When to start watering perennials. When to fertilize and how?

illinigirl(5)April 5, 2005

I consider myself a novice gardener. I am really starting my perennial gardens here in a new house. I planted many last year and most are already showing good signs of growth. So what I am confused about is when to start feeding and watering. Though the weather has been beautiful lately we could certainly get some more cold spells and freezing temps at night. So is it inappropriate to water until freezing temps are much less likely? My beds are all very well draining (sandy soil). So even rains only keep them moist on a fairly short term.

And fertilizer.... i have heard that the granular is the way to go but some of them are dependent on temperature to activate so again if I fertilize now it probably won't do any good until it warms up more. I don't know the needs of all my plants but I do have cone flower which I've heard are heavy feeders (and btw are one of the plants I haven't seen any signs of life for me yet).

Any advice in these matters?

Thanks, Ig

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grannymarsh(z4-5 U.P. MICH)

Most perennials will not be greatly affected by late light frosts. And if they do get 'burned' a bit, well, established roots will get them going again quickly. Some plants don't get going until the soil warms up, so don't be too quick to give up on any particular plant. Do you know the average date of the last frost in your area?

I fertilize when the plants showed a couple inches of growth. I normally use a water soluable fertilizer and use it around the root zone. Weakly, weekly.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2005 at 11:14PM
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karen_w(5 MI)

I love Monty's Joy Juice for fertilizers. The kind with the yellow label promotes new growth, root growth and better foliage. It's perfect for this time of year, but hard to find in stores. Can be ordered at montysjoyjuice.com
The orange label kind is for roots and blooms. I buy it at Meijer.
Both kinds are natural and won't burn plants.
I say go for it. Start now, especially if the beds are dry.
P.S. my coneflowers aren't up yet, either. K.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2005 at 8:49AM
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GardenKiwi(Z5 Michigan)

I toss around Milorganite and "scritch" it in around the plants and water it a bit when the plants are up a couple of inches and I leave it at that for fertilizing. Perhaps if I put in more I would get bigger plants or something but they look ok to me. Usually here in Kalamazoo we get enough rain so I don't have to water for ages! I water when it gets really dry as I want the plants to put their roots down deeply and not stick around on the surface. The deeper the roots the less water they need.

Good luck!
Kiwi in Kalamazoo

    Bookmark   April 7, 2005 at 12:03AM
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Missy, Traverse City, Mi Z5

"Because the average perennial bed contains so many different types of plants, it is difficult to make a general recommendation for fertilizing. The best approach is to take a soil test and follow the recommendations. Otherwise, a single application in the spring as new growth develops may be adequate for most perennials." This is taken from the Michigan Master Gardeners manual. I have always read that perennials do not need the regular feeding that is required for annuals. The best thing to do is to treat each plant individually.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2005 at 10:05PM
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karen_w(5 MI)

...and now you see the problem. Three gardeners. Three different opinions. That's the way it is with most questions about gardening!
Personally, I look at it this way...it's Michigan. Summer is short. I want to get as many blooms as possible. Therefore, I feed. I'm OK with doing more than what's adequate. In fact, I'm shooting for "exceptional."
P.S., before you use Milorganite, smell it and consider whether you can stand the smell. It's made from sewage. I put it on my garden one year and it chased my family indoors from the patio until I covered it with fresh mulch. Wheewwww! Even then, we could smell it after a rain. Or sometimes I'd dig up a plant and get a whiff of it. Gag! I admit I'm sensitive to smells.
I'm betting MagicKiwi uses it FAR away from the house! K.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2005 at 8:45AM
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Missy, Traverse City, Mi Z5

If you give a flowering plant more fertilizer than it needs, you can end up with lots of nice green foilage and very few flowers.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2005 at 10:02PM
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