Feeding plants & borders with David Domoney

This article is a special feature by professional horticulturalist and television presenter, David Domoney.

As plants begin to recognise the grow-friendly weather that greets gardens come March, we need to give them as much help as possible to ensure they survive and perform at their very best.

Our garden plants are like children; we need to enrich and nurture them with the very best food and environment so that they grow healthy and strong.

Here’s a look at which feeds to pick to keep your plants prospering throughout the growing season.

Liquid vs. granules

Feeding plants will unlock the full potential of your garden and uncover a green oasis for you to enjoy. I It’s so simple to work feeding into your gardening routine - Miracle-Gro® liquid plant food contains the bio-stimulant Humifirst® which stimulates growth, root development and improves plant resistance.

It’s full of organic material over 350 million years old and trials have shown that it helps plants take in 21% more phosphorus. Phosphorus helps the plant to convert nutrients into compatible building blocks which aid growth.

Miracle-Gro All Purpose Liquid Plant Food

Not only this, but it helps towards soil improvement, helps water retention in sandy soils and aeration for clay soils. As every garden is different, gardeners often turn to an All-Purpose product to fulfil multiple needs across their garden landscape. The Miracle-Gro plant food range is robust enough to be used generally like this and has products to achieve precise feeding needs and still do a thorough job.

For feeding plants organically, you’ll want something like their Performance Organics Liquid feed, a high-performance feed that grows plants twice as big but does so completely organically.

As it’s 100% plant-based, it’s suitable for vegan growers too. Use as you would any other liquid feed, in pots, containers, borders and beds. You’ll see results in seven days, whilst remaining nature-friendly.

Generally, liquid feeds are quick to act and are therefore best for pots and containers where you need to control the dose. Within Miracle-Gro’s range, you will also find continuous release All-Purpose feeds and these offer something different entirely.

Continuous release products are often solid in form, as opposed to liquid feed, and have a special coating that controls the rate of release; only distributing  nutrients when conditions are right for plant growth or the vegetation needs it.

This technology suits beds and borders particularly well - you can scatter the granules over the large soil surface and they only need to be dispersed every six months or so, cutting down on the need for feeding little and often —which is great for large gardens.

For every need

Also within the Miracle-Gro Continuous Release range, you’ll find products to suit every need. The Azalea, Camellia & Rhododendron plant food is for ericaceous, acid-loving, anti-lime plants. The most commonly grown ericaceous plants are azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons. These plants thrive in a low lime environment (pH 4.5 to 5.5). If they are grown in soil where the pH is too high (alkaline), they produce poor growth, few flowers and the leaves tend to become yellowish in colour. Use from March to September for better blooms throughout summer.

Pink rhododendron

When we talk about “feeding plants”, it also refers to the resources the plants need to thrive. Healthy soil is at the core of that and so many plant feeds help treat the soil to benefit the plant.

Therefore, knowing your garden soil’s properties is key to keeping plants happy. Plant feeds that contain one or two nutrients rather than all 3 of the major plant nutrients (NPK: nitrogen, phosphorus and potash) are called 'straights'. These can be used to treat soils (and therefore the plants) with specific needs.

For instance, acidic soils which need a boost are given Sulphate of Iron; those in need of alkaline treatment are given Lime Soil Improvers; plants with yellow leaves requiring more nitrogen can be given Sulphate of Ammonia; while magnesium-hungry plants, like tomato and potato crops, may benefit from Magnesium Salts.

Bold borders

As well as feeds for soil types, you can look to treat plants which require a helping hand. Roses, which typically suffer from rose rock, may benefit from root-building feeds and Bone Meal fertilisers deliver this—they’re also great for trees and shrubs for this reason.

Plants which are about to go into flower or fruit will need a little of everything, released at different times. The nitrogen in Blood Fish and Bone Fertiliser promotes leafy growth early, while the slow release elements, like phosphate, gradually develops roots, and potassium will boost fruits and flowers when the time comes.

To this end, Miracle-Gro’s Superphosphate can help establish plants quickly to help ripen plants faster. Finally, Chicken Manure, though not everyone’s cup of tea, can be really great for crops that need a lot of nitrogen, like plums, blackcurrants and carrots.

So, whether your borders and bursting with structural shrubs and trees, organically-grown crops or acid-loving camellias, there’s a feed fit for the job.

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