Pick Your

You'll find both dry and liquid fertilizer formulas in this chapter, Dry fertilizers, such as long-lasting granular or powdered mixes, are great for sidedressing actively growing plants. These power-packed organic fertilizers not only supply nutrients, but also improve the texture and moisture retention of the soil by feeding a vast army of beneficial microbes (as many as 900 billion in 1 pound of soil). And these fertilizers will keep on working for weeks, even months

!n most cases, you can just spread dry fertilizer on the soil around individual plants and lightly scratch them into the soil. If your soil is low on any of the major nutrients (nitrogen is especially soluble, so it leaches out quickly from the soil), these

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dry fertilizers may be the best way to provide them.

The liquid fertilizer formulas we've collected take the form of fast-acting teas and mixtures for foliar feeding (spraying the leaves of a plant) and soil drenches. While it's no substitute for a balanced soil, foliar feeding can be the best way to supplement your plants diets. Like the vitamin and mineral supplements we humans take to combat high stress levels or to make up for poor eating habits, foliar feedings don't replace good soil fertilizers, they merely supplement them. If major nutrients or trace minerals are missing from the soil, these liquid fertilizers, sprayed directly on the leaves, will provide them fast! Plants will immediately absorb the micronu-trients from liquid fertilizers like manure tea, compost tea, and seaweed solutions. Since plants can't store excess nutrients in their leaves and draw on them later, you'll have to repeat foliar feedings at regular intervals.

It's cheaper to buy fertilizer ingredients in bulk and split the costs and the resulting mix with a gardening friend or neighbor. But splitting a batch isn't always possible, and it's a good idea to be prepared in case there are leftovers.

You'll need containers, of course, but labels are just as important. Always label fertilizer containers before you fill them so there's no chance of forgetting a label or confusing the contents with another garden product.

Store homemade fertilizer in 5-gallon plastic buckets with lids. That way, moisture (and pests) can't get into the mix and spoil it. You can get buckets for free—or for a small fee—from grocery stores and restaurants. Attach your labels, or use a permanent marking pen to write the date and ingredients on each bucket. %

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