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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Proper fertilizer, watering will help your plants thrive

Candy Nagyfy Special to the Voice

We should have all those beautiful flowers planted and our vegetable gardens going by now, and I bet you are wondering how you are going to keep them looking so beautiful all the way until fall.

Fertilizing and good watering are very important if you want those plants to flower and grow and provide you with lots of vegetables.

First, always read the labels.

Begin with the fertilizer analysis, which lists the three primary nutrient amounts in the fertilizer in percentages of nitrogen (N) (always listed first), phosphorus (P) (second), and potassium (K) (third). A bag of fertilizer labeled 5-10-10 contains 5 percent nitrogen, 10 percent phosphorus and 10 percent potassium.

There are two types of fertilizers: quick-release fertilizer, which contains nutrients in plant-available forms such as ammonium and nitrate, and slow-release fertilizer, which must be converted into a plant-available form by soil micro-organisms.

For flowers, use 5-10-5 or 5-10-10 fertilizer. Annuals need fertilizing every three weeks.

Perennials need fertilizing as they start growth each year. Perennial plants that bloom in late summer or fall need regular monthly fertilization before blooming, until September.

Perennials that complete their growth and flowering by June do not need fertilizer in midsummer.

In general, two light applications of fertilizer per year are sufficient.

Berries can be fertilized with 10 to 12 pounds of 5-10-5 fertilizer per 100 feet of row as new growth begins in spring. Broadcast fertilizer over the soil surface in the row or apply it as a band in a 3- to 4-inch deep trench one foot on each side of the row.

Fruit trees’ requirement for fertilizer varies according to the amount of available minerals in the soil. All fruit trees need nitrogen, and the need varies from very little to 2 pounds per fully mature tree.

If a tree has at least 12 to 18 inches of new growth each year, it is doing fine. Overapplication of nitrogen can cause excessive tree growth.

Woody landscape plants generally respond only to nitrogen.

Some fertilizer examples are 16-8-8, 21-7-14, 20-10-5, 21-0-0 and usually are done yearly in spring, after growth begins. Apply fertilizer to the “drip zone” (the area from the trunk to the edge of the canopy) of all trees and shrubs.

All your plants will love you and display their best when they get the right amount of water and fertilizer for their needs. Remember, never fertilize dry; always water after fertilizer application.

This week in the garden

• Remember to “deadhead” those flowers that were shining so beautifully last week so the plants will put their energies into more flowers instead of seeds. Deadheading is the process of removing the flowers that have died and are going to seed.

With pruners, scissors or strong fingernails you should remove the blossom about an inch from the bottom of the flower. This should be done for both annuals and those perennials that have bloomed already.

• With the nice rain we have been getting, the soil should also be moist enough to get those pesky weeds out of the flower beds without too much trouble.

Pulling now when it is cool and moist will really help make the flower beds look better by giving the flowers more sun and water. And it saves us from having to pull the weeds when it is hot and we would rather be eating ice cream!

• Now is also a good time to take a look at our bushes and lightly trim them before they get too oversized. This will keep them healthy and from taking away from the flowers and garden art you may have near them.

• It’s also a good time to repair, paint, move or even add to our garden art. Take a good look at the artwork and repair any broken parts, paint those that may have lost their color, or move them so we can see them better because plants have grown and are now covering them.

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