What in the garden do you want to fertilize?

I have a bit less than a half an acre of gardened landscape to nurture.  There is only one of me.  Therefore I have to streamline much of what I do in the landscape to make it and keep it presentable. 

That means I have already applied a granulated fertilizer to the grounds this past week.  Via a hand spreader I walked around the entire area applying a 10-10-10 (a balanced)  fertilizer to everything, including my mowing strip of lawn in the back grounds.  I most likely will apply another sweep of  either the same granulated fertilizer or one 10-0-10, if I have any left from previous seasons.   For years, by habit, I have alternated the two applications often every other year, if not every other application.  The middle number of the formula is phosphorus.  Years ago “officials claimed there was a major runoff problem  caused by phosphorus found in liquids used in washing things.  I wanted to do my civic duty and oblige those who claimed they were “in the know” at the time.  

At the same time I knew that most phosphorus in the Minnesota soil is  unavailable to plants, yet vital in the process of plant root development.   Information on matters dealing with the environment are often “all over the map” depending on which office is providing the advice.

My alternating of the phosphosrus content when fertilizing the garden  made me feel that I was satisfying both sides of  of the expert spectrum.    Kind of like being a peace maker. 

Many believe there is a special religious inspiration associated with using  only organic fertilizers.  Feel however you wish, but there are some things one should know about their differences.  

Generally, organic fertilizers become available more slowly, for it takes more time for the organic source  to be broken down to become  usable by the plants.  Inorganic fertilizers, that is those “man made” , are typically available almost immediately.   In both cases water is the conduit required. 

A few of my plants, the thymes, don’t respond well to fertilizer.   I try to remember where they are and simply walk past them as I broadcast the fertilizer granules.  Hand broadcasters are perfect for such strolls through the grounds. 

I have an above ground automatic sprinkling system installed on my grounds.  I also use a hardwood bark mulch  in many areas of the grounds, especially covering the garden paths.  Many areas are covered with natural leaf fall.  To aid in their decay I sometimes apply a fertilizer with a higher first number on the fertilizer formula……such as a 20-10-10.

Do not use a contact herbicide along with your fertilizer application if you have any valued perennials growing.  I do not use preem anywhere on my grounds except for its strip of lawn.  I really like to see evergreen seedlings pop up here or there.  I keep some of them.   Redbud trees weed all over the place as do Korean Angelica often called “Gigas”.

Because of my automatic irrigation system one of the major weeds on my grounds is astilbe.   It grows everywhere because of the reliable availability of water.  I like astilbe.  It’s good that I do.

I don’t have much luck with Heuchera (coral bells).  They like it drier.

For those who grow specialty plants such as peonies, hostas, azaleas and rhododendrons, each responds best with a more discplined program of fertilizing.   When in doubt with flowering shrubs and many prized robust perennials, fertilize with an inorganic fertilizer right after top bloom.

The quality of soil anchoring your  plants is also  important. 

Not all soils are equal.  I have a light loamy soil which has been covered for over 35 years of leaf and/or shredded bark mulch.  Acids from this decaying organic material   aid in plant ability to absorb nutrients.  Did I luck out…..You couldn’t ask for a better soil environment for growing trees and shrubs. 

Some soils are more acid that others.  White pines do not like to live long in an alkaline soil.  If they develop a yellowish hue to their needle cover, you know they aren’t happy. 

Don’t over analyze and over pamper what your plants prefer.  Keep reading about their individual peculiarities during the winter season.  Take notes on what folks observe and report. 

If you really like to know “stuff” about trees and shrubs for the northlands, you may want to buy “Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs” a fine pictorial review of plants many of which are hardy in Minnesota.   He has written a manual for those more serious about their woodies.