Nobody’s trying to make their plants suffer. But a big part of growing a garden or lawn is making essential maintenance decisions, such as when to water, administer pesticides, and fertilize your plants. And when it comes to fertilizing, here’s the bottom line: timing is everything.
All plants have their season, and fertilizer is no different. The time of the year that you apply fertilizer can either set your plants up for success, or it can give them extra stress, which can hinder their growth (or, ahem, their life).
We’ll explain why it’s important to fertilize your plants, how fertilization works, why timing matters, when not to fertilize, the best time to fertilize based on plant type, and how to avoid over-fertilization. Finally, we’ll cover the easiest way to fertilize perfectly, every single time. For that, there’s just one word: automation.
Why Is it Important to Fertilize Plants?
We all need a little extra nutrition when we’re accomplishing a physical feat, whether that be training for a marathon or simply growing into adult bodies. Similarly, plants need fertilizer in part because it helps them make the most of their growing season. And that goes beyond just growing, well, bigger. Fertilizers provide the nutrients plants need to form flowers and healthy foliage, produce more fruit, grow a robust root system, fight diseases, and withstand insects.
Bet your to-do list is looking a little lighter now that you know all that fertilizer does for plants!
How Does Fertilization Work?
Fertilizers can come in both natural and synthetic forms, but it’s basically a supplement, similar to a multivitamin for humans. Whether fertilizer is applied to the soil or simply sprayed onto the leafy parts of a plant, the nutrients it provides are taken into the plant and help drive all of the processes that occur within the cells. That’s why fertilizer helps with so many parts of the plant’s growth, from its flowers to its roots.
Why Does It Matter When You Fertilize?
There’s no way around it: nailing the “when” of fertilizer application is absolutely essential for the growth and health of your plants.
You already know that fertilizer provides the extra spurt of energy and nutrients your plants need to be their big, full selves: with flowers and fruit, strong roots and stems, and vibrant color. Plus, in order to maintain that state, they’ll need a little extra help from fertilizer to fight off disease and pests. But this is all dependent on whether your plants are receiving fertilizer when they really need it!
Here’s another important aspect to consider. If you fertilize your plants at the right time, they’ll benefit even beyond the growing season—and that’s exactly what you want.
Here’s how. Once the weather turns colder, nutrients are stored in the roots of plants to help them survive the plant-version of the word “hibernation”: winter dormancy. Basically, this is a natural state that many plants enter during the cold season. During this time, plants stop growing, become less active, and often change in appearance through a loss of leaves or dulling of color. Without enough nutrients from being properly fertilized, these plants might not survive the chill.
What it comes down to is this: you must fertilize at the right time to keep your plants happy, and maybe even alive. Especially if you live somewhere with seasons.
When to Fertilize Your Plants
So when is the best time to fertilize your plants? The rule of thumb is to fertilize during their active growth periods, such as when they come out of dormancy in the springtime. During this time, deciduous plants grow leaves, flowering plants form buds, stems and branches grow longer, and new roots are formed. All of that work could use some fertilizing help!
When to Fertilize Root Crops
Planting an edible garden? Root crops like carrots, turnips, and beets are best fertilized before you even plant them in the first place. That’s because the you want the fertilizer to help with the growth of these crops’ roots. For these plants, the root and the vegetable are almost one and the same.
When to Fertilize Trees and Shrubs?
Remember what we said about not fertilizing during the dormant seasons? For trees and shrubs, you’d better break that rule. It’s best to fertilize these plants during the late fall or early spring.
When Should You Not Fertilize Plants?
Fertilizing at the wrong time can get serious. That’s because fertilizer causes plants to grow, which even with the help of these nutrients uses a significant amount of energy. If the conditions for growth are detrimental, your plant is likely to struggle under the extra stress. This can make your plants weak and more susceptible to disease.
For this reason, it’s best to avoid fertilizing during periods of extreme heat or drought. But the same goes for the other extreme: if you fertilize your plants at the end of the growing season, such as in late fall or winter, you might be encouraging tender new growths that can be damaged by cold weather.
Is it Possible to Over-fertilize Plants?
Every plant is different, and yes, without checking the nutrient requirements of your plants, you could totally over-fertilize them.
So why is that a bad thing? For starters, this can alter the soil by creating a super-high salt concentration, which hurts beneficial microorganisms that keep your plant alive and kicking. Over fertilization can also lead to sudden plant growth, but without all the resources this growth needs to survive, such as strong roots.
While over-fertilized plants might look like they’re growing fine, they’re at risk of living fast, and dying young. And there’s nothing exciting about that.
How to Fertilize Perfectly, Every Single Time
Now you know how important it is to get your fertilizing process down pat. But here’s one major help: automation! Advanced lawn care treatments like the OtO device automatically apply the right solutions to your plants and aid in soil repair. It chooses the most suitable time to fertilize based on weather conditions and applies the non-toxic solution in small quantities. This allows for proper absorption by the plants and minimizes runoff into the environment.
The benefits of automated lawn care don’t end there. The OtO device can also take care of your irrigation, apply pesticides, and even deodorize the lawn after pet use. With the help of this genius device and a little knowledge about when to fertilize your garden and lawn, you’re ready to help plants grow the way they should: healthy, vibrant, and strong.