Whether you’re growing an outdoor garden or plants and succulents indoors, fertilizer is a necessity to ensure your plants get the nutrients they need for optimal growth. Knowing when to apply fertilizer can make the difference between a thriving vegetable garden and shriveled yellow stems toppling back into the soil.
A Season-By-Season Breakdown of WHEN TO APPLY FERTILIZER
Although you may be tempted to apply fertilizer to your garden or houseplants year-round, that tactic will likely hinder your plant’s health instead of help. Fertilizer should be applied strategically during times when your plants and soil are in need of extra nutrients.
1. At the Beginning of Spring
Knowing when to apply fertilizer to your vegetable garden for the first time in the spring is somewhat of its own science. However, a general rule worth following is to wait until after the last frost of the season has passed to apply any fertilizer.
If you are using a synthetic fertilizer, you should wait until after the “spring showers” to apply it, as the rain will cause the fertilizer to run out of your soil, where it can then contaminate local water sources.
If you live in a warmer zone, you may not be subject to frost at all—however, in the cooler months of the year your plants will still require less fertilizer than during the warmer seasons.
2. Spring Through Fall
The most basic rule for plant care is to fertilize during growing season, which usually runs from spring through fall, but this can vary somewhat by garden climate zone.
Fertilizer becomes increasingly necessary during growing season because soil microbial activity is at its highest during these warmer months and your plants are taking in an increased amount of nutrients to drive growth.
Depending on what fertilizer you use, application frequency during this period can range anywhere from twice a week to once every two months. Using a natural, organic fertilizer product with both quick and slow release nutrients that last for months instead of weeks can help to prevent soil burnout from over application.
3. Before the Winter
If you live in an area with cold or snowy winters that leave your garden lying mostly dormant until the spring – try proactively applying some fertilizer to your soil just before the first frosts of winter. That way, by the time spring rolls around the microbial ecosystem will have a ready-made feast and your soil will already have healthy levels of essential nutrients in time for planting.
4. When to Fertilize Indoor Plants
For indoor plants, even though your home is heated, it’s likely still experiencing dips in temperature that will discourage growth. Generally speaking, you should stick to the same fertilization timeline as outdoor plants, unless you have an indoor greenhouse that simulates summer conditions.
If your plants are in a tightly temperature-controlled area, you can likely stretch the growing season a bit further than outdoor plants, however, if you notice a plateau in plant growth, cut back on fertilizer application because your plants are likely unable to take in any more nutrients.
Feeding your plants fertilizer at the right time will ensure they grow strong and healthy. Watching out for nature’s signals, like frost or showers, will help you deliver those essential nutrients when they’re needed most. Choose a natural fertilizer like our 4-4-4 All Purpose Fertilizer, which is made from food waste, to ensure you don’t burn out your soil in the process.