Through the process of photosynthesis, plants manufacture their own food that is needed to grow. Using light, plants convert carbon dioxide into basic carbohydrates to expend as energy for growth. By providing young plants with the proper building blocks to do so, you will end up with healthy gardens that provide season-long enjoyment.
Light and Air
Sunlight is the most important component of photosynthesis. Know what your plants' sunlight requirements are and follow them completely for the best results. Plants that require full sun need at least eight hours of sunlight a day to grow properly. Part sun/shade is four to eight hours while shade is less than four hours. Some plants need to be in deep shade, receiving very little to no direct sunlight. Follow recommendations for your particular plants about the best time to receive sun as well--some plants fare better in the cooler morning sun with shade in the latter part of the day while others seem to thrive in the afternoon rays.
Plants pull the carbon dioxide from the air through healthy leaves and, with the help of sunlight, change it to the starches needed for growth.
Proper balance of nutrients is important to all living things, plants included. Primarily, plants need nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and some other trace minerals for healthy growth. Most of these can be found naturally in soil and potting mix with little need for supplement, but, at times, some of these nutrients need to be replenished via compost, manure or fertilizer either at the time of planting or through the plants' life.
Nitrogen, the most abundantly used nutrient, creates healthy, green leaves that are needed for photosynthesis. A sure sign of your plant needing a nitrogen boost is yellowing leaves. Potassium builds strong cells, meaning stalks that can hold a crop yield or flowers, and phosphorus creates better root growth and seed production. General fertilizers will show the amounts per packaging of each of these three nutrients in the order of the ratio--nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, respectively.
Like all living things, plants need water to prosper as well as nutrients. Know your particular plants' watering needs and group them accordingly in your garden design. Annuals, with more shallow root systems because of their shorter lifespan, will need more watering than perennials. Perennials need to develop stronger root systems by being forced to grow in search of water for more years of enjoyment, so they need less water. Vegetables and fruits vary on their watering needs. Anything grown in containers--especially anything that hangs-- will probably need daily water doses in the summer heat.