Fall Fertilization of Garden

Kathleen Roberts
Add one more thing to your fall chores.

If you want a beautiful, healthy garden in the spring, consider fall fertilization of garden plants. Fall is really the ideal time for feeding your garden. If you do it right, it will be well worth the effort of adding it to your fall garden tasks.

Fertilizer Facts

There are a few basics that you need to know about fertilizer. Usually when you go to purchase a bag of fertilizer, you will see three numbers representing N-P-K. What do these numbers and letters mean?

"N" is the first number and it represents the amount of nitrogen in the fertilizer mix. Nitrogen is important because it promote the growth of the foliage or, as in the case of your lawn, blades of grass.

The second number stands for phosphorus which is represented by "P". Phosphorus is what stimulates root growth in plants.

Thirdly you have the "K" which stands for potassium. Potassium is important for proper cell function and overall plant health.

Cool fall temperatures can make many plants appear dead or dormant, but actually there is a lot going on under the ground. Now is when the roots are growing. Fertilizer that is high in phosphorus is just what you need to promote strong, healthy roots now as well as for beautiful plants in the spring.

When temperatures drop to 40 degrees, plants are stimulated to produce higher concentrations of amino acids, sugars and other things that help the plant resist freezing. Fertilizing in the fall will help plants to be more winter hardy when temperatures drop.

Fall Fertilization of Garden Plants

Different plants have different needs, so what fertilizer should you choose for your plants in the fall? Take a look at a few that will provide special care in the fall.

  • Perennials

Perennials appreciate having a high phosphate fertilizer with low nitrogen content. Applied in the fall, you will be assured of stronger plants in the spring producing more flowers than you ever thought they could. Fall fertilizing of garden perennials will really pay off during the blooming period.

  • Spring Bulbs

September and October is the time to plant bulbs for a spring display that will chase away the last of winter's chill. They also need phosphorus applied at the level of the roots to help them get established before winter sets in. Fall fertilizing while you are planting the bulbs is the most effective way to go. Mix rich compost with the soil to give your spring bulbs plenty of food to carry them until spring. Be sure you plant your bulbs in a hole that is roughly four times deeper than the height of the bulb. Also, don't forget that bulbs need to be planted tip up.

  • Roses

In the early fall you will want to stop fertilizing your roses. If you continue to fertilize them you will encourage new growth on the rose bush. Fall is not the best time for new growth. It will only freeze and die when frost comes.

  • Lawns

Fall is ideal for fertilizing your lawn, as well as over-seeding a sparse lawn. The following spring you will be rewarded with a thick, lush land that you neighbors will envy.

Applying Fertilizers

Always follow the directions on the fertilizer that you have purchased to be sure it is properly applied. Generally, a granular fertilizer is applied by raking the ground lightly and then sprinkling the granules over the top.

It helps to mulch over the fertilized soil and then water well so it will penetrate into the ground where it does its work. Some experts recommend using fertilizers with a controlled time release for best results. Liquid fertilizer isn't usually recommended because the potassium can quickly leach away in the fall rains resulting in fewer blooms on your flowers.

Another Way to Fertilize

Fall fertilization of garden plants is a great investment of time that will pay off in the spring. However, fall is also the time to fertilize your vegetable bed-but not the way you think.

Cover crops, also called "green manure", planted in the fall will enrich the soil in you vegetable bed with vital nutrients. Typically, green manure is tilled into the soil while it is still green. It is winter hardy and will be ready to till in the spring when you prepare the ground for planting.

Legumes like field peas, alfalfa, clover and soy beans are perfect cover crops. You can also plant grasses such as oats, rye and buckwheat. Planting cover crops is a great way to organically fertilize in the fall for abundant crops the following year.

Whichever method of fall fertilizing you choose, you will be pleased with the results.

Fall Fertilization of Garden