Gardening Tips and Advice

Fertilizer, Gardening -

Gardening Tips and Advice

You may have just decided to start growing a garden or you may be an expert. While it seems simple - just put a seed in the ground and give it water - actually growing plants can be quite tricky. You'll quickly find there are many types of fertilizers, soils, herbicides, and other necessary equipment. Read on to learn how to prepare your garden for planting. 

Terms to Know

Preemergent. These types of herbicides prevent weeds from forming. They are only effective if you apply them before the target weeds emerge. It is important to know that pre-emergent herbicides do not kill weeds but instead prevent them from growing from seed

Postemergent. These types of herbicides work on weeds that have already grown. They use a mixture of chemicals to kill the weeds and prevent them from growing back.

Potash. This is the common term for minerals and chemicals containing potassium which is a basic nutrient for plants and an essential part of any fertilizer. Potash improves crop yields and increases water retention in plants and crops. 

Compost Essentials

The first step in growing a garden is making sure you have good soil. The easiest way to do this is by adding compost to your soil. Compost is just decomposed organic matter. This rich matter supplies many nutrients for your plants that may not be found in your soil.

You can make your own compost using leaves, twigs, and kitchen scraps and other items. Make sure not to use meats, dairy products or grease in your composting. Or you can buy premade compost such as Mountain West Organic Compost.

Potting Soil Essentials

If you are doing container gardening you will want to use potting soil. Most potting soils are made up of three basic ingredients: peat moss, pine bark, and either vermiculite or perlite (to provide air space). The type of soil blend for you will vary depending on your soil type and gardening goals.

Peat Moss is an acidic fibrous material that forms from decomposed moss. It is used for retaining moisture and holding onto nutrients in soil.

Pine Bark is an organic mulch that provides some fertilizer and moisture retention, as well as a bit more air space. It helps to add to the life of the potting mix by being somewhat slow to break down.

Perlite allows excess water to drain and provides oxygen access to your plants roots. It is best for plants that need to dry out before being watered again.

Vermiculite will mix with soil and help to retain water. It is best for plants that need to be kept moist.

We recommend Fertilome Ultimate Potting Mix and SunGro SunShine potting mixes for every day use. 

Fertilizer Essentials

Plants need good food to thrive, which is where fertilizer comes in. While fertilizer bags may look complicated, they are actually quite simple. Fertilizers are made up of three main ingredients - Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium - or NPK for short. These bags have numbers representing the contents of the fertilizer. For example, a bag of fertilizer that reads 20-5-10 contains 20% available nitrogen, 5% available phosphorous and 10% available potassium.

Nitrogen aids the plant in greening up and provides top growth by helping the plant create more chlorophyll. Be prepared to have your plants and lawn grow faster!

Phosphorous helps roots grow thick and deep, plus it assists with flowering and fruiting. Without the right amount of phosphorous, a plant will have a hard time staying healthy. Its roots will be weak as a result of less nutrients and water being absorbed by the plant.

Potassium is a basic nutrient for plants and maintains the plants overall health and vigor. Plants can’t perform their usual functions to flourish and survive without potassium.

We recommend Natural Guard Organic and Fertilome Gardener's Special for every day use. 

Herbicide Essentials

Using a proper herbicide is critical to kill unwanted plants. Make sure you choose an herbicide that removes targeted weeds while leaving your desired plant unharmed. Follow all instructions to limit the side effects of using an herbicide.

Dithiopyr. A key ingredient in preemergent herbicides to prevent target weeds from emerging. Dithiopyr restrains weeds by interrupting microtubules which are needed for plant growth, so basically the target weeds can't grow. This must be applied every 90-120 days for the desired effects.

Treflan. Treflan is another preemergent herbicide made of trifluralin. This orange chemical should be applied in early spring right before planting. It is great for control of certain annual grasses and broad leafed weeds.

2,4 D Amine. 2,4-D kills broadleaf weeds but not most grasses. This herbicide kills plants by causing the cells in the tissues that hold nutrients and water to divide and grow without stopping. These types of herbicides are called auxin-type herbicides.

Dicamba. Dicamba is similar to 2,4-D. Both are auxin-type herbicides that control hormones kill plants. When plants are treated with dicamba, they grow in unusual and uncontrollable ways, causing the plant to die. Dicamba is used on many broadleaf weeds and woody plants.

We recommend using Fertilome Weed-Out for every day use. 

When to Plant 

While this varies depending on what you are planting and where you live, there are certain guidelines to follow. In Utah and Idaho, about a third of your vegetables should be planted in March and another third in April. For your most frost-sensitive plants, you should wait until May. If you have questions about when or what to plant give us a call at 800-888-4545 and one of our gardening specialists can help you out!