Fertilizer decisions

Kenneth Hixson khixson@nu-world.com
Mon, 23 Mar 2009 23:33:28 PDT
Jane McGary wrote:
> First, during periods of heavy snow rabbits invaded the bulb frames 
> and chewed off the emerging foliage 

> won't kill the plants, but it will certainly set them back. Since the 
> nutrients the plants draw from the soil (i.e., the fertilizer) must 
> be converted to stored food by photosynthesis -- a physiological 
> process that occurs in the leaves -- it seems that applying 
> fertilizer to plants that lack a normal amount of foliage is 
> unproductive. Is it actually harmful?

> Second, it has been colder than average all winter. Usually I'd be 
> applying the second of three spring "feeds" right now. But does the 
> cold temperature mean that the plants will not be growing as actively 

	I don't claim to have "professional" knowledge of this, but some

	Foliage damaged early in the growing cycle can be/will be
replaced.  The plants involved may "stay green" longer than usual.
Roots grow ahead of the foliage, and usually absorb nutrients that
are stored in the roots and stems before there is foliage to
complete the process of converting it to plant matter.  Roots of
many bulbs grow through the winter, and as foliage is forming they
are primarily absorbing water to "push" the foliage and flower
stems, which are already formed, often/usually by or shortly after
the plant went "dormant" the previous summer.  A typical growth
cycle is for nutrients to be used for current growth until the
first bud starts to expand, then the nutrients get "switched" to
producing next years' plant, in bulbs if a bulbous plant, but in
the roots of typical herbaceous plants, and to some extent even
in the stems of woody plants.

	Air and soil temperatures differ, and even when we have
a miserable winter above ground, the soil temperature a foot
underground, where the roots are, remains relatively stable and
the roots are doing their thing even if there is ice, snow, etc.
Above ground growth may be delayed, but the roots are doing their
thing unless the ground is frozen and there is no free water.
We may not be comfortable at 40 F., but many plant roots find that
temperature appropriate for growth.

	Every plant and every garden is different, but to be honest,
I worry more about excess rainfall washing nutrients out of the soil, 
especially in pots.

	Well, that's how I see it.


More information about the pbs mailing list