Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Elizabeth River Lawn & Landscape in Suffolk, VA.
David Salman of High Country Gardens says fall is the best time to fertilize, when plants are pulling nutrients down from the stems and crowns and creating stores of energy below ground to be used for next spring’s regeneration. But oftentimes, according to Salman, gardeners forget the importance of fall fertilizing to encourage roots in this capacity.
“Most plants are in very active root growth in the fall,” Salman says, “and healthy roots benefit from increased levels of phosphate, potassium and trace elements as they grow and spread.”
Salman also points to the importance of fall fertilizing with natural and organic soil amendments. Using chemical fertilizers instead of organic ones “is like drinking canned soda pop vs. the best organic smoothie you can concoct,” he says. “Roots can absorb chemical fertilizers without any interface with the soil. Natural fertilizers and composts feed the soil and the soil breaks it down and makes those ingredients available to the roots. Chemical fertilizer takes a whole leg out of the equation.”
To ensure that gardeners adequately prepare their soil for fall root growth, Salman recommends Yum Yum Mix Winterizer Organic Fertilizer, a soil conditioner that was developed exclusively for High Country Gardens. The boosted levels of premium soft rock phosphate and kelp meal (as a source of potassium)—along with granular humate, greensand, Planters II trace mineral fertilizer, alfalfa meal and cottonseed meal—nourish beneficial organisms and earthworms to support a healthy, living soil that keeps plants thriving.
“You’ll have those bigger, healthier roots from the fall growth season preparing the plants to be more vigorous the following spring,” Salman says.
When? Typically, gardeners should prepare to winterize their soil after the first frost of the season, both for existing gardens and plots that will be planted the following spring.
“It’s recommended if you want to get ready to plant next spring, then prepare the soil in fall and winter,” Salman says. “That way, all those nutrients will be broken down by the soil over the fall and winter and spring months, and then when you’re ready to plant in the spring you’ve got a beautifully prepared soil.”
Salman recommends a simple three-step process for fall fertilizing with Yum Yum Mix Winterizer.
- Spread the mix over the soil following suggested ratio guidelines for the size of the plot
- Lightly scratch in using fingers or a bow rake
- Cover with mulch and water thoroughly
Fall mulching further enhances the winterizing process, according to Salman. “Fall mulching will help keep the soil warmer longer into the fall so that root growth can continue, then it helps keep the soil cold through spring so things don’t wake up too early,” he says. “It also protects the soil from drying out.”
High Country Gardens is an award-winning source for waterwise, native and adapted plants. The nationally recognized mail-order catalog is available online at www.highcountrygardens.com.