It's Time to Fertilize!

By Paul James

The relentless storms have taken their toll on area gardens, and while much of the damage is visible – flooding, downed trees, and so on – it’s what you can’t see that concerns me, and that’s the leaching of nutrients through the soil as a result of torrential and incessant rains.

Leaching occurs when water moves down through the soil and carries with it many of the nutrients that plants need to survive. And given all the rain we’ve had lately, it’s a safe bet that whatever the nutrient levels were in your soil at the beginning of May, they’re a tiny fraction of that now. That’s especially true of nitrogen and sulfur, but my guess is several micro- and secondary-nutrient levels have dropped as well, perhaps even significantly in some cases.

And that’s why you need to fertilize. I strongly recommend the use of slow-release fertilizers because they’re not particularly water soluble. As a result, they release their nutrients slowly over time. Most slow-release fertilizers are also all-natural or organic – Milorganite is a good example, as are various products made by Espoma – but there’s also Osmocote, a synthetic fertilizer that’s coated with a material that dissolves slowly and releases nutrients over a period of months. And don’t forget good old compost, whether homemade or store bought.

And just when should you fertilize? Well, now would be a good time.