Fertilizing your flower beds

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Recently a reader asked if I would consider writing a post about fertilizing flower gardens. I have to admit, I don’t really fertilize my flower gardens. I use Preen with slow release fertilizer in my gardens once in early spring and once in late fall. I do this mainly to keep the weeds down, but I buy the stuff with fertilizer in it for the added benefit of fertilizing the gardens too. That’s it, that is all I do for fertilizing my flower gardens.

Fertilizing is a very broad and large topic. Each plant in your garden could have different needs as far as when to fertilize, how much to fertilize, and what type of fertilizer to use. You just have go to your local garden center and look at all the different types of fertilizer they have and you will see what I mean, it’s overwhelming.

I am not going to attempt to get into the science of fertilizer in one blog post. Here I will just try to touch on some basic and general guidelines for fertilizing your flower beds.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that you can harm your plants if you use too much fertilizer or fertilize at the wrong time. As far as fertilizer is concerned, more is not better.The best thing to do is to read and follow the directions on the fertilizer package.

Very broadly, there are two types of fertilizer; slow release fertilizers and liquid fertilizers. Slow release types don’t need to be applied very often and last longer, while liquid types benefit the plants faster but will need to be applied more often.

Here are some other tips:

  • Don’t fertilize during the dry hot summer months, or when a plant is dried out. Plants that are very dry will soak up the fertilizer much quicker than plants that are well hydrated. The risk of burning your plants with fertilizer is much higher during this time.
  • Plants that have fertilizer burn will look wilted and dried out, similar to plants that are under watered. If you over-fertilized a plant, the best thing to do is water, water, water and try to dilute and wash away the fertilizer as much as you can.
  • Stick with a balanced, general purpose fertilizer if you are planning to fertilize your whole garden at once. Look for the numbers 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 or something similar on the label. Generally for blooming plants, you could buy a fertilizer where the center number on the label is higher. The Preen I use is at 9-12-9.
  • Keep dry fertilizer off the leaves of your plants as it could burn the leaves. After spreading the dry fertilizer, water the your gardens well so the fertilizer will start to soak in.
  • Some slow release fertilizers last several months, and it’s good to apply a slow release fertilizer in the fall to give your plants the boost they need in early spring.
  • With liquid fertilizers, generally perennials should be fed in early spring and once or twice during the summer months.
  • Spread the compost from your compost bin in your flower beds for a natural fertilizer. Well composted organic materials won’t burn your plants, are much less expensive than chemical products and compost works great.

Now I would like to hear from you about fertilizing the gardens. Do you regularly fertilize your flower beds? If so, what type of fertilizer do you use and how often do you apply it?

I enjoy receiving requests for blog post topics so if you have any ideas for a topic that you would like me to write about, please let me know.

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  1. says

    I too agree with you. Too much usage of fertilizers not only harm the plant but also pollutes the environment.People have a wrong belief that using more fertilizers yields more. But its not true. Plant which gets the right quantity of fertilizer,good watering and good climatic condition to support it will grow well and healthy.

  2. Anonymous says

    Hi Amy!
    I'm from rural North Dakota. Zone 3 to 4. I am working on my perennial gardens. The gardens are in full sun location. I am looking for 4-5 foot perrenniels that are hardy and full. Any suggestions?

    • says

      Hello, thanks for your comment! You are lucky to have a full sun area to plant, you will have tons of options! There aren't a ton that will get 5' tall without staking (unless you start getting in to bushes). But there are several that get up to 4' tall. Keep in mind that the height of these plants is usually listed by the height of the flowers, and not the foliage – so they won't

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