There are many brands of mixed fertilizers prepared specially for use in
the greenhouse or on plants in pots. There is a temptation to use these
on account of their convenient compact form, and because they are more
agreeable to handle. As a
general rule, however, much better results
will be obtained by relying on rotted manure.
If you want to use fertilizers at all--and for certain purposes they
will be very valuable--I would advise restricting the list to the
following pure materials which are not mixed, and which are always
uniform; nitrate of soda, cottonseed meal, pure fine ground bone, and
wood ashes. (Several of the other chemicals are good, but not so
Ground bone is the most valuable of these. It should be what is known as
"fine ground," or bone dust. It induces a strong but firm growth, and
can be used safely in the potting soil, supplementing the manure as a
source of plant food. From two to three quarts to a bushel of soil is
the right amount to use. It should be thoroughly mixed through the
soil. It may also be frequently used to advantage as a top dressing on
plants that have exhausted the food in their pots, or while developing
buds or blooming. Work two or three spoonfuls into the top of the soil.
Nitrate of soda is the next in importance. It is very strong and must be
carefully used, the safest way being to use it as a liquid manure, one
or two teaspoonsful dissolved in three gallons of water. If first
dissolved in a pint of hot water, and then added to the other, it will
be more quickly done. Use a pint or so of this solution in watering. The
results will often be wonderful.
Cottonseed meal may be safely mixed with the soil, like ground bone, but
requires some time in which to rot, before the plant can make use of it.
Wood ashes are also safe, and good to add to the potting soil. They help
to make a firm, hard growth, as a result of the potash they furnish.
Where plants seem to be making a too rapid, watery growth, wood ashes
may be applied to the surface and worked in.
With a soil prepared as directed in the first part of this chapter,
there will be very little need for using any other of the fertilizers,
until plants have been shifted into their last pots and have filled them
with roots. When this stage is reached the use of liquid manures as
described later will frequently be beneficial. If, however, a plant for
any reason seems backward, or slower in growth than it should be, an
application or two of nitrate of soda will often produce results almost
marvelous. Be sure, however, that your troubles are not due to some
mistake in temperature, ventilation or watering, before you ascribe them
to improper or exhausted soil.
Now, having had the patience to find out something about the conditions
under which plants ought to succeed, let us proceed to the more
interesting work of actually making them grow.
Next: Starting Plants From Seed
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