Feeding your Spring/ Summer Garden

Chemical, organic or liquid – which is best?

Everyone loves a garden filled with healthy plants and, with the rains having begun early in many provinces in the country, this is the perfect time to commence your feeding programme.

There are so many products on the market that it can be a bit confusing, so let’s break it down as to what your garden needs right now.

Lawns
After lying dormant or at least partially dormant during winter in our summer rainfall areas, lawns are once again growing furiously, and so we need to give their nitrogen levels a boost.

If you are not overly familiar with fertilisers, I would strongly advise against using a single element such as LAN (limestone ammonium nitrate). Not only can this fertilizer burn your lawn if not applied correctly, it is pretty much like giving your lawn an energiser drink, and it is just too soon in the season for any ‘quick boosts’.

All fertilisers are indicated as Nitrogen (N), Phosphate (P) and Potassium (K) – in that order N:P:K - on the packaging. Fertilisers designed for lawns have a higher nitrogen content than either phosphate (for root growth) or potassium (to encourage flowering and fruiting), so check for a high first number when purchasing your product, although usually the purpose of the fertilizer is explicitly stated on the packaging.

Popular products on the market for feeding lawns are :
  • Wonder Lawn & Leaf 7.1.3 with sustained release nitrogen (inorganic)

  • Kynoch Turbograss 10.1.5 (25) Fast acting (inorganic)

  • Talborne 5.1.5 (16) Lawn & Foliage fertilizer (organic)

  • Atlantic Bio Ganic Lawns 26.18.33 (organic)

  • Protek 7.1.3 (15) Lawn & Foliage Plants

  • Guanoboost – Sea Bird Guano complete garden nutrition (organic liquid feed)

By feeding your lawn with one of these products, you are boosting the nitrogen and essential micro-nutrients that the plant needs to develop healthy foliage throughout the summer months and into the colder part of the year. Hand in hand with feeding, is the height at which you cut your lawn. It is essential that you remove no more than one third of the new growth with each cut.

More than that and the lawn will battle to photosynthesize the energy absorbed from sunlight.

For different lawn species, this may mean cutting more frequently while, for other species such as Buffalo grass, cutting every two weeks will be sufficient.

Shrubs and Flowering Plants
Personally, I like to give my entire garden a kickstart by feeding lawn and shrubs with 5.1.5 just once at the start of summer. Thereafter, I drop the nitrogen level down to a 3.1.5 for my flowering plants and continue with 5.1.5 for my lawn. Not everyone agrees with this method, but it works for me.

Products on the market are :
  • Wonder Fruit & Flower 3.1.5 (26) (inorganic)

  • Talborne Vita Fruit & Flower 3.1.5 (18) (organic)

  • Knyoch’s Kyno Shrub, Flower & Fruit 3.1.5 (25) (inorganic)

  • Atlantic Flower & Fruit (organic)

Foliar Feeds for lawns and flowering plants:
  • Guanoboost (organic)

  • Multifeed 3.1.6 (46) (inorganic)

  • Talborne’s Nourish 4.1.6 (11) (organic)

As you can see, there are many products on the market, some of which I have not mentioned. Granular fertilisers are most definitely more economical for large gardens while foliar feeds are best suited to smaller gardens and for specific crops.

A lot of hype has been created about only feeding with organic products. A word of caution here – all organic granular products have a high, if not pure, chicken litter content. This smells awful to us, but very attractive to your dogs and, given half a chance, they will vacuum the fertilizer up as fast as you are spreading it.

My property is divided in two, so I use chemical on the side where my dogs live and organic on the other side. If you do not exceed the distribution rate of a chemical fertiliser, it will not damage your garden. Over-usage and obsession with fertilising is what causes harm to the soil and your plants.

If you are going to fertilise every three to four months, spread the fertilizer at a rate of 80 grams/square metre. If you would like to fertilise monthly, then drop that rate to 40 grams per square metre. A product like Talborne is only meant to be used every four months because of its high carbon content.

When in doubt, err on the side of caution. You cannot shock-treat your plants back into good health. Slow and persistent treatments, with gentle cutting or pruning and regular watering will do the trick.

For garden beds, a thick layer of mulch using any decent organic material you can lay your hands on, will keep your soils insulated and the mulch will decompose and be absorbed into the soil over time, increasing the beneficial bacterial count.
 
Our recommended course to increase your knowledge on garden care is our Essential Steps to Caring for your Garden, covering composts, mulches, fertilisers, pruning, lawn care and natural pest control.

Email us at info@schoolofgardendesign.com for more details on this short but informative course.

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