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Which fertiliser?

Cumbria, United Kingdom Gb

Well, early March, mild and wet and a perfect time to feed the shrubs and herbaceous plants.

But which granular/powdered fertiliser is best at this time of year ... Blood Fish and Bone, Growmore or, say, Vitax Q4?
I notice there's a big difference in price but which is the most beneficial to plants at this time of year, then again in late April/early May?



I wouldn't recommend fish, blood and bone - its highly attractive to animals such as foxes, cats,dogs and rats, and they'll be rootlling around to eat it, so its best used in planting holes, below ground.

Growmore's a pretty good general fertiliser, usually with an NPK of 7-7-7 - Vitax Q4 is not balanced, having a higher potash content with a lower nitrogen level, but it contains trace elements which may or may not be useful to some plants. Up to you which you choose of those.

11 Mar, 2017


Thanks Bamboo.

Well that's a new one to me! Blood fish and bone attractive to animals. Didn't know that so I'll avoid.
I mentioned Vitax Q4 as it was a Which? Best Buy. And with an NPK of 5.3/7.5/10, quite high in nutrients but it is quite expensive.

So Growmore would give similar results as Vitax Q4? And which is the better fertiliser for a second feed in 6-8 weeks?

11 Mar, 2017


We used to have a cat that would dive into the planting hole after blood, fish and bonemeal, or even just bonemeal... was a flipping nuisance when you were trying to plant a shrub!

11 Mar, 2017


Fertilizer depends on what you plan to grow. Root crops and fruiting plants have different requirements then leafy greens. A few inches of good organic compost is much better then those "even number" fertilizers which are only salts and kill the microbes in the soil that plants rely on.

NPK won't do much good without the necessary cofactors such as calcium, iron, magnesium, carbon, sulfur & boron in certain cases. The plant can't use one, unless the other is present. That's why I'd recommend a couple inches of good organic compost which supply a broad spectrum and macro & micro nutrients. Avoid those commercial chemical fertilizers.

11 Mar, 2017


Thanks again.

The plants I'm referring to are mainly summer flowering shrubs and summer flowering herbaceous perennials. Sorry for not being more specific.

So 'Bathgate', you don't recommend any of the granular or powdered fertilisers at all?

11 Mar, 2017


Stick with Bamboo's advice!

11 Mar, 2017


A good layer of organic compost will supply your plants with everything your plants need to grow strong and healthy. Blood meal, fish emulsion, seaweed are excellent sources of supplemental fertilizer if there is some obvious deficiency. They are now available in powder & pelleted form. However, many herbaceous perennials prefer a lean soil over a rich fertile soil.

Ignore Mg.

Chemical fertilizers tend to leach, or filter away from the plants, requiring additional applications.
Repeated applications may result in a toxic buildup of chemicals such as arsenic, cadmium, and uranium in the soil. Long-term use of chemical fertilizer can change the soil pH, upset beneficial microbial ecosystems, increase pests, and even contribute to the release of greenhouse gases.

11 Mar, 2017


Totally confused now because of the conflicting advice.
MG says Bamboo is correct, you say ignore MG.

The instructions on Growmore and Vitax Q4, for example, say feed in early March then again 6-8 weeks later but you say this may result in a toxic build up.
Surely the commercial fertiliser companies wouldn't advise this if it may result in a toxic build up in the soil of arsenic, cadmium and uranium.

11 Mar, 2017


Do as you like, I'm 6000 miles away. I'm just laying out the facts. The research is out there for you to check out. Mg offers nothing but just listen to her buddy. "Surely they can and surely they do" Why would I lie to you? These companies "Growmore" are in business to make a profit - the bottom line matters most. They are not your friend. Why is there aspartame in diet soda? They sure do! The synthetic fertilizers have a very short life span. They quickly break down in the soil into their basic elements - arsenic, cadmium, uranium. That's why you need to repeat the application.

Here is something to read.

11 Mar, 2017


I didn't say you are lying to me, I said I'm receiving conflicting advice. If you are correct, you are saying the others are lying.

