Over time the essential nutrients in soil will deplete and leave the plant struggling to find the goodness it needs to grow and stay healthy. There are a number of reasons for this, but it’s mainly due to the plant utilising all the existing nutrient it has available by both respiration and photosynthesis during its primary growth periods in spring, summer and autumn. During mid-winter most plants are quite dormant and aren’t doing much at all, but towards the end of winter and the on-set of warmer days and lighter nights (August), plants will be looking for the essential nutrients required to assist with their new growth in the coming months. There are so many fertilisers available at the nursery and it can be confusing when faced with all the options so here’s a very high level explanation of what’s what!
Organic Bagged Manures – Cow and poultry are great for digging through garden beds as they add organic matter to the existing soil as well as nutrients and also assist with the soil water retention. However, there are significant differences between the manures and what manures should be added to what plants to ensure the best possible outcomes. For example cow manure is very low in phosphorous and can be added to vegetable gardens that contain flowering and fruiting vegetables to promote the flowering. In addition cow manure can also be used in flowering garden beds as well as garden beds containing Australian native plants and other phosphorous sensitive plants. Poultry manure is very high in nutrient and especially high in nitrogen and phosphorous so should never be used on phosphorous sensitive plants. Poultry manure is perfect for use in vegetable gardens containing lettuce, kale and any other leafy vegetables, plus non-flowering plants such as bamboo, tiger grass and even lawns.
Blood and Bone – This product is a slow release fertiliser made from waste product from abattoirs. Blood and Bone provides a very gentle and long term feed to all kinds of plants, however it does not contain potassium so isn’t great for flowering and fruiting plants.
Pelletised Manure – These types of fertilisers are dried and pelletised versions of bagged manures. Some have additional components added such as seaweed and blood and bone and are great all round organic fertilisers for most garden situations. It is important to ensure pelletised manures are watered in regularly to ensure they dissolve into the soil and don’t just sit on the top and rot away.
Mushroom Compost – Mushroom compost is a slow-release, organic plant fertiliser. The compost is made by mushroom growers using organic materials such as hay, straw, corn cobs and hulls, and poultry or horse manure. It can be used as soil amendment for lawns, gardens, and container plants. However, it’s worth noting that mushroom compost has high soluble salt levels which can harm germinating seeds, very young seedlings and can cause damage to salt-sensitive plants, such as azaleas and rhododendrons. The benefits of mushroom compost are the increase in water retention in the soil as well as the high nutrient value.
Soil Conditioners – Soil conditioners are made up of poultry, cow and sheep manures, as well as other goodies like mushroom compost, seaweed and blood and bone. In addition to these components, the best soil conditioners also contain soil microbes to increase the health of the soil and zeolite which extends the presence of the fertiliser in the soil. Soil conditioners also contain trace elements and minerals to keep the plants overall health in check. Soil conditioners are probably the most expensive type of fertiliser, but you only need to use the one product to achieve great long lasting results.
Synthetic Fertilisers – These fertilisers are man-made which means that they are literally ‘designed’ so nutrients are refined to their purest state and are highly analysed to produce the exact ratio of nutrients desired to deliver bigger blooms, more flowers/fruit and fuller greener foliage etc. This ratio is also applied to target different plant types and this is when we see specific fertiliser designed for Azalea and Camellia, Native, Fruit and Citrus, Vegetable, Roses etc. Another part of the refining process is to strip any fillers or substances that may delay the availability of nutrient to the plants which means the nutrient becomes available as soon as it’s applied to the plants and this is where we see the fast results. Synthetic fertilisers that also replace beneficial soil microbes are readily available and are highly recommended as one of the downsides to the continued use of synthetic fertilisers is that they can disrupt beneficial microbial ecosystems.
In our opinion, using a mixture of all types of available fertilisers in small amounts on a regular basis is the best way to ensure your soil is the very best it can be. For the best advice, come in and see us at the Sanctuary Point Garden Centre today, we’ve got the lot in stock.