favour.
East Riding Horticulture do not do ‘click it’ web sales but do take telephone and e-mail orders.  Most similar firms do have an internet basket, wheel barrow, cart or lorry! For many readers it is best to order supplies on the net. Although I am today recommending you use professional fertilisers be aware that there are gimmicky professional products too especially in the sports turf trade.
Although East Riding supply me my Yaramila, iron sulphate, dolomitic limestone and recently a new knapsack sprayer do not assume that for products such as peat, compost and mulching material they will necessarily be cheaper than amateur outlets.

I cannot resist telling you that a local nurseryman splits his Yaramila into amateur quantities to sell to his customers. What service! Best of luck to him.

Use these links to my former fertiliser offerings

Don’t use bonemeal

There are circumstances where fertilisers are beneficial in Winter

It’s best to buy a big bag of fertiliser than lots of different small ones

General fertiliser on lawns

My first ever post on fertiliser


  1. Just found this site
    Yaramila is available through eBay (written as Yara Mila) as well.
    Michele Bland

  2. This is a timely post Roger, there are no longer farm merchants in this area which is a sign of the times, but my sister, who spends most of the summer in Shropshire, was able to buy 15:15:15 in 25Kg bags but since the introduction of legislation in the form of a need to have a Explosives Precursors and Poisons (EPP) licence this has proved impossible. The local supplier, who is more of a feed merchant, stopped stocking any fertilizer above Growmore strength as it wasn't worth the expense or hassle and another source where she isn't known refused to supply it even though she had plenty of ID as she wasn't a local. The security services have issued a poster and leaflet basically themed "Know Your Customer" and should any supplier have serious doubts they are to inform the Anti-terrorism Hotline. I wonder if maybe some suppliers are over-reacting as I imagine that with most legislation it is better to be on the safe side, I doubt that anyone requiring fertilizer for nefarious purposes would obtain it legitimately? It may be that this particular fertilizer falls under the legislation and others which are equally effective don't, I am sure that the 9.2% Ammoniacal nitrogen is the stumbling block but I am not a chemist so am unable to comment further.

    1. Thanks Rick
      So there are thousands of tons of 20;10:10 in farmers barns and they won't sell a cwt to your sister. On the same basis they might not sell amateur sulphate of ammonia!
      They are just using it as an excuse to your sister because they cannot be bothered with small quantities. I am reminded of my lady student who paid all her own expenses to get her spraying certificates and a firm would not sell her a litre of glyphosate

    2. You are probably correct Roger, it could be an example of the standard of service consumers receive today but usually less so in rural areas.

  3. A very interesting and informative post, which has got me thinking, a dangerous occupation, i use rose fertiser or vitax Q8(I think it's called) because of its nutrient balance and trace elements. These are readerly available in small quantities. Are these not better than grow more. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

  4. Replies
    1. Vitax fertilisers are excellent Brian and many gardeners use rose fertiliser as their 'bulk buy fertiliser' for general use, It does for example contain magnesium that growmore does not. Many rose fertilisers have trace elements too.
      I agree that either may be better than growmore. What I want to do is steer gardeners away from those many inappropriate organic fertilisers or special mixtures and indeed in most cases 'single nutrient' fertilisers such as superphosphate

    2. I have found 25kg Yaramila on Amazon for £30 delivered which I would have thought was good value, especially as you say it does not deteriorate when open. We have a large Horticultural merchant not too far away in Evesham, I will have to see if they sell it.
      Thanks for the info.

  5. How exciting… I was, sitting down for another one of your always very interesting articles, this time about a topic close to my heart too, and the first thing I saw was the logo for Norsk Hydro, the Norwegian State oil company! Yes, they do make fertiliser too, as seen in the classic movie ‘The heroes of Telemark’ and the resent remake seen on More4 about the production of heavy water during WW2.

