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It’s Time to Fertilize, Folks

By Paul James

Let’s get one thing straight — fertilizer isn’t food. Plants don’t need our help to make their own food. They eat photons. Then they synthesize food from carbon dioxide and water. That’s why the process is known as photosynthesis. But to make that food, they need nutrients in the form of various elements and minerals, and that’s where fertilizers come in. It’s also where you come in. Because now is the time to fertilize.

After all, chances are you haven’t fertilized since late last summer or early fall, and in that time most of the nutrients available to plants have vanished from the soil, having either been used by plants or leached away as a result of rains and watering. That’s fine, because most plants don’t need nutrients during the winter months. But once their active growth phase begins — which is now — they need nutrients.

Unfortunately, the number of fertilizer choices on the market is staggering, which makes the selection process incredibly confusing. But one company, Espoma, has taken the guesswork out of buying, and I think their approach — which is a combination of clever marketing and solid science — is brilliant.

The folks at Espoma have developed specific fertilizers — nearly all of them organic — for specific plants or plant groups. So if you’re growing tomatoes, for example, grab a bag of Tomato-Tone. Got hollies? Use Holly-Tone. Love growing citrus fruits? Then yes, Citrus-Tone is the way to go. The list goes on and on, but if you can’t find a fertilizer specific to your need, then just use Garden-Tone or Plant-Tone. And if you’re putting a new plant in the ground or a container, go with Bio-Tone Starter. 

Nearly all of their fertilizers contain the essential macronutrients — nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium — in varying ratios, plus micronutrients such as calcium, sulfur, manganese, and so on. And they contain several strains of beneficial bacteria that you may not find in other brands. They also offer Blood Meal, Bone Meal, Bat Guano, Gypsum, and other commonly used fertilizers. 

(And for what it’s worth, I don’t receive money or product from Espoma. I just like their stuff. Always have.)

So the next time you fill your shopping cart with plants of all kinds, whether in-store or online, don’t forget the fertilizer!

Happy gardening, ya’ll.

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10 responses to “It’s Time to Fertilize, Folks”

  1. Becky Brady says:

    Do fertilizers expire?

  2. Sara Smith says:

    My Teddy Bear Magnolia is brown. The stems are green but it’s dropping leaves. Is there anything I can do to help it to live?

  3. Dennis Beckmann says:

    What about trees? Loblolly, redbud, shumard oak, red maple, willow etc

    • Paul James says:

      If the trees are in the lawn and you fertilize your grass, there’s no need for additional fertilizer. If not, then yes, you can fertilize them now, although willows grow like weeds without fertilizer.

  4. Greg Rosta says:

    Hi Paul,
    Espoma has certainly made things easy! Question for you…I just planted a dogwood tree and a few viburnum. How soon after planting a new shrub or tree do you fertilize? Also, my youngest son, who is very much into gardening with me and loves your show, wanted me to tell you ‘hello’ and that he planted his first pepper seeds this week! Starting them young…

    • Paul James says:

      First, say hi to the boy, and tell him congratulations on planting his first peppers! It’s actually best to fertilize at planting time, but now would be fine.

  5. Janet Waddell says:

    When should I plant the coleus I have been rooting in water all winter?

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