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10 Tips for Using Fertilizers

Fertilising Lawns

Lawn fertilisers should be spread evenly and applied according to manufacturers instructions. Water in if the weather is dry. To help the nutrients penetrate the soil, aerate the lawn before applying fertiliser. This also helps improve surface drainage and prevents compaction.

Apply More Fertiliser for Light Soils

Light and free-draining soils, usually sandy in composition lose nutrients more quickly than other types, especially in rainy spells. Apply fertiliser more frequently on these soils, especially nitrogen fertilisers to maintain levels.

Apply Less Fertiliser for Clay Soils

Heavy clay soils and soils containing a lot of organic matter require less frequent application. This is because both substances act as reservoirs holding the nutrients and releasing them slowly over time to the plants

Very Acid or Very Chalky Soils

Phosphates and potash become more soluble in an acid soil, making them easier for rain to wash away. In chalky (alkaline) soils, phosphate becomes insoluble when mixed with the calcium present in chalky soils. In both cases, divide the application into two or three and apply over the growing season.

Feeding a Tree

To feed a tree apply fertiliser evenly in the area under the canopy. The tree's feeding roots tend to be near the surface in that area. A gentle shallow aeration will improve penetration of the nutrients as well as improve surface drainage and reducing compaction. Avoid damage to the roots by keeping shallow .

Lime and Fertiliser

Never apply or store fertiliser and lime together. There will be a chemical reaction between the lime and the nitrogen in the fertiliser, making neither effective. Especially when growing vegetables, check and adjust if necessary the pH (acidity) of the soil. Acid soils may contain nutrients but the are less available to the plants.

Feed at the Right Time

Only add fertilisers to plants before and during the growing season. Applications made after the season will just be washed out of the soil and not do any good unless you use an over-winter green manure crop to hold them for the next season.

Boosting Failing Plants

If plants are showing signs of nutrient deficiency then you can give a boost using liquid fertilisers that are absorbed more quickly by the plant. Sometimes the problem isn't the amount of nutrient available but a lack of micro-nutrients preventing take-up by the plants. Try a spray of seaweed extract of a dose of Epsom salts to release the nutrients.

Make Your Own Liquid Feeds

If you have comfrey or nettles available you can make your own liquid fertiliser by adding the leaves into a barrel of water and allowing them to ferment for three of four weeks. This will make a fertiliser high in potash, great for tomatoes and hanging baskets.

A high nitrogen liquid feed can be made by suspending a hessian sack of horse or sheep droppings into a barrel of water until the water turns the colour of tea.

Controlled Release Fertilisers

When growing in containers or baskets you can use controlled release fertilisers. These gradually dissolve over the growing season ensuring a constant supply of nutrient is available to the plants over the season


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