The Truth About Fertilizer: Debunking the Myths

The Truth About Fertilizer: Debunking the Myths

There are a lot of myths created by marketing companies about fertilizer. Marketing has convinced people that it is some kind of magical substance that will make their plants grow big and strong overnight. The truth is, however, that fertilizer is just like any other tool- it can be used effectively or it can be misused. In this blog post, we will debunk the marketing myths about fertilizer and discuss how you can use it to improve your garden!

What do the fertilizer numbers really mean?

All growing plants need essential elements to grow to their full genetic potential. The NPK, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, makes up the primary nutrients plants need. The other elements needed by plants are called minor elements, micronutrients or secondary nutrients. These include: sulfur, magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese, copper, zinc, boron, molybdenum and chlorine.

Fertilizer comes in different NPK ratios. The number on the bag or bottle is the percentage of how much of each kind of nutrient is in it. For example, 10-10-10 has 10% of Nitrogen, 10% of Phosphorus, and 10% of Potassium.

  • Nitrogen is the most important nutrient and helps with leaf growth.
  • Phosphorus helps plants to use and store energy.
  • Potassium helps with overall plant health and plants’ abilities to resist disease.

Nitrogen comes in many forms, but can only be used by plants in ammonium or nitrate form. Urea, the cheapest form, must first be broken down to ammonium before plants can utilize it. Ammonium is fast-acting and can burn plants if not used correctly. Nitrate is the safest and most effective form of nitrogen for plants. Excessive amounts of urea can build up over colder months and burn plants once the weather warms up due to increased break down to ammonium form.

Phosphorus is essential for plant growth and is found in every cell of a plant. Marketing Myth: High levels of phosphorus make plants bloom more aka bloom booster. Fact: Phosphorus helps plants to use and store energy, but too much phosphorus can make plants weak and unhealthy. Excess phosphorus easily combines with minor elements and prevents their uptake by plants, leading to minor element deficiencies.

Potassium is found in all plant tissues and is important for overall plant health and the plant’s ability to resist disease. It is associated with the movement of water, nutrients and carbohydrates in plant tissue.

When to apply fertilizer?

plant nutrition deficiency

The best time to apply fertilizer is when plants are actively growing. This is typically in the spring and summer, but can also be in the fall for certain plants. Applying fertilizer to late in the growing cycle can make plants more susceptible to cold damage and disease. Fertilizer applied to dormant plants can actually do more harm than good because the plant cannot utilize the nutrients and the excess nutrients build up in the soil. The excess nutrients can also leach through the soil and contaminate groundwater.

Plants can tell you when and what type of fertilizer to use. The location of yellowing leaves can indicate a lack of several types of nutrients, iron deficiency will show in newer leaves while nitrogen and magnesium deficiency will show in older leaves first. Older leaves turning purple can be a sign of low phosphorus.

Other factors that affect fertilizer

Soil pH plays a big part in the availability of nutrient up take by plants. Most nutrients are available to plants with a soil pH range of 5.6-6.2. Some plants grow better in the lower range and other prefer the higher range. Petunia and calibrachoa are two types of annuals that prefer the lower range and will quickly show iron deficiency above 5.8 pH. Geraniums and marigolds prefer the higher range and show iron toxicity below 5.8 pH.

Hardy Hibiscus: How to Grow and Care for These Magnificent Flowers

Hardy Hibiscus, Rose Mallow, Swamp Mallow, Hibiscus moscheutos

If you’re looking for a beautiful, long-blooming flower to add to your garden, look no further than the hardy hibiscus! These magnificent blooms come in a variety of colors, and can be grown in almost any climate. In this blog post, we will discuss how to grow and care for these flowers. We’ll also provide tips on choosing the right variety for your needs. So read on to learn more about these amazing plants!

What are Hardy Hibiscus?

Hardy hibiscus are a type of flowering plant that is native to tropical and subtropical regions. They are known for their large, showy flowers, which can be up to 12 inches in diameter! Hardy hibiscus come in a variety of colors, including white, pink, red, and purple. These flowers typically bloom from late summer to early fall, and their blooms can last for up to two weeks.

