It's every gardener's wall of confusion: the shelves and shelves of plant fertilizers, available at the local nursery. Which one should you use? The granular, the liquid, the box, the bottle or the bag? And do you really need separate fertilizers for each kind of fruit or vegetable you're growing? And what do all those numbers on the fertilizer label mean? Do you really need to use fertilizers, at all? Our favorite college horticulture professor (retired) Debbie Flower joins us in the studio to talk garden fertilizers.
She points out that two of the tell-tale signs that your plant needs nitrogen: the older leaves are turning yellow, and the newer leaves are smaller than normal. Also, using more fertilizer - or fertilizers with high levels of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) - can poison plants. More is NOT better. Flower recommends using fertilizers with "single digit" levels of N, P, and K.
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Plus, we answer one listener's question that may also be vexing you and your garden right now: how do I get rid of all those gosh darn squash bugs that are sucking on the zucchini, melons, cucumbers and pumpkin leaves? One prong of Flower's three-pronged approach to controlling squash bugs: encourage populations of beneficial insects that prey on squash bugs, especially the mini-wasps and tachinid flies. Planting the right flowers nearby can encourage these garden good guys to take up permanent residence in your garden. More details about that here.
It’s all part of Episode 23 of Garden Basics with Farmer Fred. Grab a magnifying glass (for the fertilizer labels) and a bucket of soapy water (for the squash bugs) and give us a listen. We will do it all in under 30 minutes.
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