Plants Feed Themselves When the Sun Shines

all-purpose planting and growing food

all-purpose planting and growing food

Gardeners may easily become obsessed with fertilization. Psychologists would explain this phenomenon as an example of projection. Just as we are constantly preoccupied with feeding ourselves, we tend to project a similar preoccupation onto our plants.
Yet plants feed themselves in an entirely different manner than we do. In fact, they are probably more preoccupied with nutrition than we are for the simple reason that, as long as the sun is out, they continuously feed themselves. In the presence of light, plants open their leaf pores and take in carbon dioxide. They combine the carbon and oxygen in carbon dioxide with the hydrogen in water (absorbed by their roots) to make sugar, which is the sole energy source or food that they require.
The green machine
Nitrogen, the primary ingredient in fertilizers, is not really plant food. The purpose of nitrogen, a major constituent of the leaf pigment chlorophyll, is to make plants green so they can efficiently trap the red and blue light utilized in photosynthesis. The term photosynthesis refers to the synthesis or formation of sugar in the presence of light (photos in Greek).
Fertilizers are either slow-acting (slow release) or quick-acting. As the season warms, slow release fertilizers are often recommended since synthetic, quick-acting fertilizers break down rapidly in the heat and must be constantly reapplied. Slow release fertilizers are available for lawns, flower beds and container plants. Organic fertilizers are typically released more slowly than inorganic ones, although some organic products, such as blood meal, are high in nitrogen and, applied too liberally, will burn your plants.
If you do want a fast-acting preparation, especially for flower and vegetable gardens, you may want to consider LiquaFeed, a new product by Miracle-Gro. With this elegant product, you have no fertilizer bags or boxes to lug around and nothing to measure. You simply take a 16-ounce bottle of LiquaFeed fertilizer and screw it into a special hose end applicator. With the contents of a single bottle, in fifteen minutes, you can spray-fertilize a 400 square foot area. Learn more about this product at
The key to successful fertilization is consistency. It really does not matter what you use as long as you apply the same fertilizer, at regular intervals, throughout the year. Just make sure it is a complete fertilizer, which means it contains nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
In Los Angeles, it is helpful to use a fertilizer that also contains iron, which is often unavailable in our soil, and sulfur, which lowers soil pH and combats fungi. If the product contains micronutrients such as manganese, zinc and copper, as well as humus or decomposing bacteria, so much the better.
DriWater is a product that borrows from the slow release fertilizer principle. Gelatinous water globules are placed in contact with roots of newly planted garden specimens or, with container plants, just laid on the soil surface. Let’s say you are leaving home for a vacation and are concerned about the water needs of your container plants. You slit open sausage-like DriWater tubes and place them on top of the soil in each of your containers. Bacteria feed on cellulose that binds the water globules together, slowly making the water available to your plants. With this new biotechnology, you only have to soak your container plants every thirty days or so, whenever you replace the exhausted DriWater tubes. Learn more at Note: although this product looks like polymer gel which, mixed with soil, reduces watering frequency, it is significantly different.

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