Water and Fertilizer - Tips to Help Your Plants Succeed
By Mary Frucelli
If you are watering indoor plants, feel the dirt and only water when you plant feels really dry. For most plants a once a week watering is enough any time of the year. Some plants can tolerate being watered every other week. Don't just water the surface of the plant but give it a thorough soaking. It is a good idea to clean the leaves of indoor plants to keep them dust free, but try not to get the leaves wet as watering leaves can promote fungus and mold. Your indoor plants will appreciate being fed with an all purpose fertilizer at least once a month.
Outdoor pots must have holes in the bottom of the pot for good drainage and pots in the direct sun will dry out before pots in the shade. Pay attention to the weather and if it will be raining soon to allow your plants to be watered naturally. Rain water is much better for your plants than city tap water that has fluoride and chlorine added to it. If you can collect rain water it would be beneficial to water all your plants with it. Well water would work just as well as rain water. You can use a regular hose, watering can, or soaker hose depending on your situation. An alternate method uses a plastic bottle or cup with perforated holes buried next to the plant. This will allow you to fill the bottle or cup and the water will slowly be released to the roots of the plant. Tomatoes especially like this method of watering. Only water when your plants are dry and give them a good soaking. Most vegetable plants need lots of water and in the summer they should probably be watered every two to three days. Be very careful as over watering can put your plants at risk for rotting their roots and the plants will die.
If you have started your plants with a good quality potting soil with fertilizer or compost your plants should be fine the first few weeks until they are well established. Once your plants are well on their way you can fertilize them every couple weeks with an all purpose fertilizer. You can experiment by using fish emulsion and/or Epsom salts on most plants by following the directions on the package. Roses love being fertilized with Epsom salts and tomatoes like the calcium from egg shells. Other plants such as azaleas and blueberry bushes like acid soil and would benefit from sphagnum peat moss, pine needs, or coffee grounds. Don't be afraid to try different fertilizers as long as you don't overdo it. If you notice your plant having a particular problem, look it up on the internet, research it at your local library or consult with a local garden center. Gardening is a learning experience that can be different every season. Even the most experienced gardeners can have problems with their plants so don't get discouraged and give up. Once you reap the rewards of fresh fruits and vegetables you will want to keep growing them every year.