Feeding Your Houseplants

By: Heather Rhoades

If you don’t feed your houseplants regularly, they tend to underachieve. You should start feeding regularly once they fill their pot with roots. If you want them to remain healthy and create a lush, attractive display, you need to give them regular feedings.

From early spring into summer, both leafy plants and flowering plants require some feeding at 10-14 day intervals. Houseplants that flower only in the winter should be fed the same way, but only when they are flowering.

Liquid Fertilizer for Feeding Houseplants

Most people feed their houseplants by mixing concentrated liquid fertilizer in clean room temperature water and watering the plants with the solution. Make sure you don’t make the mixture too strong and mix the solution according to manufacturer recommendations. Be sure the compost is already moist, which will help the fertilizer absorb easier and quicker. Mix only enough fertilizer to feed your plants. Don’t make up large quantities and store the mixture because it can get stronger while it sits.

Feeding Sticks and Pills for Feeding Houseplants

Feeding sticks are another quick and easy way people fertilize their indoor plants. All you do is push the fertilizer pegs into the compost about 1 cm from the pot’s side. There are fertilizer pills as well. Both the sticks and the pills give the plants food over a longer period of time, but they sometimes encourage the roots to become congested around them.

When Not to Feed Plants

Plants that flower throughout the summer shouldn’t be fertilized with pills and pegs past the midsummer growing season. The last fertilizer peg or pill that you would administer will keep the plant fertilized throughout its flowering process. If you have winter flowering plants, insert the last peg or pill in autumn and early winter.

Feeding your plants are not hard things to do. Sometimes, it can be time consuming and they are definitely chores that fall low on the list at times. But you will reap many rewards in the long run with the beauty you are creating.

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When & How To Fertilize Garden Plants – 5 Big Secrets To Success!

When it comes to successfully fertilizing the plants in your vegetable garden, when and how you fertilize is just as important as what fertilizer you use!

No matter how rich and fertile a garden’s soil is, most vegetable plants still require a few boosts of fertilizer now and then to reach their full potential.

Tomatoes are heavy feeders, and need a steady supply of nutrients for maximum growth.

Tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, like many vegetables, are heavy feeders from the soil. And as they grow, they begin depleting the soil of nitrogen, potassium, and other vital nutrients.

But by simply applying the right kind of fertilizer, at the right intervals, plants can have the energy they need to grow strong and healthy. And of course, in the process, produce a bigger harvest!

Compost pellets being applied as a natural fertilizer to garden crops.

With that in mind, here are 5 big keys to fertilizing your garden for success – including when, how, and what to use to get the best results possible from your garden!

How to feed plants

In this No Fuss Guide, David Hurrion takes you through the different types of organic plant food. He explains what the word organic means and the difference between organic and inorganic fertilisers. He then offers advice on the importance of improving your soil with organic matter such as pelleted chicken manure.:

Fancy making your own organic plant food? Here, David demonstrates how to make a comfrey liquid feed, for feeding tomatoes and other flowering plants:

Follow our step-by-step guide to feeding plants, below.

Growing Enough Food to Feed a Family

How big a vegetable garden do you need to feed a family? How big would your garden need to be? How much should you plant? Let’s contemplate the possibilities!

To answer these questions, here are a number of factors. For example, where do you live? If you live in a southern state (example, Georgia), you may be able to grow year-round. If you live in colder region, however, you may not be able to depend on a full winter harvest and will instead need to can or freeze part of your late-summer yield.

  1. According to a UK study, to sustain one person on a vegetarian diet for an entire year, you’d probably need about 4000 square feet of growing space. This excludes access paths. That’s a big! Clearly, this amount of real estate will require a major committment in terms of your labor, too.
  2. For a non-vegetarian individual, however, we’d estimate that you need about 200 square feet of garden space to allow for a harvest that feeds everyone year-round. So, for an average family of four, plan for an 800 square-foot garden—a plot that is 20 feet by 40 feet in size. It can depend on what you plant, of course some crops take up more room than others.

Perhaps it’s better to back out how many people are in your family and what you actually like to eat. There’s no point in growing asparagus if you are the only one who will eat them1

Look at your normal diet and note how much you eat per week. Example: If you ate 3 pounds of potatoes a week (!), that’s 12 pounds a month and 144 pounds a year!

