Being nurturers by nature, one of the first reactions most gardeners have upon seeing a plant in distress, is to smother it with love by providing either water or fertilizer or both.
But, unfortunately, this act of kindness is not always what the ailing plant is asking for; in fact, at times, over-nurturing can go against the plant in question, resulting in a heartache over a preventable loss.
Whereas, plants in general, not just the stressed-out ones, do require a certain amount of tending, but overwatering, particularly in the case of houseplants, is perhaps the number one reason we end up losing them. Applying too much fertilizer, specially the quick-release liquid kind, on the other hand, can have rather interesting consequences: when given at short intervals in excessive amounts, it can trigger plants into producing profuse vegetative growth and not many blooms, something not desirable if grown for flowers or fruits. I remember several summers back visiting a friend who fussed over their several-feet-tall tomato plants which though looked lush and healthy, bore practically no fruit. The culprit, as expected, was too much fertilizer!
True, plants grown in containers or annuals that have a relatively short life span, need a continuous supply of nutrients to flourish and bloom, but some like nasturtiums are known for thriving on neglect, for if fed, do not reward us with their lovely blooms. Likewise, for peak performance, go easy on the fertilizer in herbs also; “too much fertility will increase green growth, sacrificing both flavor and scent”, cautions Marianne Mittwede Ritchie in her book, Planning, Planting and Harvesting Your Herb Garden.
For one reason or the other, when it comes to using fertilizer, we tend to forget that nature has equipped green plants with chlorophyll to enable them to make food for survival; however, ideal conditions don’t always exist in the garden and therefore the soil has to be amended. So, whenever possible, I use in moderate amounts, a slow-release organic fertilizer at the time of planting and hence pretty much done for a while. By doing so, not only am I doing my share in minimizing chemical runoffs to our streams, lakes and rivers, but saving money as well which can be put to many other good uses in the garden.
Gita’s Tip of the Month
Take time to clean garden tools after using to prevent grime from building up; pruning tools which are used on disease-infested plants need to be sanitized after use to prevent the disease from spreading.