Soil Amendment (warning: boring post about fertilizer)

I haven’t spent any time in the garden in the last month except to empty the compost into the bin and to pick kale and swiss chard. Today was fabulously sunny so I decided to go out and do a few tasks that I have been meaning to do for the last month: rake leaves from under the shrubs, rake the larch needles and weed. A change of plans was required as the leaves, needles and weeds were all frozen onto the ground, so instead I cut back some of the ornamental grasses and the plants that had been flattened by the snow, and removed the display of “festive greenery” on my front porch.

I also checked off another box on the “to do” list: fertilize! The rhododendrons, azaleas, the apple tree and the raspberries were fertilized with the appropriate fertilizers. Most of the fertilizer is sitting on top of the frozen soil but will dissolve and soak into the soil once it warms up and rains again. I also spread dolomite lime under the raspberries and spread lime in the garden boxes. When it comes to fertilizers, I really don’t feel like I know what I am doing,  so after some very superficial internet research here is some basic information about some of the soil amendment agents that I used.

Dolomite Lime: Dolomite lime consists of magnesium phosphate and calcium phosphate, and can be used to raise soil pH to counteract the acidity from coastal rains and from fertilizing with manure (both of which lower the pH).  West Coast Seeds recommends liming at last three weeks prior to planting, at least once every three years. Some websites argue advise against liming in the same year that you fertilize (whoops…good to know).

Bone meal: This slow-release fertilizer is primarily a source of phosphorus, with a nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium ratio of about 4-12-0. It is also a source of calcium. I ended up using a lot of it in the fall with bulbs. According to Wikipedia, it is a mixture of ground animal bones and slaughter-house waste products (nice!).

Fruit tree and berry food: The product that I used was from Evergro and has a nitrogen-phosphorus-potash ratio of 4-20-20. The box says that nitrogen is necessary for photosynthesis (leaves), the phosphorus is necessary for root development and to set fruit and buds for blossoms, and the potash is required for disease resistance, winter heartiness, and hastens the maturing process of the seeds and fruits and improves their quality. The fertilizer also contains other stuff like sulphur, magnesium, calcium, zinc, boron and copper.

Rhododendron and Azalea food: Also from Evergro, the product has a nitrogen-phosphorus-potash ratio of 10-8-12, and is ideal for acid loving plants like rhodos and azaleas. Fortunately, I didn’t lime any of these ones. This product also contains lots of other things like magnesium, boron, copper, iron, manganese, zinc and molybdenum. I feel like I am reading the side of a vitamin package – it all sounds good, but I don’t really know what it means.

What I also learned from reading the packages (which I should have read more carefully before going into the garden) is that the fertilizer shouldn’t be sprinkled around the stem of the plants but applied in a circle 30 cm from the stem of rhodos and 10 cm from raspberries. Learn from mistakes is going to be the theme of my garden efforts again this year, obviously.

About Chrystal

This blog is my online journal to keep track of what is going on in different parts of the garden, different times of the year.
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2 Responses to Soil Amendment (warning: boring post about fertilizer)

  1. cw says:

    Hey Kale Grower. Didn’t realize you could fertilze so early in the season. However, now I know and will be out there next weekend. Hopefully it will be warmer next weekend, as I must confess I am worried about a few of my shrubs in the deep freeze (for Vancouver). Thanks for the reminders!

    • Chrystal says:

      There seem to be a lot of different points of view on when to fertilize. Some people think you have to do it very early – before the plant starts to think about budding. Other people worry about all the nutrients getting flushed away in spring rains. Do what feels right…

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