I find it frustrating when well-meaning friends and acquaintances try to convince me of something I know to be a bunch of hooey. When I try to point out that their “facts” aren’t confirmed by science, their standard retort it, “But it works!” As if having something work means it’s true, or right, or God’s will.
From a science point of view, having something work doesn’t prove anything. Just by chance, sometimes doing A will result in outcome B, even if there’s no connection. I’ve said it before: correlation doesn’t prove causation. If you don’t believe me, check out these fun charts.
Where’s the rain? We haven’t seen a storm like the one in this photo for several years. In spite of our recent snow (finally!), Colorado, like much of the nation, is experiencing severe drought. Last year brought only half our average precipitation, and the preceding years haven’t been much better. With water rationing looming in the near future, we might be feeling a down. After all, who likes a brown lawn?
I garden for pleasure, to make my flower beds look attractive, and to provide fresh, healthy food that supplements what we buy at the grocery store. Farmers and ranchers, on the other hand, raise food for their livelihood—and so we’ll have something to buy at when we go shopping. A lack of water can be catastrophic, not only for their bank accounts, but for all of us who depend on their products.
Most potting mixes have fertilizer already added to them, so you won’t need to worry about feeding your plants for the first three to four months. Once that fertilizer is used up, it’s time to add more. You can use any commercial fertilizer sold for houseplants.
Your choices are really a matter of personal preference. Some fertilizers are powders or liquids that you add to your watering can. Others are time-release pellets you incorporate into the potting mix. Some of these are considered organic, others are not. I’ve used a wide variety of products: liquid concentrates, powders, time-release pellets, fish emulsion—and even my homemade “worm tea” (the diluted run-off from my worm composting bins). It all works fine.
Mix your fertilizers according to the package directions. More is not better—you’ll burn your plants. I’ve found that mixing fertilizer at half-strength and applying it twice as often gives good results. If you notice white minerals accumulating on the plant’s container, run some water through the potting mix to flush out the build-up of fertilizer salts. Be sure to let the pot drain thoroughly afterwards.