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Gardening diary: Late summer

This month it’s all about feeding your plants in order that they feed you. And there are multiple plant food and fertiliser options available — everything from products from your local garden centre to DIY organic waste.

Fertilisers come in a variety of forms, including granular, gel, and stick form. All are characterised by the ratio of the nutrients phosphorus (P), nitrogen (N), and potassium (K), immediately available to plants as soluble compounds.

Fertilisers can enhance plant growth and it is often the case fertiliser manufacturers produce fertiliser to cater to different plant types, for example, citrus plants, tomatoes, vegetables and flowers.

By contrast, animal manures, compost and other organic ‘waste’ materials have less available nutrients when analysed side by side with manufactured fertilisers. This, however, is not solely because they contain less nutrients. Rather, the nutrients are locked up in a form unavailable to plants and which only become available gradually as they are broken down by micro-organisms over time.

While different plants thrive on differing ratios of nutrients, providing your soil is balanced (it has all nutrients and minerals available), the plant will selectively uptake these as required without our help.

It’s your choice as to how you feed your plants. The table below lists just a small selection of what is on offer, showing the varying element ratios available from different plant foods.

As a fully paid-up male member of the human species, there are no prizes for guessing my preferred method of providing high levels of nitrogen to trees.

PRODUCT N P K OTHERS
Yates Gro-Plus Tomato Food 6 6 8 magnesium
Thrive Concentrate Flower & Fruit Plant Food 6.2 3 10 iron, trace elements
Thrive Granular Citrus Food 7 5 6  
Daltons incredible edibles® Vegetable Fertiliser 13 3 11 magnesium, trace elements
Wood ash 0 1 3 calcium, magnesium
Horse poo 0.7 0.3 0.6  
Chicken poo 1.1 1.4 0.6  
Human urine 11 1 2 sodium, calcium

Q. I would like to know what flowers or herbs I could grow around my berry plants that would deter pests.

Anita, Auckland

A. Any pungent herbs or annuals such as marigold, calendula, garlic chives, English lavender and pyrethrum daisy will help but pests are smarter than we think and you need to have a multi-pronged approach to achieve long-term success, whether you are growing in pots or straight into the ground. As well as these planted repellents, try putting down beer traps, crushed shells around the base of the plant and organic bait. Strong, healthy plants are less susceptible to pests so keep watering frequently, always use a good quality garden mix when planting and feed with a control-release fertiliser that is specific to fruits.

Try this great recipe idea: Sweet corn with capsicum sauce

First published: Feb 2013



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