    Anyway, back to fertilisers. Over the years I have tried a lot of different types, and I have gone without probably just as much – without any detrimental effect to the garden. I suppose I could have got MORE flowers with fertilisers - or better or more specialised fertilisers, but they are so expensive so I have often thought – I’ll rather buy a new plant or two than spending money on another box. In my previous garden I ended up using slow release Miracle Grow once a year on all the plants except the roses, they got rose feed 3 times a year, nothing on the bulbs – and I used tomato feed on the tomatoes. That’s it, my whole fertiliser regime explained.

    After moving house and having my whole garden in pots and containers I had to re-evaluate my fertiliser schedule and I tried looking for a low-cost product. The last one I tried was Vitax Q4, but even at £6.99 for 2.5kg I think that was too expensive. My biggest problem is how to dose it, as the more ‘professional’ the fertiliser is, the less likely it is to have instructions suitable for my type of gardening. I have around 700 plants in pots and containers ranging from 0.5L to 40L – when instruction says how much to use per square meter it doesn’t really help me….but weight of fertiliser according to pot size in litre would have been helpful, I could just weigh out a measuring spoon and add accordingly. Have you done any calculations like that for YaraMila? How do you use it for pots and containers and even indoor plants to be sure not to overfeed? I saw the product application advice on the producer’s website, where they list all the different vegetables and fruit and application in kg/ha (!!) – but no list of ornamental plants, what do you mainly use this for? I am looking for a good, all round and very cheap fertiliser mainly for ornamental plants, I am fine using tomato feed for the veg I grow – tomatoes and strawberries.

    Sorry this became such a long comment but you have once again written about a topic I am very interested in, and as I am in a rather ‘gardener friend vacuum’ in real life, my only means of ‘asking around’ is here online. I really appreciate all the things I pick up this way!
    Take care, Helene.

    1. What a challenging and interesting comment HELENE!
      I try in my posts to address the questions you have put - but they are not in the same one. I am sure you will have used some of the links to find some of the answers. Here are a few rambling comments!
      I have checked the analysis of Vitax Q4 - it looks a little low in nitrogen but I suggest if you use Yaramila at half the Vitax rate you won’t go far wrong
      As to professional recommendations If you have them, they are easy to equate to small scale if you remember that one killogram per hectare equates to one gram per TEN square metre eg if a recommendation is 300kg per hectare that is 30gm/sq meter which is about a good old fashioned one ounce per square yard!
      Actual working out a fertiliser need is difficult because there are so many variables such as fertiliser analysis, nutrients in soil, nature of a compost, nature of plant, condition of plant, time of the year....
      My own rates and timings are very intuitive. NEVER try to work rates out to scientific accuracy. With a fifty per cent error you will be in the right ball park. After all John Innes 1 compost is half the strength of JI2 and yet sometimes the choice between them is marginal.
      It is much more likely you will need fertiliser for plants in pots (because of leaching out) than in the ground. My very small pots get as little as 6 -10 granules of yaramila where as my 20 litre tub containing my calomondin orange gets about an ounce four times a year.
      I never have soil analysed and judge need by observation of plant growth.
      Other than my veg -where they are perhaps an unnecessary luxury as my soil benefits from recycling all my organic matter and my lawn, where I use much less than the average gardener, I hardly use fertiliser on my outdoor ornamentals at all.- and zero in my cemetery gardens and on the village plot. (I have prompted by Peter Williams, used a little more on certain plants recently recognising that our local sandy soil is very prone to leaching. He even described one of my slightly chlorotic rhododendrons as ‘hungry”)
      I use the same Yaramila where I judge fertiliser is needed on my veg, fruit and flowers. I believe the one I use is formulated for nurseryman who grow ornamentals

    2. Thanks for this Roger, I will look into YaraMila next spring.

  6. I have a small no dig setup for general veg in a 4 bed rotation (sort of!). Would it be reasonable to say a handful of Yara Mila per sq m per year? Thanks for your help, and of course for your very interesting blog!

    1. Hi Peter
      My latest but one post might answer your question better!
      But depending on how big your hand yes! Two for brassicas?
      It would be wasteful of the nitrogen content if late Autumn or Winter


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