Being nurturers by nature, one of the first reactions most gardeners have upon seeing a plant in distress, is to smother it with love in the form of either water or fertilizer or both; but unfortunately, such acts of kindness are not always what the ailing plant needs. In fact, over-nurturing can at times go against the plant, resulting in a heartache over a preventable loss.
Whereas plants in general, not just the stressed-out ones, do require a certain amount of tending, but over-watering, particularly in case of houseplants, is perhaps the number one reason why we end up killing them. Applying too much fertilizer, specially the quick-release liquid ones, on the other hand, has rather an interesting consequence: given too much at quick intervals can trigger plants into producing profuse foliage and not many blooms, something not desirable for plants grown primarily for flowers or fruits. I remember several summers back, visiting a friend who fussed over their several-feet-tall tomato plants, which while were lush and healthy, bore practically no fruit. The culprit, as expected, was excessive fertilizer.
True, that plants grown in containers or annuals that have a relatively short life span need a continuous supply of nutrients to grow and bloom, as the case may be, but some like nasturtiums, are known for thriving on neglect, for if fed, do not reward us with their lovely blooms; so, instead of making the same mistake made earlier when growing nasturtiums, this year I pretty much ignored them once I had planted them, or at least tried to. Needless to say, just the one plant I have, has brightened the nook with flowers.
Likewise, for peak performance, go easy on the fertilizer in the herb garden, suggests Marianne Mittwede Ritchie in her book Planning, Planting and Harvesting Your Herb Garden, as too much fertilizer will produce green growth but not as much flavor.
For one reason or the other, when it comes to using fertilizer, we tend to forget that nature has equipped our green plants with chlorophyll to enable them to make food for their survival.
However, ideal conditions don’t always exist in the garden and therefore, often the soil has to be amended. So, whenever possible, I use in moderate amounts, slow-release organic fertilizer at the time of planting and thus, I am pretty much done for a while. By doing so, not only am I trying to do my share in minimizing chemical runoff to our lakes, streams and rivers, but I save money as well, that can certainly be put to many other good uses in the garden.