Where to Plant Hardy Hibiscus?

Hardy hibiscus can be grown in almost any climate, Zone 5-9, as long as they are planted in an area that receives full sun. They prefer well-drained soil, and will need to be watered regularly during the growing season. When choosing a location to plant your hardy hibiscus, make sure to select an area that is large enough to accommodate the plant’s mature size. These plants can grow to be up to six feet tall and four feet wide, so they will need plenty of space to thrive!

How to Care for Hardy Hibiscus?

Hardy hibiscus are relatively low-maintenance plants, but there are a few things you can do to ensure that they thrive. First, make sure to deadhead the flowers regularly to encourage new blooms. Secondly, fertilize your plants once a month during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer. Lastly, cut the plants back to about two feet in height in late fall to encourage new growth in the spring.

What do you do with hardy hibiscus in the winter?

North Alabama, you may need to provide additional protection, such as wrapping the plant in burlap or placing it in a protected area. Central and South Alabama should need no protection.

With a little care, hardy hibiscus can provide you with beautiful blooms for many years to come! So don’t hesitate to add these plants to your garden today.

Peach Trees in Alabama

When to Plant Peach Trees in Alabama

When selecting a peach tree to grow in your garden, it is important to choose the variety that is best suited for your area and purpose. Peach trees are originally from China and can be temperamental with their blossoms. Some peach trees are more suitable for fresh eating, while others are better for canning and making preserves. There are hundreds of peach varieties, each one adapted to a particular region or purpose. Peach trees are best planted November until March in Alabama.

Choosing the Right Peach Tree

Don’t bother with a tree that does not grow well in our Alabama climate. If possible, buy peach trees that were grown locally instead of mail-ordering peach trees for your garden. If you purchase peach tress through the mail, they are likely to have trouble adjusting to the climate changes upon arrival. They may also not do well in our hot or humid climate.

You’ll want a peach tree that produces flavorful fruit with a pleasing texture and color. You will also need fruits large enough to be worth picking and processing. Peaches should not fall from the tree before you have a chance to pick them either. Sugar content will vary between peach varieties as well as harvesting time.

Select peach trees that have low susceptibility for peach leaf curl. The peach leaf curl pathogen will damage peach leaves and stunt peach tree growth. Peach leaf curl is a disease that is very common in most peach-producing regions of the world . It’s caused by a fungus. Some peach varieties are resistant or less susceptible for peach leaf curl, but all peach trees can become infected eventually if conditions are right.

Avoid peach trees that are susceptible to peach tree borer. The peach tree borer is an insect pest of peach trees that can kill the peach tree if left untreated.

Growing a Peach Tree

Plant peach trees in full sun for maximum peach tree growth. Peach trees require well-draining soil that is neither too acidic or alkaline, but they also do great in any type of soil as long as it drains well. Add decomposed organic peach tree mulch around peach tree roots to maintain moisture levels during dry seasons and to help your peach tree survive the summer heat. Look for water-stressed peach trees by observing drooping leaves or wilting branches.

Pruning peach trees correctly is important in order to get the best harvest from your tree. Pruning also helps maintain the shape of the tree and keeps it healthy. In general, prune peach trees in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. Remove any dead or damaged branches and thin out the tree to allow light and air to circulate. Cut back inward-growing branches and remove any suckers (branches that grow from the rootstock). If your peach tree is not producing fruit, you may need to do more drastic pruning, including removing the entire top of the tree.

When planting a peach tree, be sure to use a high-quality, balanced fertilizer. A 10-10-10 fertilizer is a good option and should be applied at planting and then again every six weeks. In addition, you can also apply a layer of compost around the base of the tree each year. This will help to keep the soil healthy and promote strong growth.

When to Plant Peach Trees in Alabama

When to Plant Okra in Alabama

When to Plant Okra in Alabama

Okra or Lady’s finger is a popular vegetable that is widely grown in tropical and sub-tropical regions across the world. It has been a staple food for many people in African, Asian and Indian communities for centuries. With regular care and right growing conditions, okra plants can be productive throughout the Alabama growing season, even during summer months.

