Last week, I discussed feeding/fertilizing plants and whether or not it was too late in the year to do so.
It’s August now and as we all know, we may have another one to three more months of warm weather. Periodically, we’ll get an early cold snap. If you feel comfortable with doing another feeding on your lawn or landscape plants, then make sure you know the “what, why and how much.” Remember, think before you feed.
High-nitrogen products can help green up lawns, but on flowers and shrubs, they may stimulate stem and leaf growth, not necessarily blooms. Decide if that is actually what you want to accomplish.
Nitrogen applied late can make plant stems longer and lankier or just thicker, and possibly more susceptible to freeze damage.
Many sources say if you fed your lawn with a natural, slow-release nitrogen product in the spring, or if you applied compost, you really don’t need to re-fertilize again this year. Doing so could add another stress of growing and greening up to already heat-stressed turf grass.
To ready your yard for surviving this winter, the root system is the area that needs to be the healthiest. Deep watering the grass every week will help develop dense, deep-reaching, water-seeking roots.
Many folks desire continual blooms throughout the summer and look for a “bloom-stimulating” product with phosphorus. The problem with this can be that the soil probably already has enough or too much phosphorus, and just because you add more doesn’t mean the plants can or will absorb it.
Unless you do a soil analysis, my guess is our alkaline soil is not low in the P of NPK fertilizers. Also, continually adding phosphorus can cause it to be stored at toxic levels, can run off into ground water endangering aquatic life, and can cause algae and other plant bloom problems on lakes and streams.
Since we do have a while until fall, if you do decide to fertilize your plants and shrubs, look into a plant food that is quick-release rather than slow-release. That way it will act immediately and not prolong the growing process throughout the fall and too close to winter.
Feed plants by a technique called “base-dressing” — meaning sprinkle the food on the soil around the root area without getting it on the leaves and stems. You’ll get a quick, short-lived boost that will last through the summer.
Overfeeding can not only adversely affect humans, but plants as well. “Think before you feed” and understand more isn’t always better.
Darla Horner Menking is a Texas Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org