How to feed your plants

Although most people understand that plants need water to keep them alive and growing well, many do not realise that feeding plants is just as important. All plants need a constant supply of nutrients and if you want to get the most out of your plants, and for them to thrive, it is important to know when to feed your plants and how.
When considering feeding your plants there are two main ways – either by improving the soil with organic matter before planting, or by feeding your plants with fertilisers once they are in the ground or container. Before you get plants in the ground it is vital that your soil is fertile and in good condition. Adding your own garden compost or well–rotted animal manure (usually in the autumn or winter months when it has time to break down in the soil before the spring), will feed your plants straight away and help get them off to the best possible start.
Alternatively, fertilisers are made up of concentrated nutrients, either organic or inorganic, usually in an easy to apply form such as pellets, granules, liquids or powders and are generally applied at specific times to help stimulate growth, boost flowering or increase yield in crops. How to feed your plants with these fertilisers will depend on which type you are using.
Granular feeds are usually general fertilisers, containing equal amounts of nutrients that are applied to the soil surface and forked in, a method known as top dressing. If you are wondering when to feed your plants in this way, it is best done in the spring to help promote healthy plant growth and most plants and crops will benefit from a general feed this way.
Powders and liquid feeds that are dissolved or diluted in water and then watered onto the plants are one of the easiest ways to feed your plants, and the best time to feed your plants this way is in the growing season to give them a boost. Flowering plants such as bedding are usually fed with an additional high potash feed this way to promote flowering, as are fruiting crops such as tomatoes and peppers, which will get more flowers and therefore more fruit and a better harvest.
Plants grown in pots demand far more water and feed than those in the ground, so it is important not to neglect either watering or feeding. If you are wondering how to feed plants in baskets and containers, one of the most useful ways is to use a slow release fertiliser. Usually in pelleted form, this slowly breaks down, releasing nutrients into the soil over a period of weeks. If you are wondering when to feed plants this way, slow release granules are best sprinkled through the compost at planting.