The key to growing okra successfully in your garden is selecting the right variety that suits the climatic conditions of your area. We’ve selected Clemson Spineless & Okinawa Pink for Alabama. The plant thrives in warm and moist weather and does not tolerate frost. Unlike many other vegetables, it does not need well-drained soil and grows well in heavy clay or sandy soils. However, you should make sure that the soil is not water-logged as this can lead to root rot.

Okra seeds can be direct sown in the garden or started indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost date. Sow the seeds 1/2 inch deep in moist, well-drained soil and keep them warm (70-80 degrees F). Once the seedlings emerge, thin them to 12-18 inches apart. Alabama garden centers can have seeds and plants available from Alabama Grown.

The plants will start bearing flowers and fruits 60-90 days after planting. The fruits are best harvested when they are 3-4 inches long and still tender. You can pick them every 2-3 days to encourage more fruiting.

What are the Crystals on Okra Plants?

While okra are self-pollinating with both male and female parts on the same flower. The plant secrets sugary sap that forms crystals to draw ants for pollination.

Why are Ants on Okra Plants?

The ants are there to help pollinate the flowers. The plants secret a sugary sap to draw the ants to the plants.

When to Plant Strawberries in Alabama

When to Plant Strawberries in Alabama

Before you start planting strawberry plants, it’s important to check their hardiness zone. Strawberries are a perennial plant that can be grown year round in zones 5-9. For zones 4 & 10, strawberries are considered an annual plant which means they must be replanted each year. Check out this list of states with their corresponding strawberry hardiness zone! Alabama is Zone 7.

In this blog post, we’ll look at the strawberry planting zone and how to successfully plant strawberries. We will also discuss what causes frost and why it is important to protect your plants from frost.

What type of soil should I use when planting my berries?

Strawberries grow best in deep, well-drained soil with lots of extra organic matter mixed in. When planting them, stagger the plants so there is equal ground between plants for better air circulation around the berries themselves. They also work well with trellising for increased sunlight and ventilation. If you need to keep them inside over the winter months, choose pots with at least 10 inches of depth (with plenty of drainage holes) and fill them about two thirds full; then stop watering when it gets cold outside around October or November.

How to Plant Strawberry Plants?

Depending on the variety, strawberries need to be planted 6-12 inches apart; however, they should still be pruned back when they get too leggy. Cut them back by 30% of their overall size for best results. The runners (branch that grow outwards) can also be trimmed at this time.

When and how should I water my strawberries?

Water strawberries regularly, especially if they’re planted in spring or summer. During periods of heavy rain, you may need to stop watering every day, but after a few weeks it should be back to normal. Too much water can lessen the berry flavor and cause the berries to burst.

The most obvious way to protect strawberry plants from frost is to choose varieties that are able to withstand these frosty conditions. Some exceptions include “Chandler” (zone 5-9), “Midnight” (zone 4-7) and “Arctic Choice” (5). Planting strawberries in raised beds or containers helps with aeration of roots which aids their systems, like circulation, that work together with colder weather protection. Growing strawberries in organic mulch also helps with this because it protects the soil from temperatures that are too low, thus creating a warmer microclimate for the roots. This is especially helpful during winter or hard freezes when temperatures can drop quickly.

Best Flowers to Plant in Alabama for Spring

Best Flowers to Plant in Alabama for Spring

Here’s our choices of the best flowering plants to grow in Alabama for Spring…

Calibrachoa

calibrachoa

Calibrachoa (Calibrachoa parviflora) is a trailing petunia that is also known as Million Bells and Seaside Petunia. It’s a happy little plant that blooms prolifically all summer and performs its best under the summer sun. Calibrachoa won’t wilt in the heat like many other varieties of petunias, making it a great choice for a sunny, organic garden.


Sunpatien

Garden success has never been simpler with easy-to-plant, easy-to-grow SunPatiens. The thicker petals and tough foliage are less prone to disease, and their strong sturdy stems tolerate high heat and humidity, rain and adverse weather conditions.


