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Fertilizing in Winter

During the Canadian winters we don’t have access to our gardens, ponds, and planters. Taking care of houseplants is usually the go to for those itching to care for greenery. In the peak of the summer it’s important to fertilize plants for the best growth as they’re growing a lot. We know the importance of a good plant food, but should we be doing it all year round?

What is a fertilizer? What is plant food? In the simplest form they are additional nutrients you can add to the plant aside from the soil itself. It’s kind of like a protein supplement for bodybuilders. The most popular fertilizers are water soluble liquids that you add to your watering can when you water your plants. There are other types as well such as powders, pellets, and sprays.

On the front of the package you’ll usually see 3 numbers listed like: 10-10–10. This tells you the amount of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potash (potassium) and is sometimes accompanied by the symbols NPK. These are the most prominent nutrient types but there are sometimes additional “micronutrients” included such as magnesium.

Without complicating it even further, the simplest way to understand fertilizes is the order: leaves, roots and fruits, and the body. Nitrogen is the first number. It helps plants grow leaves and stems. Phosphorus is the second number, it helps roots, flowers, and fruits grow large. The third number is potash and this helps the entire plant overall. With this in mind we can tailor different plant foods for different plants.

So what about your plant? Well during the winter we often have less sunlight overall because the days are shorter and the weather is often more cloudy. Without light plants don’t grow nearly as fast or strong. You might think this would mean they need more fertilizer in the winter, but remember my analogy from earlier? Plant food is like a protein supplement and it’s only useful if you’re working out. If plants get too much fertilizer while they’re not growing their roots can burn and sometimes you’ll see yellow or brown foliage.

The best way to know is to check your plant. Has it grown much in the past few weeks? Are their new growth buds coming out? Is it flowering? If not, then it’s best to hold off on fertilizers until the spring when it begins to grow again. If you find that there is some growth happening you can try diluting the fertilizer way more than what’s recommended on the package to help out your plants. Usually 1/2 or 1/4 of the amount is fine enough and you only need to do it once a month.

We hope this helps you understand fertilizers a bit better especially during the winter as it can be a bit tricky. Happy growing!

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