Fertilizers put back what the rain and plants remove. It's as easy as that, but the details of correct fertilizer usage aren't so straightforward. Garden plants vary greatly in their requirements, and proper timing is often all-important.

The usual plan is to purchase a branded compound fertilizer. It is possible to prepare a home-made mix, but some skill is required. Not all straight fertilizers may be blended - for instance, avoid mixing lime and sulphate of ammonia or super phosphate of lime and nitrate of soda. Some mixtures rapidly set rock hard if conditioning agents are not added - one of the best conditioners is Bone Flower.

Lawns; Every lawn needs a nitrogen-rich compound fertilizer when growth becomes active in spring. Use one such as Toplawn which includes a weed killer. If the lawn appears pale in midsummer, water on a liquid Lawn Tonic or sulphate of ammonia. Autumn treatment is for the keen gardener only. Never use quick-acting nitrogen, this is the time for a product with phosphates, potash and a tiny amount of slow acting nitrogen. Using quick acting nitrogen often leads to disease.

Roses; Use a mixture of 1 part soil, 1 part moist peat and 3 handfuls of Bone Meal per barrow-load for filling the holes at planting time. With established plants, use a potash-rich compound fertilizer which contains magnesium and gypsum. Spread 1oz of Toprose around each bush before the leaves are fully open and duplicate the treatment in June or July. Do not feed Roses after the end of July or frost-sensitive growth may occur.

Greenhouse Tomatoes; Regular feeding is important for greenhouse vegetables such as Tomatoes, Cu[censored] bers and Aubergines etc. The best plan is to buy a potash-rich liquid fertilizer. Trials have shown that the little-and-often technique is better than several heavy feeds. Use a low-strength solution for each watering until the plants are in full fruit. Increase the strength once heavy cropping has started. Outdoor Tomatoes need to be fed every 10 to 14 days.

Trees and Shrubs; The conventional recommendation is to use a routine dressing of Growmore all around the plants in spring, but the problem with trees is to get the fertilizer down to the roots. A better plan is to use a specific Tree and Shrub fertilizer and pour it over the leaves ans around the base of shrubs in the spring. For trees, spike the earth under the leaf canopy with a fork to the total length of the tines before feeding.

Vegetables; A base dressing ought to be applied shortly before sowing or planting. Growmore is a classic favourite and remains as po[censored] r as ever. Fast maturing crops will require no further feeding. Vegetables which take longer to mature will require one more top dressing through the season. Using a soluble fertilizer , such as Instant Bio, which is dissolved in water and then applied by using a watering can. Sulphate of ammonia can be used to give a fast boost to greens.

House Plants; There are many house plant feeding techniques these days. There is sticks, steady-release granules, tablets, feeding mats and so on. Whichever method you use, remember to scale back the quantity of nutrients when the plants are resting - the cold months of winter for foliage plants. Adding a few drops of liquid fertilizer to your watering can remains by far the most po[censored] r technique as it's easy, inexpensive and provides control of the nutrient supply.

Fruit trees and Bushes; The overall standard is the same as that for the ornamental trees and shrubs, but there are a few additional factors. The greater demand for nutrients is when the tiny fruits are beginning to swell, at this stage it is necessary to use a potash-rich feed. Never use a feed which is richer in nitrogen than potash once fruit has formed. Most fruit trees and bushes respond to foliar feeding, especially after pest damage.

Flowers; Work a powder or granular fertilizer into the surface during soil preparation before planting. Most flowers will require feeding in spring, sprinkle Growmore around perennials. Feed large and leafy plants such as Chrysanthemums and Dahlias with a liquid fertilizer on a regular basis. Annuals and alpines, however, need much less feeding - just the once when they are coming into flower.

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