Fertilizer best early in growing season

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 22, 2010

VIDALIA — With cooler weather in the air, home gardeners are at a tricky point in the season with their plants and vegetables.

Fertilizing your plants is something every gardener has to do if they want maximum plant growth, but in this colder weather, there is a time and place for everything.

LSU AgCenter Consumer Horticulturist Daniel Gill said it is best to apply fertilizer to your plants when they are about to start growing.

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“That is when they need the extra input of minerals,” he said. “The general rule of thumb is to fertilize early in their growing season.”

Gill said many people will fertilize their plants at the wrong time, and that leads to wasting nutrients.

“The worst time to apply fertilizers is late in the growing season,” he said. “When you apply them this late, or out of the growing season, they are not going to be used on the plants, because the plants are dormant.”

LSU AgCenter soil fertility specialist Brenda Tubana said the nutrients from the fertilizer are lost when the plants are not in growing season.

“It will be subject to leaching and water run-off to near-by bodies of water,” she said. “This will be a waste of money for producers, and (fertilizer) that is lost can potentially be a source of non-point pollutant.”

Gill also said using fertilizer out of the growing season may cause other problems.

“Using it out of season may stimulate the growth of a shrub or another ground cover,” he said. “They are not useful to you, and they will also be more prone to cold damage when their growing season returns.”

Tubana said people need to remember to fertilize plants only when they need it.

“When nutrients are supplied at the peak time of plant growth, a larger portion of the fertilizer applied is also taken up by the plant,” she said. “This will help increase fertilizer use and efficiency.”

Gill said nitrogen is always a good nutrient to apply to your plants when fertilizing.

“The nutrient nitrogen is typical in all fertilizers,” he said. “It encourages your plants to grow to a higher potential.”

Tubana said the cool weather should not be a factor for fertilizing.

“Climate itself is not the reason for holding off fertilization in fall,” she said. “Although climate influences the type of crops growing in a region.”

Gill said applying fertilizer is not tied to the year, but rather to the growing season of the plants.

“For some plants, this is the perfect time of the year to fertilize,” he said. “If it is the growing season for the plant, fertilize them.”