Country Gardener

Widely regarded as the authority on gardening in the south west

What to give plants to drink

Liquid plant feeding is now thought to be essential but with many different types of fertilisers available, all with different nutrient values, it’s not easy to know which is the best buy.

July in the garden is typically a time to kick back, relax and enjoy the fruits of your labour, dead heading and harvesting is really the order of the day.

However, summer plant feeding is also a vital task to make sure you enjoy the best of crops and healthy disease free plants. Liquid feeds are a good place to start and historically many gardeners have made their own by steeping comfrey or nettles in water, a time honoured tradition, still an excellent way of feeding plants.

If however as a keen gardener you would like a more modern approach, nowadays there are a wide range of excellent pre-made liquid feeds on the market. There are however a few simple tips to ensure you get the most appropriate plant feed for you and your plants.

You get what you pay for

The cheapest liquid feeds, now available in many non specialist retailers, will only contain chemicals nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, (N:P:K), there will be no other trace elements or stimulants. If you want an analogy it is like someone living on a diet of fast food, you can survive but won’t necessarily be very healthy. It is also possible if you overdose on these harsher chemicals to get some quite freaky growth experiences in plants.

Minor nutrients and trace elements

There are about 30 different plant nutrients identified so far. Generally speaking most good soils will provide the minor nutrients and trace elements. It is possible that a lack of an obscure minor nutrient maybe limiting the uptake of an important element leading to deficiency symptoms.

Super seaweeds

Seaweeds are a very valuable addition to a rounded modern feed. Seaweed on its own doesn’t contain any nutrients but works hormonally as a stimulant to increase rooting, nutrient uptake and better growth. And a point for organic gardeners to remember and take note of- traditional calcified seaweed is not organic.

Tailored feeds for specific plants

One of the developments amongst feeds for plants in recent years has been the growing range of plant foods tailored for not just roses and ericaceous plants but many other plant groups. These feeds contain the most typical nutrients and trace elements that the given plant group requires. Have a look at the label and you will see in most cases the N:P:K values are different. A word of caution here - some feed ranges can be the same product just with a different packaging.

Modern ingredients

Horticultural science is constantly evolving and nutrients are starting to come from more sustainable sources and stimulants are enabling gardeners to use less nutrients and achieve the same results. A recent discovery is an amino acid, which is a by product of the UK Sugar Beet industry, which actually feeds soil microbes which in turn feed the plants.

Summing up

When choosing a liquid feed if you have a limited budget, why not make your own? There is a wealth of information out there on the internet. If you choose to invest in a liquid feed pick one that has the widest range of nutrients and trace elements as possible, contains at least seaweed, but ideally other bio-stimulants as well. Finally, store the feed in a cool dry place,  and remember not  to leave them in the greenhouse as liquid feeds in a sweltering July greenhouse can break down and lose their potency in a matter of weeks and be useless.

afterplantLiquid Afterplant from Empathy rootgrow

The liquid Afterplant range produced by the makers of rootgrow mycorrhizal fungi contains a range of plant nutrients, derived from as sustainable sources as possible. Tailored to the needs of specific plant groups such as roses, tomatoes, patio plants, evergreens and ericaceous plants. Liquid Afterplant also contains humic and fulvic acids, a professional grade seaweed and an amino acid to feed soil biology. 

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