Common Vegetables to Grow

Let’s look at common plants families eat and how much garden space is required per person. Some crops, such as tomatoes, produce many vegetables or fruits per plant, so you’ll need fewer of these plants to obtain a large harvest. Others such as carrots produce just one vegetable per plant and require correspondingly more to be sown.

Below are examples based on one individual’s habits (yours may be different).

As mentioned above, let’s say you ate 3 pounds of potatoes a week, that’s 12 pounds a month and 144 pounds a year.
Assuming 75 to 200 pounds per person, that translates to:

  • Yield per 10-foot row: 10 to 20 pounds
  • Row length needed: 75 to 100 feet, which is about 85 plants

Assuming 15 to 65 pounds of tomatoes a year per person, that translates to:

  • Yield per 10-foot row: 15 to 45lbs
  • Row length needed: 10 to 15 feet, which is 6 to10 plants

Assuming 7 to 20 pounds of carrots per person per year, this translates to:

  1. Yield per 10-foot row: 7 to 10 pounds
  2. Row length needed: 10 to 20 feet, which is about 30 to 60 plants

The Almanac Garden Planner makes it easy to work out the row length required for a certain number of plants! It spaces the plants for you and calculates the number of plants you need.
So, for other crops just continue this process of working out how much you’ll eat, researching how much each plant yields, and how long the row will need to be.

How to get the most from your space

There are some tried and tested growing techniques which help you to get the most from any garden, no matter how big or how small.

Use different varieties
Where possible, plant early, mid and late varieties of your crops. This will provide a steady flow of produce spread throughout the season, and can also help to reduce losses due to pests and diseases as your plants will be in different stages of growth at different times.

For example, if you’re growing potatoes you could choose 3 different varieties: one each of first early, second early and maincrop varieties. Many other crops have seasonal varieties too, including peas, beans, apples, onions and corn.

Succession plant
Succession planting is all about maximizing the space you have available, ensuring that there is always something growing in the ground. As you harvest your first early potatoes in June, you could then plant a quick growing crop such as some beets. The Garden Planner can help to keep track of this – set the dates that crops will be in the ground and select a specific month to see what space will be available, then pop in a few rows of your chosen succession crop.

Extend your season and protect your crops
Use greenhouses, cold frames or a hoop house to add an extra few weeks at the start and end of the growing season. In cooler climates this will ensure you are much more successful with tender crops like tomatoes, cucumbers and melons. They will also help to protect your crops from unseasonal weather such as wet summers and from some pests such as birds, small mammals and deer. Plus, it’s always welcome to be able to harvest fresh produce early in the season.

Grow calorie crops
Calorie crops are those which have a high calorie content per weight of crop. If you’re growing lots of your own food, you’ll want to include the top 5 of potatoes, corn, beans, winter squash and perhaps grains such as wheat. These crops fill you up, are generally much less work than other crops and are very versatile – they store well, for long periods and are endlessly useful in the kitchen.

Growing any fresh food in your garden is a great way to feed your family – it doesn’t have to be about being totally self-sufficient. Whether you have a few containers by your back door or have a 2 acre plot you’ll be able to add fresh ingredients to your meals and reduce your grocery bills, and if you garden organically and sustainably you’ll be reducing your environmental impact too.

Ready to plan? Get a free 7-day trial of our online Almanac Garden Planner.

Use Diluted Coffee to Fertilize Plants

You know that last bit of coffee that always seems to be left in the carafe? Don't just pour it down the drain -- you can use it to fertilize your container-grown plants. Coffee grounds (and brewed coffee) are a source of nitrogen for plants, which is the nutrient that produces healthy green growth and strong stems. Coffee also contains calcium and magnesium -- both of which are beneficial to plant health.

To use coffee as a plant fertilizer, you'll need to dilute it. It should look like weak tea -- see the photo for an example. If you aim for about 1/4 coffee and 3/4 water in your mixture (depending on how strongly you brew your coffee), that's about right, but you don't have to be fussy about it. You can use coffee fertilizer on your potted plants, houseplants, or in your vegetable garden. Coffee and coffee grounds can be acidic, but since we're diluting it so much, that's not really a problem unless you're watering the same plant with it every day.

A good rule of thumb is to feed and water your plants once a week with a weak coffee solution. They'll appreciate the additional nutrients, as well as the water.

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