Happy Earth Day!
No matter what I am lecturing on, the topic inevitably comes around to fertilizing. And the question, or questions are something like “What do you feed your plants?” or “How often do you feed your plants?” or some variation on that theme.
So when my answer comes back “I don’t feed my plants,” there’s practically a near riot in the room. It’s almost as if I’ve said “Don’t feed a baby in its first year of life” or something equally horrifying.
But this is absolutely true with the exception of one or two very large plants that I can no longer transplant. Because I don’t give those plants fresh soil–ever–I will occasionally feed them (and I do mean occasionally, as in I cannot recall the last time I did it but it was probably over a year ago).
Most of the time this discussion is taking place around some sort of potted or containerized plant that I am holding in my hand. So then the other questions begin.
But what about your annuals? No. When I buy my annuals, they are already so pumped full of commercial fertilizers that they need no extra help from me. Then I put them in fresh soil and they are good to go for the rest of the season. They’re annuals–they flower, in my cold climate, for a maximum of 4 1/2 to 5 months if I am lucky. There’s no need to boost them full of extra fertilizers, especially as the sun and warmth is dying in late August!
What about your vegetable? Again, no. I get them off to a really good start in good soil. Then I prepare my beds well. I try to amend with compost every few years. If you feed the soil, there is no need to feed the plants.
And as for established landscape plantings, I take the long view of things. I leave leaves on the ground, in the beds, over the winter and only put them in the compost heap in the spring. That way, nutrients can leech from those leaves into the beds through the action of the rain and the snow (and the worms and the other good stuff in my soil).
And come spring–right about now, in other words–I am not out there roto-tilling or otherwise disturbing those beds. I only disturb what I have to for new plantings or for weeding purposes.
It’s radical, I know, but give it a try. You might be pleasantly surprised. And you’ll spend a lot less money and have some more time for yourself as well!