Application methods simply come down to spraying, spreading, or sprinkling. Here's how to apply some common types of fertilizer:
Granular and powder fertilizers take time to break down and release their contents to the soil and plants, so apply them a few weeks before planting vegetables and flowers, and use them as long-term sources of nutrients for trees, shrubs, lawns, and perennials. Generally, the smaller the particles, the more quickly the fertilizer becomes available to plant roots.
✓ Liquid: Liquid fertilizers give plants a quick nutrient boost. Common liquid fertilizers include fish emulsion and seaweed extract, as well as homemade "tea." (You can find a recipe for manure and compost teas in the sidebar "Tea,anyone?" later in this chapter.) Liquid fertilizers are good candidates for foliar feeding, that is, being applied directly to plant leaves.
To apply nutrients during the growing season, side-dress plants by applying granular or liquid fertilizer to the soil about 6 inches from plant stems. For even faster results, apply liquid fertilizers directly to plant leaves (called foliar feeding). Mix foliar fertilizers with water with neutral pH (7.0), and apply only when air temperatures are below 85 degrees Fahrenheit. One or two side dressings or foliar feedings during the active growing season should be plenty for most garden vegetables and flowers. Container-grown plants may need monthly fertilizing for best growth.
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