Saturday, March 23, 2013

Fertilizers For Southern Plants

Fertilizers For Southern Plants
Fertilizers are the vitamins or the essential elements that a plant needs to grow and stay healthy. The soil, atmosphere, and water usually provide the plant with these essential nutrients, but there are times when the soil is generally nutrient deficient and in this case a fertilizer is essential. There are sixteen essential elements to plant nutrition. These elements are separated into two categories, macronutrients and micronutrients. The macronutrients are: oxygen [O], carbon [C], hydrogen [H], nitrogen [N], phosphorus [P], potassium [K], Calcium [Ca], magnesium [Mg], sulfur [S] and are required by the plant in large amounts. Oxygen, carbon and hydrogen are provided to the plant by the atmosphere and water. Required by the plant in small amounts are the micronutrients, which are: iron [Fe], manganese [Mn], zinc [Zn], baron [B], copper [Cu], molybdenum [Mo], and chlorine [Cl]. These elements are the building blocks to plant nutrition and health.

There are several types of fertilizers on the market today that are especially formulated for specific plants and to mention a few, there are Azalea fertilizers, Hibiscus Fertilizers, Palm Fertilizers, and many others. Let’s say you go to your local nursery or garden center to purchase the recommended fertilizer for your plant and the item is not in stock, or even available in your local. What do you do now? Fertilizers are formulated by percentage ratios such as 6-6-6, which is a 1-1-1 ratio or what is called a balanced fertilizer. As long as you get as close to fertilizer ratio as possible the plant will be happy.

When applying fertilizer please follow the package recommendations to how much should be applied and how frequently. Over fertilizing your plants does not help the plant in fact can cause more harm than good because a plant will only take up the fertilizer that it needs. Depending on the plant over fertilizing can cause a decrease in plant health, can lead to a decline, or eventually death; and in some species of plants, over fertilizing can cause an increase in insects. Fertilize newly planted plants after you see new growth appear.

Listed below are a few southern plants and the recommended fertilizers.

Allamanda – Allamanda’s are moderate feeders, requiring a balanced fertilizer with applications 3 to 4 times a year. After establishment water only during periods of drought. Allamanda PlantAllamanda pictured right.

Bougainvillea – Bougainvillea’s are heavy feeders and a Bougainvillea fertilizer should have a low phosphorous [P], which is the middle number and a higher analysis of potassium [K], which is the last number. The recommended fertilizers for the Bougainvillea are 6-8-10, 12-4-18, and Bougainvillia Plant17-7-10, or you can use a fertilizer that is recommended for Hibiscus Plants. Bougainvillea pictured left.

Firebush: Hamelia patens – Firebush is gaining popularity with gardeners and landscapers alike due to the plant’s drought tolerance after establishment; the plant attracts butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden, and requires little to no maintenance. Firebush requires little to no fertilizer, but can be fertilized twice a year in early spring and early summer with a 12-4-8 fertilizer or a fertilizer that has a 3-1-2 ratio blend. FirebushFirebush pictured right.

Firecracker Plant: Russelia equisetiformis – Firecracker plant is very drought tolerant after establishment in the landscape and is not picky about the soil it grows in. The plant attracts butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden.   Firecracker PlantFirecracker Plant requires very little fertilizer and you can apply a balanced fertilizer in the early spring and mid-summer. Firecracker Plant pictured left.

Hibiscus - Hibiscus are heavy feeders and a Hibiscus fertilizer should have a low phosphorous [P], which is the middle number and a higher analysis of potassium [K], which is the last number. The recommended fertilizers for the Hibiscus are 10-4-12, 9-3-12, or 12-4-18. Osmocote 17-6-10 + minors or Osmocote 18-6-12 are also recommended for Hibiscus and are a time-release fertilizer. Hibiscus plants attract Hummingbirds and Butterflies.

Homestead Purple Verbena: Verbena canadensis 'Homestead Purple' – There are two types of Verbenas, annual and perennial, but both types of Verbenas require the same fertilizer, and do extremely well under drought conditions and summer heat. Both types of Verbenas require a well-drained soil or plant in an area that does not collect water during heavy rains. Fertilize Verbenas once a year with a balanced plant food. Homestead Purple VerbenaHomestead Purple Verbena pictured right.