Growing Calibrachoa Organically

Growing Calibrachoa Organically

Calibrachoa (Calibrachoa parviflora) is a trailing petunia that is also known as Million Bells and Seaside Petunia. It’s a happy little plant that blooms prolifically all summer and performs its best under the summer sun. Calibrachoa won’t wilt in the heat like many other varieties of petunias, making it a great choice for a sunny, organic garden.

Planting Location

The more sun calibrachoa receivies, the more blooms they will produce. Select a location that is in full sun.

Plants grow equally well when planted in-ground or in containers, but will produce runners that need space to trail downwards or spread out laterally.

Soil Preparation

Since calibrachoa is a heavy blooming plant, it is also a heavy feeder. Create a fertile growing medium by mixing a good quality potting soil mix and compost at a 50/50 ratio. Potting soil should contain perlite and peat to help keep plants fed and hydrated.

Planting

Calibrachoa plants produce very few seeds, so they are typically purchased as plants.

When planting in-ground, dig a eight inch by six inch hole (save removed soil to use elsewhere) and place two-three inches of prepared soil in bottom of hole. Remove calibrachoa plant from container and place in center of prepared hole. Fill in planting hole with more potting soil mix. Firm soil gently around roots and water well.

For container planting, select a container that is 8-10 inches deep and equally as wide. Add two-three inches of prepared soil in container bottom, place plant in the center and finish filling in with soil. Water well.

Add a thin layer of organic mulch on top of soil to help retain moisture.

After Care

Remove spent blooms as needed to keep plant looking nice.

Water plant early in the day and provide plenty of sunshine to keep the thick foliage and the flowers dry to prevent rot root.

This heavy-feeding plant needs a steady supply of food, so keep it well fed with compost tea. Mix a garden trowel of compost (or manure) in a five gallon bucket of rain water and place in a sunny location. Allow ‘tea’ to steep for a couple of days, then use once a week to water calibrachoa.

A side dressing of compost can be added in mid-summer to kept soil fertile and plants growing strong.

Growing Zinnia Organically

Growing Zinnia Organically

Zinnias (Zinnia elegans) have been around for a long time and for good reason; their large, long-lasting blooms and care-free growing habits. The layers of colorful petals which make up each bloom are long-lasting when left in the garden or when used as a cut flower. Heat resistant and drought tolerant, zinnias make a perfect addition to an organic garden.

Planting Location

Choose a location that is in full sun and has well draining soil. Work some compost or humus into the soil before planting to ensure soil is fertile and drains efficiently.

Prepare Soil

Zinnias aren’t heavy feeders, but must have well-draining soil to thrive. Prepare soil by tilling or spading it to the depth of 8-10 inches.

Apply 2-4 inches of compost on top of tilled soil, then lightly work the compost into the soil. The compost will improve soil structure, promote good drainage and provide most of the organic food the plants will need throughout the growing season.

Planting Seeds

After all danger of frost has past, scatter flower seeds directly into prepared soil and cover them with ¼ inch of potting soil. Water in well. Seeds will germinate in 4-6 days.

Seeds can be started indoors 4-6 weeks before predicted date of last frost in spring. These plants love the heat and young plants will grow slowly in early spring, but once the summer temperatures heat up the air and soil, these flowers will take a growth spurt.

Thin seedlings to 6-12 inches apart to allow for proper air circulation.

After Care

Zinnias require minimal care and typically sail through the summer heat without wilting or ceasing flower production. Water them during periods of prolonged drought or if the plants begin to wilt. Deadhead spent blooms to encourage constant blooming.

The compost worked into the soil prior to planting will keep the plants fed all summer, so no other food is needed.

Add a 2-4 inch layer of organic mulch around plants once they are 8-10 inches tall.

Attraction and Prevention

Butterflies and hummingbirds are attracted to colorful zinnias. When zinnias are planted around the base of a birdbath or bird feeder, it will help to create a non-stop bird show throughout the summer.

