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Fertiliser/plant food for shrubs advice:

I was just wondering if anyone had some advice for food for a range of plants. I have no real experience using fertilisers, and in the past I've just spread compost around and let the worms get on with it which I know isn't quite the same.

However I've been wondering if some of our plants might need or at least benefit from a little boost, but since I know nothing about it and the internet is full of nothing but horror stories of 'oh I did this and it killed everything' or make everything seem overly complicated, so I thought it simplest to just ask instead rather than looking around and stressing because of too much information.

So essentially, what would people recommend to give a little nutrient boost, ideally to a range of plants (Pyracantha, Fuchsia, Roses, Lavender, all of which have bulbs planted around them), that won't harm the soil/organisms as for the most part we've never seen a need to do so (and so don't want to muck that up) but some of them have had a bit of a rough year lately so might benefit from a one off boost? 

The soil itself is clay, but relatively well draining (despite it tipping it down almost every week since Christmas we've only had small pools of standing water a couple of times, both in the 'grass' where there isn't so much to take up the excess).


  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,981
    Flowering plants, or certainly ones which are heavy flowerers,  will benefit from a little help. Tomato food is ideal, and you can use that in a diluted form later in the year. Annuals are the types which benefit most from that though.
    Most people like to use something like Blood, Fish and Bone sprinkled round the base of shrubs and plants at this time of year. It's a slow release food, and is beneficial to everything. You simply tickle that in round the plants, according to instructions, and you can then add your compost over that.
    Overfeeding can be counter productive, as it often encourages lots of very soft, weak growth. The plants are then less robust, which then means they're more susceptible to attacks from bad weather and pests. A small amount of food is the ideal. 

    Clay soil is full of nutrients, so established plants usually  need very little, but another useful 'food' is well rotted manure, which would be particularly good for your roses. It has the added benefit of helping the soil structure, and opens up clay to help drainage. It's worth adding some of that as a mulch in autumn, and it will break down over winter.  :)

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • ElothirElothir Posts: 94
    Thanks for the replies.

    I generally steer away from these things anyway because as you say clay soil is pretty good so I'm always hesitant about mucking up any balances going on, hence my lack of knowledge on the subject. 

    I haven't actually put down any compost for quite a few years, partly again due to the conflicting information you find about composts these days. Perhaps I'll get some  manure in autumn and do that instead, I know Wickes sell Chicken manure at least.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,981
    You can get well rotted manure at most GCs and DIY stores.
    Chicken manure can be slightly alkaline, so don't use it if you grow rhodies, camellias, skimmias etc, which need neutral to acidic conditions.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,554
    I like to give a handful of pelleted chicken manure to shrubs and perennials in spring.  I use cheap commercial multi-purpose compost spread on beds where the soil is poor as this gets worked in by the worms and helps with soil structure and moisture retention.

    This newish garden - to us - has areas of very fertile soil where it's been cow pasture so nothing needs adding to the soil when making new beds but also some very dry, sandy and /or volcanic schiste which can be extremely hard and dry so needs help.  

    We use our own garden compost and also horse manure from next door neighbour's 3 horses or bought in in bags for the veggie plot rotation and the poorer soils.   It's important to feed the soil and its micro-organisms rather than over feed the plants because, as @Fairygrl says, plants can get soft and sappy and be susceptible to damage.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,981
    I know what you mean about conflicting info on commercial composts @Elothir, but if you just want it as a mulch, pretty much any compost is fine. It really only becomes relevant when you want to sow seed or grow things in pots etc, when the make up of it has more impact.
    Home made stuff is slightly different again, and is best for mulching, and adding to beds for general help with the soil structure.
    As @Obelixx says, that is a far better approach generally, than overfeeding chemically, so it's best to add your compost and/or manure in the form of a mulch, and just add a general boost in spring of whichever feed you like.
    The B,F&B I mentioned is a very popular solution, and readily available. I don't always remember to use it - I garden on clay too - but I don't feed shrubs anything else in addition to that. They get a mulch of compost/manure now and again.  I only use tomato food for my sweet peas or clematis as a boost, as they often require extra nutrition to perform well, and I occasionally use seaweed for foliage plants.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

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