And why tell me you're 6000 miles away? Away from where? You don't know where I am.

Can anyone else agree that Growmore or Vitax Q4 are good fertilisers that do what they say and feed your plants consistently well? Vitax Q4 won a Which? Best Buy award because plants produced better growth and more flowers than with other fertilisers during trials.
And yes, they are in business to make a profit. Which business isn't?

11 Mar, 2017


OK not exactly 6000 miles, but we have the Atlantic Ocean between us. You're profile says Cumbria, UK, I'm a Yankee. Often those synthetic fertilizers will cause an unnatural growth spurt (like taking hormones) but will flop over because of undeveloped root system.

Composted leaves, grass clippings, kitchen scraps, worm castings, horse/cow manure, wood ash, grounded egg shells, wood chips, used coffee grounds, fish or bone meal all provide a very rich, steady, well balanced fertilizer that will feed the microbes over a long duration. I'm just suggesting a better option. Those fertilizers often burn tender plants because they contain urea and a lot of salt.

11 Mar, 2017


Bathgate all the things you are suggesting are fine, however, Richierich wants advice on feeds not on long term composts.

11 Mar, 2017


Sorry Richierich, been out all day since I posted earlier.I'd go for the Growmore, if you want a general purpose fertilizer for turning into the soil throughout your garden beds and borders, it's what I use on everyone's garden. Cheapest in large plastic tubs from somewhere like B & Q, cost about £14 or £15, should last you at least a couple of years if you've a largish garden.

The confusion in this thread seems to be caused by conflating two things - feeding plants and 'feeding' soil. Chemical fertilizers such as Growmore or Vitax feed plants directly but do little for the soil. Soil health is important, and that is improved by adding composted materials such as animal manures, good garden compost, leafmould, any humus rich material basically, which will naturally increase bio diversity; that bio diversity will naturally provide more trace elements and more nutrients to your plants, but over time rather than in a week or three.

What I usually do is broadcast growmore in the latter half of March or early April, turning it in lightly to provide a readily available 'fix' for the plants, then apply composted materials as a mulch over the top - no need to dig it in (though you can if you prefer) it gets taken down into the soil anyway over time, to take care of longer term plant and soil health. If you're a follower of 'no dig' gardening, then broadcast the growmore and apply a mulch over the top, without digging the soil, provided there's no weed/moss growth present.

Using soil improvers like composted animal manures means it's not necessary to do a second application of chemical fertilizer such as Growmore in the same year.

In regard to dire warnings about salts and deleterious effects of chemical fertilizers, you may not be aware that, in the USA, there seems to have been an observable, strong and frequent tendency on the part of gardeners/growers to reach for a chemical fertilizer at regular intervals, or as a remedy even if the plant concerned is suffering lack of water or an infestation or infection. Over use or over application seems to be a common problem in the States, much more so than here - I've observed this from my long standing membership of an active USA based gardening site. There are also a wide range of different chemicals available in the States which are not available here, including fertilizers, but also herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. Whilst some of these may be highly effective, there's always a price for everything, especially an environmental one, and over use doesn't help, so there's a tendency on the part of our American friends to assume we have the same issues here. By and large, we don't - but that doesn't mean you shouldn't think about soil conditioning as well as chemical fertilizing!

11 Mar, 2017


I know, but suggesting something maybe he hasn't thought of. We call it black gold - much better then Growmore. It's cheap, low maintenance and addresses the same issue. I don't get the big to do.

11 Mar, 2017


Bathgate you 'seem' to be thinking about veggie crops tho person want info on shrubs and herbaceous perennials
there is a work of different between the two

11 Mar, 2017


It will work for veggies too as well as herbaceous perennials. That's because of the broad spectrum of macro & micro nutrients it supplies and it's ability to feed the mycorrhiza in the soil, not kill it with salt & urea. If you have acid loving plants (rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolia, camelia) add some pine needles to the mix or plant a conifer nearby and look to the woodlands for answers. :)

11 Mar, 2017


As Bamboo has already said compost etc. will feed the soil, and i something we use all the time. However, if Richierich wants to feed specific plants, and he/she does, then the answer is as Bamboo has given.

