fertiliser issues

info@auchgourishbotanicgarden.org info@auchgourishbotanicgarden.org
Wed, 25 Mar 2009 14:31:17 PDT
Jane highlights some real difficulties for any gardener, knowing how much, how soon and how often. Like the other respondent on this I am no expert on fertiliser regimes however I did work for a few years on nutrient trials using a slow release fertiliser product which had variable NPK strengths and release rates. Release rates for what are known in Europe as 'prills', i.e. little balls of coated fertiliser are triggered as I recall to release according to temperature rather more than humidity and the choice of options was dictated very much by plants intended to be fertilised as well as soil type including porosity and pH which all together makes for a fine judgement not easy for anyone. Fertilisers of these sorts are composed in effect of salts and there is a huge risk of over dozing which in my mind is always worse than under dozing, the latter can be recovered from quickly, the former can be a real problem even fatal for certain plants.

I have recently resorted to natural fertilisers, 3 year composted cattle manure, (NOT HORSE or MUSHROOM COMPOST) but preferentially in the nursery as distinct from the gardens especially those based on liquid seaweed extract which admittedly not everyone can access but here in Scotland we are surrounded by the Ocean and there is a long standing tradition of fertilising crops with dried seaweed collected off the coast after Atlantic storms and to which many people are now returning where they can by collecting it given the high costs and shortage of money here as well as most anywhere too I imagine. Incidentally this far north I stop feeding in the early Autumn, late August sometimes as the plants have to harden off to get them through down to - 20 C as happened this winter, with my sandy soil in any event everything else just leaches out and is a waste of time and money.

What I find useful about the seaweed extract is it is both easy to administer in solution, by various means, and also appears to be as complete a fertiliser source of nutrients and trace elements as is available to us here, cost also comes into it. Last year I started trials on its use in Lilium and other genera and this year a much bigger trial is under way for the lilies however I don't have any stats to offer yet, intuitively my feelings are positive, the plants last year seemed very healthy and no evidence of sclerosis was seen, anecdotally I also "feel" that aphids are not best pleased but don't make any decisions yourselves on the back of my feelings in this regard, certainly the healthy lilies showed zero effects of aphid or other disease effects, a couple more years will be a bit clearer on this hopefully. The regime for liquid seaweed application started this year in one group on the 15th March and the next group will be started on it on 1st April, the last on 15th April, one control group is getting nothing. A caveat is that we still get night frosts and snow flurries off and on but the land, being sandy, is clearly heating up as snow doesn't lay so long, if at all now.

I hope this is of some help to Jane et al.


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