Fertilizer for Bedding Plants at Lake Home

Asked August 5, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT

is there a fertilizer I can use for bedding plants and landscape shrubs at my lake home that won't feed the weeds in the lake?

Aitkin County Minnesota

1 Response

It's great that you are concerned about water pollution from fertilizers: we all need to be careful what we are putting out there and where it is going.

The best rule of thumb, as I'm sure you've read or heard, is to "feed the soil, not the plants." What that means is we need to build up the features in the soil, and good soil will take care of the plants. This approach also helps avoid the run-off caused by using add-on fertilizers. What I would recommend is regularly adding good quality compost to your beds and around your shrubs. You can do this any time, but spring and fall is good. Spread 2" of good compost and you can either just leave it on top (the worms will work it into the soil) or scratch it in a bit with a rake or small garden claw. You don't need to turn it over or dig it in. Over time (a couple of years) this will build up the organic matter in the soil, not only providing nutrients for the plants but also the holding capacity of the soil, so there will be less run-off.

It's fine to add compost now, but don't do any other fertilizing this late in the season. Adding a typical water soluable or granular fertilizer now will encourage lots of soft new growth that may not have time to harden off properly before winter comes, creating lots of dead wood on your shrubs next year.