What are Fertilisers?
The role of any fertiliser is to nourish and enrich soil replenishing the nutrients that plants take out from it, which they use to help them grow.
There are various types of fertiliser, many of which are based upon natural nutrients – potash, nitrates and nitrogen, bonemeal, seaweed. Garden centres nowadays sell a huge variety of these, as pellets, or by the sack load of dry chemical to be mixed with water.
Take advice before buying any, and be clear why exactly you feel you need to use any fertiliser in your garden or allotment. If any non-organic chemicals are used in any garden or allotment, this will render the land ‘non-organic’, and it may take time for the soil to deal with and deal with the chemical, so the soil or any plants or vegetables grown could not be certified as organic for a while, if this was desired.
How are they used?
Fertilisers, whether organic or non-organic, need to be used carefully and sparingly. Certain plants respond well to some fertilisers, and can be killed by others, so take care to read any instructions and understand different soil types. Check to see if the soil is acidic or non-acidic. Acid loving plants, like rhododendrons and conifers, hate lime (which neutralises acid) and so must be given lime-free, ericaceous fertilisers.
It is good to feed soil every year at the end of winter before the new planting season, so that the soil has time to absorb the fertiliser before plants start drawing nutrients out. Of course, fertiliser can be added in moderation to the soil generally at any time throughout the year, and even added to potted plants and soil surrounding plants to give them a boost.
Organic, Natural Fertilisers
The best, most natural and organic fertilisers are those which nature provides. This includes compost – the natural process of decomposition turning living materials into fertiliser through input from naturally occurring bacteria and micro-organisms; and seaweed, grown naturally in sea water and available on many beaches, and commercially ground into a powder, or in liquid form. Do take advice from experienced gardeners about using seaweed on your soil, and never remove too much from any beach.
Another form of organic compost which can be made easily, is what is called a ‘mulch’ of certain types of plant leaves, including nettles, left to stew for a while in water. Check with experienced gardeners in the local area to discover which type of material to use, and find out where they grow.
Producing Happy, Healthy Organic Plants
Any gardener needs to develop a good understanding of soil quality and plant compatibility. This will ensure that any plants grown, whether flowers, trees, or decorative plants, or vegetables for consumption; are of good quality and needing as little care as possible. Great soil and good conditions ensure that growing plants need little human intervention. Keep an eye on all the growing conditions of the plants, i.e. watering and temperature conditions, as well as the soil, and healthy plants will grow. It doesn’t take too much fertiliser, or too much tending, to get great quality, organically grown decorative plants and edible vegetables.