Flowers depend on soil nutrients for good growth, and it is up to us to supply these constant nutrients. Good nutrient content can be maintained in soil by an annual application of organic fertilizer and an occasional side dressing during the growing season. Organic fertilizer is safer for your garden. It can be homemade or commercially purchased. "Every home garden should have a compost pile" reports the Cornell University Cooperative Extension paper on good fertilizing practices. Fertilizing needs can differ for various plants, and there are some cautions about over-fertilizing to be aware of.
Types of Fertilizer
Organic fertilizer continually releases nutrients into the soil for your flowers' healthy growth. Soil repeatedly treated with chemical fertilizer is often called "dead soil." Organic fertilizers are safer in the garden because they do not kill beneficial insects or harm pets. There are many brands of organic fertilizer especially for flowers. There are also specialized commercial formulas for rose care, azalea care, and vegetable care. Check your local garden center for a certified organic general flower garden compost.
Make Your Own Fertilizer
Flowers benefit from a yearly application of compost. Start your own garden compost pile in a back corner of your garden. Commercial compost makers come in several styles, or simply start a pile of grass clippings and vegetable peelings. Air and occasional watering are also necessary ingredients to a compost recipe. Worms assist in breaking down the organic matter and turning it into "black gold" fertilizer.
A once yearly application of organic fertilizer is the general rule, but there are some special considerations. Add a light layer of composted fertilizer in the spring as the growing season gets started. Give occasional side-dressings of compost as the flowers mature and then bloom. Flowers in container and hanging baskets need to be fertilized every other week. Give them a trowel full of compost or commercial organic fertilizer around the base of the plant.
Vines do not need extra fertilizing as it stunts flower production. Roses are often called heavy feeders and should be given a side-dressing of compost fertilizer every two weeks. Azaleas in pots require a light feeding of fertilizer once a month. For outdoor plants, you can rely on the once yearly application of compost to provide a slow release of nutrients. Add fertilizer only as a top dressing to bulbs. Do not fertilize near their blooming time.
Compost fertilizer is not damaging, but it is strong and should be used with caution. Do not apply a general layer of fertilizer to the entire flower garden more than once a year. A fall application is best because it gives the nutrients time to release into the soil. Dilute compost into a liquid "tea" for lower-strength applications to container plants and hanging baskets.