GARDENING BLOG AT COLUMBIAN.COM

My wife Loretta and I started a gardening blog in early April at Columbian.com. In addition to current gardening topics we will be writing about new ideas in gardening (not necessarily brand new, but different or unusual approaches to gardening). There will be plenty about pruning because it is one of the most poorly performed practices in gardening. We will include humorous and interesting gardening stories. We will include answers to gardening questions and links to other gardening sites. We hope to have lots of feed-back from readers. We will be posting several blogs per week. Please check us out and tell us what you think about what we have written. Send in your garden questions. Make suggestions. You are invited to write about gardening topics you like. The article on phosphorus fertilizer is directly from the blog.

NO PHOSPHORUS FERTILIZER FOR LAWNS

The new law passed by the Washington legislature limiting phosphorus fertilizers will change the content of lawn fertilizers. How will that affect us lawn owners?

Lawn fertilizers contain 3 major nutrient elements: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, listed in that order on fertilizer labels. This new law will require all fertilizers for established lawns to eliminate phosphorus. Will that have dire effects on our lawns?

Plants use lots of phosphorus in their growth process. However, most soils in the Pacific Northwest have adequate quantities of phosphorus. Most lawn soils which have been fertilized regularly have accumulated much more phosphorus than necessary for growth. So eliminating phosphorus will have no impact.

You can still use a fertilizer with phosphorus to establish a new lawn. You can still use fertilizers with phosphorus for your trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables. Fruiting vegetables like tomatoes need lots of phosphorus. I would recommend continuing to use high phosphorus fertilizers for those plants. Most other plants will do quite well with the amount of phosphorus found naturally in our soil.

SIMPLIFY FERTILIZATION

Garden stores and departments offer numerous brands and types of fertilizers. Gardeners have been trained to think that each type of plant needs its own fertilizer. Since our soils contain a significant amount of phosphorus and potassium, I have found that lawn fertilizers, which are high in nitrogen, work very well for most trees, shrubs and flowers. The only things I use any other fertilizers for are containers, and fruiting vegetables, especially tomatoes. General purpose fertilizers with a 1-1-1 balance of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, or vegetable fertilizers with a 1-2-1 balance are better for fruiting vegetables. Typical offerings are 16-16-16 or 5-10-5. For containers I use a coated fertilizer such as Osmocote, which releases gradually every time plants are watered.

Lawn fertilizers with part of the nitrogen in a slow release form are best for spring application. They will last much longer into the summer. I have a new lawn fertilizer (available only to commercial applicators) which is 90% slow release nitrogen. It continues to release nitrogen through the entire summer and into the fall.

I also like to see micro-nutrients such as iron and zinc included in mixed fertilizers. Organic fertilizers naturally contain all the micro-nutrient elements.

TIME TO PLANT SUMMER FLOWERS AND VEGETABLES

I was beginning to wonder if it would ever warm up enough to plant heat loving flowers and vegetables. Were we going to have another spring like last year? The forecast for early May looks promising. You might want to try a couple of things which will speed growth of heat loving vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melons and squash.

Black and colored plastic mulch will not only warm the soil but prevent weed growth. I like the solar and red plastic mulches because they also reflect heat back up into the leaves. Red and solar mulches are seldom available in stores but can be ordered from territorialseed.com or johnnyseeds.com. Plastic mulch can be applied either before or after planting. Make an X slit and pull the plant through or transplant or place seed below the X hole. Make a dip in the soil where the plant is located and water will run to the hole.

Plastic or spun fiber row covers and individual stimulators like Wall-O-Water create a greenhouse-like effect that speeds plant growth. Combining both devices doubles the effect.

For more detailed information, go to our web site: naturalpruningnw.com. Click on vegetables under the How to Guide. Scroll down to “vegetable gardening tips”. You can print 4 pages of detailed information on vegetable gardening.

SOIL TEMPERATURE IS IMPORTANT FOR SEED SPROUTING

Most heat loving vegetables require a soil temperature of 60 to 65 degrees to germinate. When we have several days of 60 degrees or above, the soil will reach that range. Virtually all heat loving vegetables are fruiting vegetables. Many of them are traditionally planted from started plants. I have had good luck using gallon milk jugs with the bottom removed to raise soil temperature for planting squash, melons and cucumbers. I plant 3 seeds in a hill and place a jug over the top.

Corn seed only requires a soil temperature of 50 to 55 degrees. I usually plant my corn the middle of April. This year I planted on the last day of April.

Peas and all the leaf, root and flower bud vegetables only need 45 to 50 degrees to sprout. I normally plant them in March or early April. They can also be planted in May or later with good success.