Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Fast Food

The July Greenhouse is a hungry beast and to get the very best from your greenhouse and your plants it’s essential to keep up with feeding to ensure a prolific and healthy harvest.

For precious plants and specialist plants, choose plant foods tailored to the particular type of plants that you are growing, as they will contain a more targeted mix of nutrients. Don’t skimp on plant food, you will pay the price in reduced plant vigour; reduce yields and often more pest and disease problems. Neglecting to feed your plants is like feeding your children on a diet of bread and water, they may survive but they won’t thrive and prosper. If you want the best for your plants and your garden, treat them to some gourmet nutrition and watch them flower, fruit and flourish copiously.

Well-fed plants are usually healthy plants and you can see this for yourself simply by leaving one tomato plant unfed and comparing it to the others. Actually that’s a bit irresponsible, as an unfed and stressed plant is more likely to be attacked by pest and diseases and may pass these on to your other plants. But you could try it with a quarantined plant elsewhere.

If you want to keep fruiting plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, aubergines productive you need to encourage more flowers. You can do this by feeding with a liquid feed rich in potash (K) or choose a tomato feed that will supply your tomatoes with everything they need, including essential trace elements and micro nutrients to protect against common tomato problems such as blossom end rot. You can also feed your other greenhouse fruiting crops with a tomato food too.

Don’t forger that to keep your fruiting plants flowering and ultimately fruiting too, you also need to pick of mature and ripened fruit to ensure that there is no halt in their productivity.

Leafy greenhouse plants such as herbs and salads can be fed with a nitrogen rich plant food that will green them up, encourage more leafy growth and keep them strong and healthy. If you are organic choose an organic blend or a natural mix such as a seaweed-based food or make your own from rainwater stewed nettles or comfrey (stewed cold of course and diluted). Organic produce from your greenhouse has more value financially, but is also a healthier choice for your family as it stays free from pesticide residues.

Plants growing in containers and indeed any growing in the greenhouse border soil will, by now, have depleted the ‘best’ nutrients leaving their roots in compost or soil that is deficient in fertiliser and not providing what they need. Of course all healthy plants manufacture food in their leaves via photosynthesis, so they won’t starve, but every good gardener knows that most plants need more than these to reach their full potential. Don’t short-change your plants. Invest in their health by a programme of feeding starting at the roots up. Where possible and relevant repot plants into large planters of fresh, top quality compost. If you can’t repot them, then top-dress with fresh compost. After 4-6 weeks, any plant growing in the same soil or compost will start to flounder as the nutrients are used up, so it’s time to start feeding with a balanced liquid feed or a more tailored formulation. Feed sooner if your plants are showing signs of stress. Plants that are seriously starving can be revived using a foliar feed, a weaker solution applied to the leaves at night, where it will get to work faster.

Make sure you don’t overfeed by applying a stronger solution, this can damage plant roots. Ensure plant roots are moist before applying a liquid feed.