Zinnias are prone to develop powdery mildew when planted too close together. Prevent this disease by select zinnia varieties that are mildew-resistant, plant flowers in full sun and space them 6-12 inches apart to allow air to circulate around each plant.

Growing Ornamental Sweet Potatoes Organically

Growing Ornamental Sweet Potatoes Organically

ipomoea sweet potato

Ornamental sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) vines don’t produce edible vegetables, but they do produce an attractive vine. The vine is suitable for use as a houseplant or for growing in an outside hanging basket. They thrive in the intense heat of summer and come in a wide range of colors. Their easy-care nature and low-growing vining habits make them a great addition to an organic garden. When planted among taller shrubs and plants, ornamental sweet potato vines act as a living mulch that helps retain soil moisture and keep weeds from growing.

Planting Location

The more sun these colorful vines receive, the better. Select a full sun location for outside growing and south or west-facing window for indoor containers.

Soil Preparation

For container growing, create a mix of 50 percent potting soil and 50 percent compost. Fill container to within one inch of top rim, and place sweet potato vine in the center. Water well and place container in a sunny location where the vine will have room to grow either downwards or upwards. Provide a small support for upward growing.

For outdoor planting, till or spade soil to 6 inches deep, then add 2 inches of compost on top and lightly work in into soil. Dig planting hole 6 inches deep, place two inches of compost in the bottom of hole, then set vine in and fill remainder of planting hole with removed soil mixed with 50 percent compost. Water well.

After Care

Once vine has become established outdoors, add a light layer of organic mulch from the base of plant to one foot outward all the way around the plant. This will keep the vine from coming into contact with the soil. Also, as the organic mulch slowly decomposes it will improve soil structure and fertility.

Water when top of soil is dry to the touch or when leaves begin to wilt.

Outdoor Uses

Easy-to-grow ornamental sweet potatoes work well as a low-growing bedding plant, summer ground cover, in hanging baskets and other containers, or trained to climb up a vertical support. When planted among taller shrubs and plants, ornamental sweet potato vines act as a living mulch that helps retain soil moisture and keep weeds from growing. The growth on these plants is very vigorous once they get established.

Growing Geraniums Organically

Growing Geraniums Organically

The popular and colorful geranium (Pelargonium) is a sure sign that summer has arrived. Geraniums come in many forms, colors and growing heights with well over 400 species of plants that are in the family of Cranesbills.

Easy-to-grow plant thrives in an organic garden and will provide bloom color all summer. Geraniums are considered to be an annual, but typically behave as a perennials when grown organically.

Growing Location

Select a sunny location that has well-draining soil. Geraniums grow well in containers or when planted in-ground.

Geraniums should be planted on the day of purchase, so it’s best to have your garden soil prepared ahead of time and be ready to plant immediately.

Soil Preparation

Prepare soil by tilling or spading 8-10 inches deep, or use a container 8-10 inches deep.

Mix in six inches of compost, well rotted manure or peat moss to the tilled soil ensure good drainage and plenty of organic food for the plants.

Prepare soil for container by creating an organic growing medium from a 50-50 mixture of good quality potting soil and compost.

How To Plant

For plants, dig holes that are the same depth as the roots so plant roots will just barely be under the surface of the soil.

Place a handful of compost in the bottom of each planting hole. Gently remove plant from container to keep the root ball intact and place in prepared hole.

Gently firm the soil around plant base and leave a 1/2 inch indentation in the soil around the plant to act as a catch basin for water. Water plant well and add two inches of an organic mulch around plant stem to retain water and prevent weeds.

For seeds, plant seeds in prepared soil 8-10 inches apart. Cover with half an inch of compost and water well. Keep soil moist until seeds germinate. When plants reach six inches high, apply a 2 inch layer of organic mulch around the plants.

After Care

Geraniums like moist, but not soggy soil. keep plants well-hydrated and well-fed by creating a batch of organic compost tea.

Mix a garden trowel of compost (or manure) in a five gallon bucket of rain water and place in a sunny location. Allow ‘tea’ to steep for a couple of days, then use to water geraniums.

A side dressing of compost can be added in mid-summer to kept soil fertile and plants growing strong.

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