Ixora – Ixoras require an acid soil and an acid fertilizer. When Ixoras are planted in alkaline soil the plant suffers from Iron and Manganese deficiencies. When planting Ixoras amend the soil with Miracle-Gro Azalea soil or Miracle-Gro Rose soil and top dress with mulch. The recommended fertilizer for Ixoras are the same that are recommended for Gardenias, Azaleas, and Rhododendrons which should contain the minor elements, or a fertilizer recommended for Palm trees, or a fertilizer recommended for Hibiscus. Apply fertilizer 3 to 4 times a year. Do you drink coffee or tea? If so, the used ground can be recycled back into the soil under your acid loving plants such as Ixoras.

Lantana: Lantana camara – Lantana loves the summer heat and is extremely drought tolerant after the plant is established. In the south, Lantana is a perennial that comes back in the spring and should be pruned back after the danger of frost is gone. Lantana requires very little fertilizer and can be Lantana Plantfertilized very lightly with a balanced fertilizer such as 6-6-6, 8-8-8, or 10-10-10 in early spring and mid-summer. Lantanas attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Lantana Plant pictured left.

Palm Trees – require a 3-1-3 ratio fertilizer such as 12-4-12, or 13-3-13, or 15-5-15 at a slow-release or a control-release formulation. The fertilizer should also, contain minor elements or micro-elements. Broadcast the fertilizer around the root zone and past the drip line of the palm fronds.

Pride-of Barbados: Caesalpinia pulcherrima – Pride-of Barbados is in the Fabaceae family, (Legumes) and has a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria called Rhizobia. The Rhizobia (bacteria) takes nitrogen from the air and changes the nitrogen to nitrates, a form of nitrogen that is immediately available to the plant’s roots. Because of the nitrogen-fixing bacteria, if you need to fertilize the plant use a low nitrogen fertilizer. The plant is very drought tolerant after establishment and grows well in a wide range of soils from alkaline to acidic.

Turk’s Cap: Malvaviscus arboreus – Turk’s Cap is in the Malvaceae Family, the same family the Hibiscus plant is in. Hibiscuses are heavy feeders and a Hibiscus fertilizer Turk's Capshould have a low phosphorous [P], which is the middle number and a higher analysis of potassium [K], which is the last number. The recommended fertilizers for the Hibiscus are 10-4-12, 9-3-12, or 12-4-18. Osmocote 17-6-10 + minors or Osmocote 18-6-12 are also recommended for Hibiscus and are a time-release fertilizer. Turk’s Cap is more drought tolerant than the tropical Hibiscus and attracts Hummingbirds and Butterflies. Turk's Cap pictured right.
Cedar Pet Food Containers 
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Hibiscus Fertilizer on Sale Now at 30% off. Click To Purchase. Hibiscus Fertilizer pictured right.

©Cheryl Ann Meola 2013.  Texas Certified Nursery Professional (TCNP) #1282.
 Hibiscus Fertilizer

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Planting and Growing Tomato Plants

TomatoesPlanting and Growing Tomato Plants

As the weather warms, we gardeners start thinking about gardening again. With this in mind I would like to mention the wonderful benefits of growing tomatoes.
Home-grown tomatoes have a richer, fuller, and better taste than store bought since you pick them yourself. Home-grown tomatoes are easy and inexpensive to grow as well. Growing tomatoes has a lot of appeal: it can involve the entire family from the little ones to the teens. As well as being an educational tool, the time the family spends in the garden is quality time spent together, and can give one a sense of pride. For gardener’s who live in a condo, apartment, or townhome tomatoes can be grown in a container.

Choosing a Location: Choose an area that gets 5 - 6 hours of full sun; and if, you have an area that receives more than 6 hours of sunlight that’s all right, too.

Choosing a Container(s): Pick a container that is 14 inches or larger, and I would like to suggest when growing tomatoes to put one plant per container. All Hand-Crafted Cedar Planters are 30% Off. Click Here To Purchase Cedar Planters.

Choosing Potting Soil: When choosing a potting soil there are several commercial potting soils available, and choosing one is a matter of your gardening preferences, some of the choices are inorganic verses organic, with moisture control or without moisture control, with timed-release fertilizer or without fertilizer. Some potting soils are especially formulated for vegetables and can be used as a potting soil in containers or a soil amendment to your vegetable garden plot.