12 Mar, 2017


Thanks for all your replies and advice, particularly Bamboo for a straightforward answer relevant to the question.

I'm going to use Growmore although I assume Vitax Q4 may produce more flowers because of the higher Potash content. I'll also mulch with rotted manure or leafmould to improve the soil texture and add nutrients.

Not sure about synthetic fertilisers causing toxic build up, Bathgate, or plants flopping over because of undeveloped root systems. I have read many good reviews about Growmore and Vitax and this isn't mentioned at all ... not here in the UK anyway.

12 Mar, 2017


The information is available for anybody to read. You just have to invest the time to educate yourself. I even handed you the information but like I said, do as you like.

12 Mar, 2017


I'm sorry to come into the answers towards the end so to speak but may I pose the question as why is it that many gardeners seem to want to be feeding their shrubs and herbaceous plants as a matter of course? Yes, if they look as though there is a deficiency in your soil that is affecting them, then as the plants come from all over the world with different soil conditions, then you might need to rectify this. But I wonder if the average gardener can tell the difference between a plant that looks fine and one that looks something slightly better, then do we need to feed for feeding's sake? Having said, I am a great fan of 6X fertilizer.

12 Mar, 2017


I stay away from the synthetic fertilizers promoted above. They create an artificial growing environment that is difficult and expensive to maintain, if you don't the plants will suffer. You would be far better off to amend the soil naturally.

12 Mar, 2017


Jimmytheone - I do it annually because I'm doing other people's gardens, but sometimes I don't, and that decision is made based on whether the client was prepared to stump up for the cost of the topdressing of composted manure or whatever from the garden centre the previous year (they often aren't) and also how wet the winter's been. If its been very wet, then its likely nitrogen levels at least may well be depleted, so a quick top up in spring with something like Growmore as growth begins helps to redress that. If they did stump up for the manure, then I may not feel the Growmore is necessary, but again, some of the gardens I do have light, sandy soil and others heavy, clay soil, and as you know, light sandy soils don't hold on to as many nutrients as clay does, especially after a wet winter.

Don't let that information confuse you, Richierich - the guidance I've given above in my previous response is pretty much textbook!

12 Mar, 2017


As I said earlier, "Growmore" could address a plant in dire & severe distress. If you are simply preparing a planting bed, bonemeal, fish emulsion, blood meal, etc (what I said above) is by far the better choice.

Synthetic fertilizers have long-term negative effects. Synthetic fertilizers kill beneficial microorganisms in the soil that convert dead human and plant remains into nutrient-rich organic matter. Nitrogen- and phosphate-based synthetic fertilizers leach into groundwater and increase its toxicity, causing water pollution. Fertilizers that leach into streams, rivers, lakes and other bodies of water disrupt aquatic ecosystems. Synthetic fertilizers increase the nitrate levels of soil. Plants produced from such soil, upon consumption, convert to toxic nitrites in the intestines. These harmful nitrites react with the hemoglobin in the blood stream to cause methaeglobinaemia, which damages the vascular and respiratory systems, causing suffocation and even death in extreme cases (when blood methaemoglobin level is 80 percent or more). Synthetic fertilizers damage the natural makeup of soil in the long term. Plants that grow in overly fertilized soil are deficient in iron, zinc, carotene, vitamin C, copper and protein.

Organic fertilizers are naturally occurring substances and include biofertilizers, green manure, organic manure and compost. They slowly leach essential nutrients into the soil and improve its overall vitality with time. Synthetic fertilizers are man-made combinations of chemicals and inorganic substances. They typically combine nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium and other elements in different ratios. Synthetic fertilizers, unlike their organic counterparts, immediately supply essential nutrients to soil.

Organic is clearly more beneficial and cost effective over the long haul.

My reference:

12 Mar, 2017


I think 6x is organic isn't it? It certainly smells it. I noticed that cats wouldn't go on soil where it had been spread. I loved it.

13 Mar, 2017

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