When to fertilize

LullabyF360February 20, 2013

I'm asking for opinions. This is a topic some are all for & others are against. I wondering when I should start fertilizing what I have grown from seed or if I should not even do it all. My mother-in-law is strictly against it, & I have a friend who is a true blue believer in fertilizing. Fertilizing is a tricky thing when it comes to very yound seedlings. Too strong of a mixture will burn the poor thing. I have heard of some people who start fertilizing with an extremely well solution when the sprout is a mere couple of inches tall. Others wait until they have reached at least 6 or so inches tall. Here is a list of my sproutlings. Some only believe in fertilizing fruits or vegetables, while some will fertilize both edible plants & flowerings. Please give all advise on what you think with each, especially if you have experience with growing any of them :)

Crimson rambler
Chinese lantern
White angel trumpet
Purple angel trumpet

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bugbite(z9a FL)


Please ask your mother-in-law why she is against it and post her answer.


This post was edited by bugbite on Wed, Feb 27, 13 at 14:35

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 12:40PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

As you already know the opinions differ widely. That's because there isn't any one right answer because there are many variables to consider. So all you will get are personal opinions.

Many folks grow hundreds of healthy seedlings of all kinds every year with no supplemental feeding. Others insist it is mandatory for success.

All I can give you are some general guidelines but how you apply them is your choice. Experiment and see what works best for you.

1) it depends on the soil mix you are using. Does it contain any nutritional supplements? If so then no further ones may be needed.

2) it depends on the size of the containers the seedlings are in - how much soil they hold. Smaller soil blocks will need feeding more so and more often than bigger ones will.

3) how often you have to water? Nutrients wash out with watering so small containers that must be watered frequently may very well need feeding. Larger containers and only need to be watered weekly will not.

4) what is the ratio of top growth to root development? Pop out a couple of plants and examine the root development. Compare the size of the root mass to the mass of the top growth. For seedlings it is root development not top growth that is the goal. The roots MUST be able to support the top yet roots develop more slowly. Fertilization stimulates top growth primarily and only secondarily stimulates root development. So if the plant is top heavy it doesn't need feeding.

5) how long until the plant can be transplanted to its final growing place? The bigger the plant the greater the transplant shock so why feed and trigger lots of growth if the plant can't go to the garden for weeks yet?

6) what fertilizer are you using? Is it liquid or granular? Liquids are more redily absorbed by the young fibrous roots. Can it be diluted to 1/4 or 1/2 strength easily? Never use full strength on seedlings. Plants? Yes. Seedlings? No. Is it organic or synthetic? Organic supplements only work if there is active soil bacteria in the container. What is its nutrient ratio? Keep the nitrogen LOW. Does it contain micro-nutrients? Great.

Just a few points to consider but I hope this helps. Set up a couple of control plants that you do NOT feed and see how they compare to the ones you do feed and then draw your own conclusions.


    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 4:28PM
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bugbite(z9a FL)

Great link below, ART!

This post was edited by bugbite on Thu, Feb 28, 13 at 9:00

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 10:31PM
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Hi Lullaby,

The University of Massachusetts has a good web page that I think will be helpful to you (see link below).

By the way, I can't completely agree with bugbite (sorry bugbite) about the recommendation of using a water soluble fertilizer at 1/6 strength to get about 125 to 150 ppm nitrogen. That would not always work. The ppm you would come up with, using 1/6 strength, would depend on how much nitrogen the fertilizer contained to start with.

A more accurate way would be to use the following formula ...

Teaspoons of water soluble fertilizer per gallon of water = (.0768 * desired ppm) divided by % nitrogen (expressed as a whole number).

Actually, to be perfectly accurate, ppm should be figured by weight not volume. However, a teaspoon of most water soluble fertilizers will weigh close enough to that of water to use the above formula.

Hope this is helpful,

Here is a link that might be useful: Fertilizing Seedlings

This post was edited by art33 on Sun, Mar 3, 13 at 22:26

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 2:55AM
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bugbite(z9a FL)

Hi Art,
Your clarification (correction) was excellent. THANKS!
I use the 1/6 because the average water soluble with 12-20 Nitrogen would be safe with this amount. But you are right on. What if someone uses a water soluble fertilizer with a nitrogen of 40?
I prefer JR Peters (now Jack's) and out of their entire professional lineup the nitrogen varies from a low of 10% to 22%. But someone could get a hold of something higher.
I use the calculator in the link below for an accurate calculation. Thanks for being so diplomatic when correcting my incomplete statement.
Oops, that did not work. I posted the link and gardenweb blocked it. But if you want a good, simple PPM calculator.Search "nitrogen ppm calculator" and pick the one from "FirstTrays" ..a simple page , no ads and a very useful calculator. Use the calculator at the very bottom.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 11:13AM
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Thanks for being so understanding bugbite. I just didn't want the OP to get the idea that they could always get the right ppm by simply using 1/6 dosage strength :-)

Yeah, I agree, most water soluble fertilizers probably do contain somewhere between about 12 and 20 percent Nitrogen. Miracle-Gro 'All Purpose' however is 24 percent.

I've seen and used the calculator you mentioned, that's a good one. It even takes into account the fact that fertilizer formulas always report phosphorus as P205 (phosphorus oxide) instead of actual phosphorus (P). And potassium as K2O (potassium oxide) instead of actual potassium (K).

Hope we haven't confused Lullaby with all this technical talk :-)


    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 12:12PM
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A straner I struck up a conversation with in Lowe's today said he uses spent coffee grounds. He uses them on his hydrangeas & tomatoes. I'm curious to know if they could be used on any of my fruit bearing trees & shrubs (pear, plum, apple, peach, pomegrnate, I soon might be getting some cherries, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, muscadines, & grapes). I remember years ago my aunt talking about using them as an any repelent. She also talked about reading somewhere about using beer. I'm not able to ask her. She died in 2004. She was the only one other than my in-laws who have a passion for growing things. As mentioned in my original post, they don't believe in fertilizing. My friend uses the manure from her various animals along with a granular fertilizer. I'm not sure what brand she uses, but she mixes it according the packages instructions.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 4:48PM
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bugbite(z9a FL)

Please ask them why "they don't believe in fertilizing " and please report back.

This post was edited by bugbite on Thu, Feb 28, 13 at 18:11

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 6:07PM
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Sorry for responding so late. The reason they don't believe in fertilizing is because all the times they have used fertilizer, it kills whatever they have fertilized (trees, flowers, veggies, you name it). The cause is simple: they haven't done research on how to fertilize properly, nor have they researched the fertilizer requirements for their vegitation. Telling them this is a futile effort; they are set in their ways.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 5:14PM
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bugbite(z9a FL)

I can relate. :-)

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 6:40PM
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Oh, yes, they have some bizarre beliefs. Today, in fact, I heard my mother in law rant about fertilizing. After which she switched to another belief of hers: if a dog has a good pedigree, it is therefore stupid, because the only way it could have stayed full blooded is through inbreeding. That's her usual conversation topic when she sees my German Shepherd who has three generations before it AKC registered & DNA tested as proof. To have another idea of how strange their ways are, three years ago they bought a $80,000 double wide trailer & refuse to live in it. It has never has power or water hooked up to it. It has been sitting on their property this whole time. Totally empty. The reason? They claim their 30 yr old trailer they are in now is better built than the new one. The floors are caving in on it.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 8:00PM
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bugbite(z9a FL)

Just think, one day you may inherit a great "never-used" double wide. :-)

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 10:04AM
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