Growing Concerns: Don’t forget to fertilize, even when you are not watering

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Wow! Can you believe the size of the plants  in your garden? I don’t ever remember a May when my hostas have been so big, let alone all the other plants.

I made a list of plants I thought might need division, but since it got so warm so quickly I am going to revisit this list in the fall.

In the meantime, what do we need to be doing to keep our gardens looking at their prime?

Fertilizer is one thing. I prefer to use water soluble fertilizer so plants can absorb it right away. When we have a lot of rain, fertilizing often is overlooked because we do not need to water. I write on my calendar every two weeks to fertilize the garden, otherwise I will forget.

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Granular fertilizers take up to six months to release all the fertilizer in the pellet and if there is not much water, it can take even longer. Granular is OK for your lawn where a little bit over a long period of time is good, but when it comes to gardens, we want flowers now and we want a show now, not in October. So water soluble makes the fertilizer nutrients available immediately.

I buy whatever fertilizer is on sale in mid-summer for the next year. As long as you keep the fertilizer, dry it will last a couple of years. Fertilizers with a high middle number work best for flowering plants. Fertilizers with a high last number is for root growth, so great for newly transplanted plants. If you are not sure, use a product that has the same number in all three elements.

Don’t forget to stay on top of dead-heading all the spent blooms. If you do this quickly enough, you can get a second flush of blooms three to six weeks later, depending on the plants.

This time of year, there is so much weeding to do. Don’t get overwhelmed. Spend a few minutes as often as you can and you will get thought it all in no time.

Denise Hodgins is a professional gardening coach in London. Send your questions to

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