Choosing a Fertilizer: When choosing a fertilizer there are several commercial fertilizers that are available, and choosing one is a matter of your gardening preferences, some of the choices are water soluble, granular, time-release, slow-release, organic, or inorganic. Choose a fertilizer that is formulated for vegetable plants and include the minor-element calcium. Current research has discovered that calcium is an important minor-element in fertilizers, especially for vegetable fertilizers. The research discovered that a lack of calcium in the soil is the cause of Blossom End Rot in tomatoes and other vegetables. When your vegetable fertilizer does not include the minor-element of calcium you can use one of the following: Crushed eggshells, Calcium Supplement Pills, (for people, but works just as well on plants), Nutri-Cal, Epsom Salts, Gypsum, or Powdered Lime.

The eggshells can be put into a blender or food processor to be crushed and mixed until the eggshells are a dry powder. Apply to plant(s) every two weeks. Eggshells contain 95 percent calcium carbonate.

The over the counter calcium supplement pills we take every day can be used to increase the calcium levels in your tomato plants. Use 2 tablets per plant mixed with a gallon of water. The tablets can be crushed or just dissolve thoroughly in water. The calcium water mixture can be added to your water soluble fertilizer.

Nutri-Cal is a liquid calcium supplement that can be purchased at most garden centers that is sprayed on the tomato plant. For good results please follow package directions.

Epsom salts has been recommended to relieve calcium deficiencies in soils and is highly recommended by organic gardeners. Apply 1 tablespoon, dry Epsom salts per plant and water in thoroughly after applying; or mix 2 tablespoons per gallon of water and water the tomatoes with the mixture.

To increase the calcium levels of soils that are more alkaline use Gypsum (calcium sulfate), and follow package directions. For soils that are more acidic use Powdered Lime (calcium carbonate). This product is also labeled as Calcitic Lime, Dolomitic Lime and will increase the soil’s alkalinity.

Choosing an Insecticide: When choosing an insecticide there are several available at your local garden center and choosing one is a matter of your gardening preferences, and while I was growing tomatoes I had an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) approach method. I would only use Safer Soaps or Horticultural Oils on all the tomatoes that I grew, and realistically I hardly had to spray the tomatoes at all. I was constantly watching for any insect or worm that would start eating my prize tomatoes, and when I did see one I would simply dispose of the insect.

Choosing a Vegetable Support: Most tomato plants will need to be staked or will need a vegetable cage to support the plant. Put the tomato cage or vegetable cage around the plant shortly after planting.

Watering: Of all the ingredients that I have mentioned for tomato gardening success, water, is the most important to successful tomatoes. The soil for your plants will need to be consistently moist at all times, and the water source should be city water or treated water. This is one of the reasons for E. coil outbreaks by vegetable growers in past years; the vegetables that were recalled received untreated water during the growing process. More gardeners are starting to grow their own vegetables this year versus last year due to the E. coli outbreaks in store-bought produce. Just another reason to start growing your own vegetables, you supply the water, you supply the insecticide, and you know exactly what ingredients went into your vegetables. For states that are currently under water restrictions, you can water your food crops, personal food garden, or personal vegetable garden without penalty. Wash all vegetables before eating or cooking.

Planting Tomato Plants: Always plant your tomato plants deeper than the original soil line, even if you grow your tomatoes from seed. When you are ready to plant your tomato plants remove two to three sets of the lower leaves or six leaves total and plant the tomato plant that deep in the soil. You just do this withBeans and Cherry Tomatoes tomatoes and the reason for this procedure is that tomatoes will establish more roots along the stem where you removed the leaves, and tomatoes require a lot more water than the other vegetables, and tomatoes are one vegetable that are heavy feeders, i.e. tomatoes require a steady supply of fertilizer.

An article in Chemically Speaking, January 2009 on honeybees and crop yield that was published may entice my readers to plant more than just a vegetable garden this spring. The article states that planting more flowers to attract honeybees will help plants defend themselves against attacks from caterpillars. The study suggests that this could lead to a new biological control method to try.

Put on your gardening gloves and reap the rewards and benefits of a spring vegetable garden. Tastier vegetables than store bought that you harvest on your own. As a vegetable gardener you know the ingredients, and there is nothing more rewarding than tasting the “vegetables” of your labors.

All photographs and digital images are ©Cheryl Ann Meola 2007. All Rights Reserved. All photographs and digital images displayed in this article are for viewing purposes only and cannot be duplicated.