Gladys has written three articles on Houseplants and the first was published recently. She wrote about growing Houseplants and those she has inside. We both get many questions about taking care of Houseplants and also trees and plants out in the garden. Very common is a question asking why a plant is not blooming, or in the summer why they have big healthy tomato plants but no fruit, or about plants that look kind of sick. Almost always in the next breath and before we have a chance to answer they ask, “Should I add fertilizer?”

          I respond, “Fertilizer may not help your plant bloom or produce fruit!!!  In fact, too much fertilizer may be the reason the flower is not blooming, or the vegetable or fruit tree is not setting fruit, or the carrots and beets and radishes are all tops.

          If you believe the TV ads you might think that water soluble fertilizers such as Miracle-Gro are the answer to all your garden problems including a plant not blooming. But remember that fertilizer is not the answer for a sick plant, and is not the treatment of choice when a plant is under stress. In fact, fertilizer may make it worse. Application of fertilizer to a plant that has insect injury or looks sick, or is suffering from not enough water or too much water, will only put additional stress on the plant as it tries to use the food you add.

          What the plant needs is the proper medicine. If you have a plant that is struggling, make sure you get an informed diagnosis from a plant specialist before applying a fungicide, an insecticide, or fertilizer. Or maybe it is under stress because of too much water or not enough water. After the proper diagnosis and treatment, and the plant is healthy, you can begin a fertilization schedule that is recommended by a plant specialist such as your local county extension educator or a plant specialist at a full service garden center.

          By Federal law, every container of fertilizer must have 3 numbers on the package. The first number tells you how much nitrogen (N) is in the package and expressed as a percentage. The second number is phosphate or phosphorous (P) and the third number is potash (K). Nitrogen makes your foliage grow, phosphate is good for blooming and root growth, and potash is good for hardiness. Too much nitrogen in relation to phosphate on your roses, tomatoes, houseplants, or other blooming plants, trees or vegetables will encourage top growth and foliage rather than flowers and then fruit. With radishes, carrots and other root crops like beets and turnips it will produce a lot of top growth at the expense of the desirable part of the plant.

          Lawn fertilizer is high in nitrogen in order to make the grass blades (foliage) grow. Do not use this in your flower bed or vegetable garden, or around flowering trees or fruit trees. A good granular rose, flower, shrub, tree, and vegetable fertilizer is balanced. That is, the middle number is at least the same or higher than the first number. Most balanced fertilizers are 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 and have slow release nitrogen. Water soluble fertilizers such as Miracle-Gro for plants are usually labeled 15-30-15, or 20-20-20 or other balanced numbers. However, the nitrogen is not slow release so is used up within two weeks and at the most four weeks. I very seldom use water soluble fertilizers outside in the flower or vegetable a garden. Outside I use a 10-10-10 slow release fertilizer that will last two to three months. I reserve the use of water soluble fertilizers for containers only and usually in winter on my house plants at a 1/4 or 1/2 solution. For some plants such as African violets a 1 /4 solution every time you water is recommended. By having a reduced dose of fertilizer every time you water, the fertilizer gets down to all the roots.

          Do not over fertilize your lawn or plants. On my lawn I usually fertilize only  three times per year, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and the first week in October. Heavy fertilization of your lawn in the early spring invites disease and insect problems later in the year because it causes stress on the grass as it struggles to recover from being asleep all winter. And too much fertilizer on new seedlings can weaken the plant as it struggles to use the nutrients. Too much nitrogen on newly planted seeds and transplants can make the stems spindly and weak. Also, this stress invites disease problems, and a weak plant invites insects.

Copyright 2014




Always read the label and

Always follow label directions.”


          This quote can not be attributed to any one person as I hear it quite often from many experts. Protect your plants, the environment, and yourself.


1.     Always read the label on any product before using in the garden, on the lawn, on trees and shrubs, on your houseplants, etc. Make sure you are using the product only on the recommended plants. If you are not sure, ask a plant expert or go on line and see what is recommended for that plant.

2.     Always follow the label directions.

·        If the label says mix 2 ounces in a gallon of water, do not put in 3 or 4 ounces.

·        If the label says apply 5 pounds per 1000 square feet, do not put on 8 or 10 pounds per 1000 square feet.

·        More is not always better and probably will be worse than nothing, and can harm your plant.


Always read the label and follow label directions.