Return to the Great Lakes Gardening Forum | Post a Follow-Up

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

Posted by illinigirl 5 SW MI (My Page) on
Tue, Apr 5, 05 at 12:30

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

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: When to start watering perennials. When to fertilize and how

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.

RE: When to start watering perennials. When to fertilize and how

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
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.

RE: When to start watering perennials. When to fertilize and how

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

RE: When to start watering perennials. When to fertilize and how

"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.

RE: When to start watering perennials. When to fertilize and how

...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'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.

RE: When to start watering perennials. When to fertilize and how

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.

 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!

Return to the Great Lakes Gardening Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Please review our Rules of Play before posting.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.

Learn more about in-text links on this page here