|Remember when considering fertiliser that some gardens do not need any at all
|Useful balanced analysis
It is a great general purpose amateur fertiliser that provides almost all essential plant nutrients and for the gardener has multiple uses. This tells you something - that you do not need individual fertilisers for each plant you grow.
|David bred this euphorbia
|Fertilisers are concentrated sources of nutrients and should not be confused with bulky manure
Provided that a nutrient is actually available in the soil water a plant will absorb what it needs. This might be an active or passive biological process and plants are masters of selection.
I go further than I ought to and rabbit on how the commercial fertiliser ‘Yaramila’ serves all my fertiliser needs. It may be a case of “do what I say rather than do what I do”. Most gardeners will want to use a degree of variation between ‘slow release’, ‘solid’ and ‘liquid feed’. Single nutrient fertilisers are generally inappropriate although I do love iron sulphate for my lawn (actually two nutrients, iron and sulphur).
|Iron sulphate is a single chemical, an example of what is sometimes called a 'straight fertiliser'
Lots of little bags of fertiliser for such as orchids, turf, vegetables, cabbage, flowers, shrubs and you name it, cost an absolute fortune.
You might enquire why commercial growers do buy specialist fertilisers. That’s the economy of scale - they are buying exactly what their specialist crop and/or their soil needs - in 25kg bags or bigger! It’s not that their plants grow better - although they often do, it’s that they are not buying unnecessary resources.
(Nutrients added to the soil unused that season - other than nitrogen - will usually remain in the soil for next year).
Other than pH testing kits, do-it-yourself stuff at the garden centre is an almost complete waste of time. Don’t put too much faith in pH tests either but it is sometimes useful to have a rough check with that colour indicator you have in the cupboard.
I confess that I have never had a laboratory soil test for my soil. Such testing does have an important place for farmers and commercial growers who work on knife edges of accuracy but is generally of little use to gardeners. They are difficult to interpret for the vast range of different things we grow; so many plants have different requirements and are in small and very variable parts of the garden.
For the major nutrient nitrogen, soil samples sent for testing will vary by a huge amount depending on when you collect it. Your best measure of the soil’s store of nitrogen is to estimate its organic content.
It surprises me how many gardeners are ignorant of the physical make up of their soil as to it’s composition of sand, silt and clay. It tells you a great deal about its nutrient retention and availability.
Here again professional texture analysis is only of limited help and it is more appropriate to apply common sense investigation. What is the general nature of the soil in your area? Is your soil formed on chalk or limestone? There are simple tests that you can do with your fingers or a bottle of water to learn about its sand, silt and clay.
If you are a beginner the best advice is to have a talk with a knowledgeable neighbour and to have a walk round and see what plants locally thrive.
If you are an experienced gardener just looking at your plants will tell you much about their nutrition.
Which general fertiliser?
As to my penchant for using Yaramila. I like it because it comes with a good balanced analysis, suitable strength and in the form of an easily spread and stored prill. This granule is soluble (but not soluble enough to be suitable for liquid feeding) and does not go mushy in store.
It may be that your local semi-professional supplier carries stock of 25kg bags of a different general fertiliser. Should my supplier, East Riding Horticulture offer something different I would consider a change.
Should you change from that excellent fertiliser Vitax Q4 or growmore you need to half the amount you have previously applied. In the past I have recommended growmore to amateurs - its a good compromise with it’s 7:7:7 analysis but lacks magnesium, sulphur and trace elements and is half as strong. Your soil does not usually lack trace elements but you cannot be sure.
|I used growmore for years
I have a very large garden and my soil is sandy and subject to leaching! If your soil unlike mine contains clay and/or you have regularly added compost you might need no fertiliser at all. Particularly so if you liquid feed and buy ready made compost. If you make up your own compost I recommend you use just one slow release coated fertiliser. For liquid feeding I suggest you use a tomato liquid feed for any plant.
In most circumstances slow release fertiliser and liquid feeds are inappropriate and rather expensive for plants growing in the garden - their value is for container grown plants.
I look after several other gardens than my own; Bolton Percy churchyard, the village plot, Lyndi’s field and Cathi’s garden. None of them receive any fertiliser at all. If your vegetable garden is annually heavily manured it might need no fertiliser either
Very rough guide as to how I use my Yaramila
1. Perhaps 30% goes to feed my 800 sq. metres of lawn
2. I find it more convenient to top dress container plants than liquid feed. These vary between small trees and shrubs permanently outside in very large containers, collections such as cacti and alpines, plants in my nursery, ten litre pots of tomatoes and house plants galore. We do indulge in summer and winter bedding in large tubs too.
Plants in containers are subject to leaching and if you do not feed them they will eventually starve.
My tomatoes get top dressed five times and get more fertiliser than anything else I grow
|I lightly scatter yaramila on my small pots three or four times a year
The bedding plant soil has yaramila added when prepared and is carefully top dressed not leaving fertiliser lodged on the leaves. The shrubs and small trees are fed three or four times a year
3. I use yaramila when I make up my soil based composts - but not for propagation or delicate plants. When such as planting up tubs of mature bedding plants or starting up large pots of tulips or daffodils I prefer to top dress later and the amount mixed in the soil is zero or very small.
Other than for large display planters I DO NOT advocate using Yaramila for making up potting compost for inexperienced gardeners. Best to stick to slow release fertiliser.
|When I planted my tulips yaramila was lightly added to the compost and more heavily top dressed on the surface to be washed in by the rain
5. When I used to grow vegetables I would top dress my winter greens in February or March.
6. Although I don’t reckon to feed my ornamental borders a few plants such as delphiniums just do not grow well on my soil. A light dressing in March works wonders.
7. I confess too that when I want to get a young plant from my nursery or a plant bought at the garden centre to establish quickly although I usually do NOT fertilise at planting time I do a few weeks later.
8. This Summer I bought some rather hungry shrubs for planting this Autumn on the village plot (delayed because of watering difficulties) and after dunking them up in my tub, top dressed with Yaramila. They jumped for joy.
My thing against bonemeal
All year round use of fertiliser
Why general fertiliser is suitable for your lawn
My penchant for using charcoal
Restoration of a slag heap
Buying professional fertiliser
Crushed rock myth
Do fertilisers degrade soil? - whoops I have been repeating myselfMy homemade soil potting compost
My post about hard and soft growth was a damp squib
Blogger Robert Pavlis takes a rather different view