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Don't Miss Pages Two, Three and Four

Sunday, July 24, 2005

To Fertilize or Not To Fertilize

Questions about feeding plants and trees abound. One of the most common mistakes new gardeners make is either in applying too little plant fertilizer or too much fertilizer or the wrong type at the wrong time. Along with improper watering, this can be counter-productive for your plants.

What's In The Bag?

What do those letters and numbers mean? 

  • The first number gives the percentage of nitrogen in the product.  Nitrogen primarily encourages foliage growth. 
  • The middle number refers to the percentage of phosphorous. Phosphorous helps in the rooting process and the setting of flowering buds.
  • The third number gives the percentage of potassium. Potassium supports the overall health and vigor of your plants.

When looking for a fertilizer for a specific plant it is wise  to select one that is formulated for that type.  For example, vegetables need plenty of phosphorous to set fruit. 

Organic fertilizers must specify which components are organic and will state as either synthetic and/or natural, by percentage. A fertilizer labeled "organic" simply refers to the fact that it contains carbon atoms.  It could be produced "naturally" with plant or animal tissues or is synthetically produced. Please read all labels so that you are not fooled into thinking a product is organically produced and contains no animal tissues.

Complete Fertilizers contain all three major nutrients. This does not indicate that this is the best one for your plant or tree. A specialized fertilizer for roses, for example, is formulated specifically to support both leaf, root vigor, and flowering. It is best to read all of the information on the bag/box. There is no "one size fits all" fertilizer. Remember, more is not better.  The excess fertilizer makes it way to our rivers, lakes, and oceans.

 

 

1:17 pm pdt

Monday, July 11, 2005

Good Companions
  • Did you know that basil is a perfect companion for tomatoes?  "Of course," you say. Basil is perfect for your delicious sauces and salads and in the garden it repels flies, hornworms, and mosquitoes.
  • Chives are great planted around carrots and roses; repelling aphids, mites and nematodes (the harmful type.)
  • Dill is a feathery and ornamental herb and is great near cabbage, lettuce, corn and cucumber. Dill repels aphids and mites.
  • Marigolds are fabulous for most plants. Don't fret if you don't like the orange-yellow variety. There are white marigolds, too. Nematodes, whiteflies, Mexican bean beetles, and tomato hornworms flee from the roots of marigolds. Plant near most plants, especially tomatoes.
  • Nasturtiums are fabulous plants. Taking very little care and attention, they are available with flowers of different colors. Cabbage, radishes, tomatoes and cucumbers appreciate Nasturtiums because they repel aphids, pumpkin beetles, squash beetles, cabbage moths, potato beetles and whiteflies.
  • Petunias that old stand-by, repels aphids, leafhoppers, Mexican bean beetles.  They are great companions for beans.
  • Garlic is necessary for more than cooking. In the garden, plant garlic with your roses and raspberries. Garlic repels Japanese beetles, aphids, mosquito larvae, caterpillars, borers and mites.

Currently roses are being attacked by Bristly Rose Slugs, often called cane borers or leafworms. They are half-inch-long, slimy larvae of the sawfly (wasp) and the young eat the underside of the leaves; adults eat the entire leaf. The symptoms are obvious in that there are holes eaten into the leaves from the underside, causing a skelentonized effect. They actually appear in early spring and later large holes are eaten in leaves and finally the veins are devoured.  I am experimenting with a variety of pest controls and eradication methods that will not harm the environment.  Please, please do not use Carbaryl (Sevin) or acephate (Isotox or Orthene.) These chemicals are very harmful. E-mail me and I will gladly send you information from the Pesticide Action Network about harm to the environment from these chemicals. It may seem drastic but in order to interrupt the life-cycle of these so-called slugs, ex-foliating your rose bushes may be the best recourse. My friend, Lucia (a prize-winning Rosarian) questioned me about this pest months ago. The abundant rains may somehow be responsible for their proliferation. As soon as I discover the safest organic solution proving to control or eradicate these pests, I'll publish the results.

 

11:40 am pdt

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All articles and photos unless otherwise credited are© by Elaine Wilson.
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