Fertilize Now? No kidding?
Snow comes and goes, but still makes another and another visit, but we are being teased by warmer days, such as 55° or 60°. Which is like a scorcher compared to -5° here in Ohio. It is a real tease when you get those warm days and you think “It’s warm! I can work in the garden.” But no, the next day school is delayed due to icy snow. But that is life in Ohio. ( I have more posts about the Backyard Flower Garden.)
Imagine my surprise in my Master Gardener classes a few years ago to learn that NOW is the time to fertilize your perennials! I was totally surprised! I have included some affiliate links to Amazon for a couple of fertilizers. I could earn a commission if you purchase via those links and that helps pay the bills on my website. Thanks for your support.
Our instructor, Barbara Mills, advised that late February and early March is the perfect time to fertilize your perennials so that they have a “spring breakfast” ready and waiting when they wake up and start sprouting. Your plants wake up hungry, just like we humans do, so it is good practice to have an Osmocote Smart-Release Plant Food sprinkled around the plant’s base so that it is dispersed by rains or snows waiting for those first emerging sprouts.
Our outdoor sedum and succulents are perennials, so they can use a dose too. She explained that these plants need to come out of their winter sleep and find nutrition waiting for them. And by waiting, I mean that it has already been scattered if you use a pelleted form, or sprinkled if you are using liquid and have already filtered down into the soil. So fertilize now, ok?
You can just sprinkle and blend the pellets into your compost. The fertilizer needs to have been dispersed and rained or snowed into the ground and bonded with the micro-elements which will be ready to feed the plant as it wakes up.
Yes, a chemical fertilizer is more readily available, but if you are using an Organic Slow Release Fertilizer and you feel that organic will be best, there needs to be some time for a breakdown of its components so that the nutrients are available to the roots.
Most important: use a weak solution of a balanced fertilizer. You all know the NPK rating (Nitrogen/Phosphorus/Potassium). Use a very weak solution because too much fertilizer might give you quick green growth, but too much nitrogen causes the growth to be weak and more susceptible to insect and disease damage.
Typically, there is not a need for phosphorus or potassium and these excesses can end up in our waterways.
Yes, it is not typically the farmer who overuses, it is the backyard gardener who ends up using too much which could end up polluting the rivers and streams.
Making your own compost is better, and there is a really easy way to do that. But we covered that in another post.
When do you fertilize and do you use organic and/or your own compost?