Some Basics About Fertilizers

Some Basics About Fertilizers

At Hyannis Country Garden there’s an entire wall devoted to fertilizers. This selection is wonderful in that our customers are sure to find just the right product for their needs…but it can also be bewildering. We frequently help people who are confused about which product to buy. “Can I use this on all my flowers or just on the roses?” “Do I need a separate fertilizer for my tomatoes?” or “What’s the best one for my shrubs?” are all questions we hear frequently.

Here are a few basic tips to make your fertilizing decisions less daunting.

In general, we recommend organic fertilizers for trees, shrubs, and perennials. Organics feed these plants slowly over time and don’t push fast growth that might also be weak. You can apply an organic fertilizer such as Holly-tone (for acid loving plants and most evergreens) or Flower-tone (for all other shrubs and perennials) anytime except July, August and September. Some people choose to do lighter applications spring and fall, while others want to only spread it once in the spring.

Organic fertilizers take about 6 weeks to become available to plants so don’t expect an “overnight green-up.” With these products, slow and steady wins the race!

This section of our fertilizer department has all the Espoma products. Many of these are organic fertilizers but there are some synthetic products such as a 10-10-10 as well.

This section of our fertilizer department has all the Espoma products. Many of these are organic fertilizers but there are some synthetic products such as a 10-10-10 as well.

Most people choose to also use organic fertilizers on their vegetables. If this is your preference, mixing some Plant-tone in the bed in the spring, and following up with a liquid such as Neptune’s Harvest in the summer. Fish or fish and seaweed is an organic fertilizer that’s available more quickly than other organics, so it makes a good mid-summer feed.

These are great products to use on any of your outdoor plants. Many vegetable gardeners use fish and seaweed as their middle of the summer fertilizer.

These are great products to use on any of your outdoor plants. Many vegetable gardeners use fish and seaweed as their middle of the summer fertilizer.

Annuals tend to do better with at least some synthetic fertilizers. The combination I use is a time-release synthetic such as Osmocote, mixed with an organic such as Plant-tone. Many of the new annuals need a fertilizer that’s higher in nitrogen (the first number on the label) because they flower on new growth and the nitrogen stimulates that development. So mixing equal parts of these two products and mixing them into your containers or annual beds will provide the correct amount of fertilizer all summer long.

This synthetic fertilizer releases over time but the more frequently you water, and the higher the temperature, the faster the product is released.

This synthetic fertilizer releases over time but the more frequently you water, and the higher the temperature, the faster the product is released.

Don’t throw fertilizer in the bottom of a hole when you plant! The roots will grow away from that small deposit fairly quickly. Instead, scatter it over the entire surface of the area where plants are being installed. As you plant some of the product will get mixed into the soil and the rest will feed from the top down as it breaks down into the soil. Bio-tone is a good fertilizer to use when planting.

There are special fertilizers for just about every plant from tomatoes to cacti, but it’s possible for you to use a general product over most of your landscape and indoor plants. Come into the store and we’ll be happy to guide you to what makes most sense for your yard and gardens.

Here are some general recommendations we make for common Cape Cod Plants.
Hydrangeas: use Holly-tone if you want them to stay blue.
Perennials: Flower-tone
Rhododendrons and Holly: Holly-tone
Trees: Flower-tone or Holly-tone
Roses: Rose-tone

Never assume that you know what your soil fertility is! Taking samples and having soil tested every two to three years is always a good idea. The University of Massachusetts Soil Testing Lab is the place to send samples, and full instructions can be found on their website.

Coast of Maine has some excellent organic fertilizers that target specific nutrients.

Coast of Maine has some excellent organic fertilizers that target specific nutrients. Once you have your soil test results you’ll know if one of these is the best for your garden.

We have a wide selection of fertilizers, both organic and synthetic, and we can help you find just the right product for your plants.

We have a wide selection of fertilizers, both organic and synthetic, and we can help you find just the right product for your plants.

Now the answers to those common questions we started out with.

“Can I use this on all my flowers or just on the roses?” You can use Rose-tone or other rose fertilizers for your other perennials and flowering shrubs.

“Do I need a separate fertilizer for my tomatoes?” No, you can use any general fertilizer for all the vegetables in your garden, or you can use Tomato-tone on the entire veggie garden, not just the tomatoes.

“What’s the best one for my shrubs?” In general, you could use Holly-tone for all of the shrubs that keep their leaves all winter, as well as the hydrangeas. And you could use Flower-tone on everything else.

Finally, always read the label on the product you’re using and mix or apply at the recommended rate! Too much fertilizer does more harm than good.

3 Comments

  1. Susan on May 25, 2017 at 8:11 am

    This was so helpful. I use organic fertilizer but never really understood how it worked. I also continued to use it in July and August. Thanks again for your help.

  2. Vicki Balboni on May 27, 2017 at 7:04 am

    Good morning C. L.,
    You mentioned awhile back there is a climbing rose which produces better than the “New Dawn” variety. What was the variety of climbing rose?
    Thank you, Vicki

    • CLFornari on May 27, 2017 at 7:35 am

      Vicki,
      ‘New Dawn’ is a great, strong and large growing climber. I didn’t talk about a “better” climber, but one that was better about re-flowering and wasn’t as large. ‘Collette’ repeat blooms and doesn’t get as big, that’s all. In terms of re-blooming red flowering, ‘Dublin Bay’ is a good one and if you want bi-color blooms look for ‘Forth of July’.

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