Balcony and garden plants need several nutrients in order to grow healthily and to produce a good crop of fruit and blossoms. These nutrients can be added to the ground in the form of fertilisers. If you stick to some easy, basic rules regarding fertilising you can hope for a good harvest. Moreover, your plants will become resistant to diseases and vermin as they become stronger and healthier.
Which fertiliser is the right one?
When looking for a suitable fertiliser you have a choice between mineral and organic fertilisers. Talking about mineral fertilisers, you often come across the term NPK fertiliser, which signifies nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Nitrogen is needed by plants for growth.
Phosphorus strengthens the roots and provides magnificent flowers, leaves and fruits. Without potassium the plants water supply can be disrupted. Using such fertilisers can reliably and quickly eliminate deficiencies in your plants. Long-term mineral fertilisers in contrast release nutrients more slowly as they are surrounded by a resin cover that decomposes gradually.
Organic fertilisers also have a long-term effect, the best known organic fertilisers are compost and horn shavings or meal. Compost, for example, is suitable as nutrition for many bushes and shrubs. Semi-mature compost is especially rich in nitrogen and should only be applied to the soil surface as it can damage plant roots if worked in too deeply. Mature compost contains only a few nutrients but helps improves soil structure.
Additionally, special fertilizers for which the nutrient content is tailored to specific plant species, such as roses and vegetables, are available.
When to fertilise?
Essentially, you should only fertilise in the growing seasons. If fertilised longer, the plants cannot adequately prepare for their period of rest and may sprout out new, thin shoots which are sensitive to frost. Lawn is ideally fertilised once in the spring, late summer and at the end of the growing season, in winter.
The fertilizer should be applied onto cut grass to make sure that it quickly comes in contact with the soil. After fertilizing, the lawn should be watered to allow the fertiliser to dissolve and take its full effect.
How much fertilizer is needed?
The amount of fertilizer should be adapted on both the soil conditions and the needs of the plant. Studies during the last decade have shown that vegetable gardens are often over-fertilised, whereas lawns are often undersupplied.
In general, you should never use too much fertiliser as too high concentration of nutrients affects the roots of the plants. If there is an oversupply water-soluble nutrients get washed into the deeper soil layers and can eventually reach the groundwater. It is thus always better to fertilise less; making sure the environment and your wallet are spared.