More is not necessarily better

Being nurturers by nature, one of the first reactions a gardener has to seeing a plant in distress is to smother it with love and provide it with either water or fertilizer or both. Unfortunately, the act of kindness is not always what the ailing plant is asking for. In fact, more often than not, too much nurturing can harm the plant in question, causing an unnecessary heartache over the loss of the plant.

Plants in general, and not just the stressed-out ones, do require a certain amount of tending to, but over-watering, particularly in the case of houseplants, is perhaps the No. 1 reason why we end up killing them.

Applying too much fertilizer – especially those quick-release liquid ones – on the other hand, has rather interesting consequences. True, the “blue miracle treatment” is at times the preferred choice, especially for plants grown in containers or annuals that have a short life span, but being given too much too quickly can cause plants to produce profuse foliage and not many blooms, something not very desirable for plants grown primarily for flowers or fruits. Several summers back, I remember visiting the garden of a friend who fussed over their several-feet-tall tomato plants, which, while lush and green, hardly bore any fruit: The culprit, as expected, was excessive fertilizer!

Likewise, nasturtiums are known for thriving on neglect, for, if fed more than necessary, the plants do not reward us with their lovely flowers. And, for peak performance, go easy on the fertilizer in the herb garden, says Marianne Ritchie in the book Planning, Planting, and Harvesting Your Herb Garden, as “too much fertility will increase green growth, sacrificing both flavor and scent.”

For one reason or the other, when it comes to applying fertilizer, we tend to forget the fact that nature has indeed equipped our green plants with chlorophyll to enable them to make food for daily survival. Nevertheless, since all of us are not blessed with ideal cultural conditions in the garden, the soil often has to be amended. Therefore, if needed, I prefer to use organic fertilizers, such as Plant-tone and Holly-tone or the slow-release Osmocote, which works really well for annuals. All I do at the time of planting is toss a handful of pellets around each plant and I am pretty much done for the rest of the season. Not only do I spare myself the task of continual feeding, but I save money that can certainly be put to other good uses.

Take the time to clean pruning tools after using them to prevent grime from building up; if working with disease-infested plants, it is almost essential to disinfect the tools after each use.      


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