Fertilizers Gardening Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Ready-to-use liquid fertilizers: Pretty Much a Scam

20160313B.jpgWhen you’re shopping for fertilizer, beware of ready-to-use liquids, also called “pour and feeds”. They’re designed to be poured directly onto the soil of your plants. “No mixing required!” the label proudly claims… but have you thought about what that means?

If you’re not mixing it yourself, someone else has already done it for you. In fact, you have essentially just bought water! Okay, there is a tiny amount of fertilizer in the container (about one part fertilizer to 50 parts water in most cases), but that’s pretty much water, isn’t it? So if you have running water at home (and so many people do these days), you’ve just spent about 50 times too much. A concentrated fertilizer – be it granules, a powder or a concentrated liquid – at the same price or even several times more is actually much, much less expensive.

I may be a lazy gardener, but I’m lazy and cheap. It only takes a few seconds to drop a teaspoonful of concentrated fertilizer into a watering can… and where I come from, tap water is dirt cheap.

To get the right dilution, follow the instructions indicated on the label (be careful if you change brands: dosage can easily vary from one brand of fertilizer to another). Personally, I further dilute the concentrated fertilizer to 1/4 or even 1/8th of the recommended dose. My experience is that plants rarely need as much fertilizer as the suppliers claim… and the more I dilute while still getting excellent growth, the more I save!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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