Garden Food for Thought

Garden Food for Thought

Gardeners strive for beautiful blooms, lush gardens and towering trees no matter where we live. Those of us that garden in Alberta are challenged by a short growing season, a cool climate and variable weather. At the base of this are soils that have been pillaged of the richness that our natural prairie and foothills soil provide. To recoup the growing foundation that soil provides our plants and to successfully grow we must amend and fertilize. Aren’t soil amendments and fertilizers the same thing? No, they are not. Soil amendments help plants indirectly by improving a soil’s physical properties, while fertilizers directly affect plant growth by providing nutrients to feed the plants.

Soil amendments allow the soil to live. They modify the structure of the soil allowing it to hold water and nutrients more efficiently, allowing good organisms to thrive and decompose organic matter and provide a better foundation for our plants. Organic amendments that help with water absorption include peat moss, leaf mold, compost, worm castings and specialty soils. Amendments that help improve drainage and soil structure include horticultural sand, zeolite, perlite and vermiculite.

Fertilizers come in synthetic and organic forms, providing food for our plants. Whether we want to improve plant growth and vigour, greener grass, bigger and brighter blooms, true blue spruce or an abundant harvest there is plenty of food to choose from. The primary nutrients used by plants are Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium. Three numbers will be prominently displayed on the label of all fertilizers, stating the percentage of each nutrient in any brand of fertilizer. Details to remember are that nitrogen (N) helps with plant growth and colour, phosphorous (P) provides strong root growth and flower development and potassium (K) helps with overall plant health. The addition of micronutrients in many fertilizer products creates a well-rounded food group for plants, such as our own specialized blend of lawn fertilizer.

There are a variety of synthetic fertilizers available for specific purposes, particularly fertilizers for lawns, tomatoes, bulbs, blooms, house plants, seed starting, transplanting, trees, shrubs, evergreens and more. Organic fertilizers include seaweed extract, Evolve plant fertilizer, manure and bone meal to name a few. Read the labels for usage and instructions or make sure to ask one of our knowledgeable staff to help wade through the fertilizer pile.

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