By BJ Jarvis
Pasco Extension Director and Horticulture Agent
Early spring is the time for fertilizing. Great success depends on how and what fertilizer is applied.
Floridians may find maintaining a healthy, weed-free lawn can be a bit of a challenge. Lawns appreciate periodic nitrogen fertilization. Established trees and shrubs don’t really need any fertilizer applications, so don’t waste your time and money fertilizing these plants.
Plants can only absorb so many nutrients at a time. A better option is to choose slow- or controlled-release fertilizers. These types make nutrients, usually nitrogen, available over time.
Slow-release fertilizers are best for sustained plant growth. Labels indicate the percentage of nutrients. Better fertilizers have higher percentages of slow-release. Those with 100 percent slow-release will be expensive, so look for those containing at least one-third to a half of the nitrogen in a controlled fashion.
Slow-release fertilizers are coated with a slightly porous material. Every time it rains or the irrigation system is run, some water seeps in and a little bit of fertilizer leaks out. They are usually pellet shaped, never applied through a hose-end sprayer.
Nutrients from misapplied quick-release fertilizers can wash into waterways by rain and irrigation runoff polluting our waterways. Quick-release can also burn plants. Slowly released nutrients are less likely to burn or pollute.
Most fertilizer manufacturers make slow release formulas. Always read the label directions for amounts to be applied and distribute throughout the root zone, not just in the planting hole or a narrow ring.
Next time a trip to the garden center includes fertilizer, look for a slow-release versions, which will optimally feed garden plants across a longer period of time while also protecting our environment.
For more information on slow-release fertilizers, contact the Pasco Extension Office at (352) 518-0474 or visit the University of Florida website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/EP/EP11000.pdf.
—BJ Jarvis is the Pasco Extension Service Director and Horticulture Agent. She can be contacted by email at .