There is no one-set guide to feeding plants, so knowing what to feed your plants is crucial for their growth in your garden.
You may believe that most plants can gain all the nutrients they need from the sunlight that they capture, although this is true to a certain degree, your plants will still need additional nutrients to ensure they are as healthy as can be.
Different plants need different feeding to keep them growing as best they can. For example, container grown plants will need more feeding than plants in the soil as they will be reliant on the nutrients that you provide.
What do your Plants Need?
All plants need three basic nutrients in particular; Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K).
Nitrogen encourages leaf growth, Phosphorous helps with root development and Potassium is essential for flowering and fruit development. You will find an N-P-K value somewhere on most plant feeds or fertilisers.
When using a fertiliser you will see that most have varying amounts of each of these basic nutrients. For example if all of the values are similar in number then it would be a general fertiliser or plant feed like Growmore as opposed to tomato feeds which have differing values such as (N) 4, (P) 5 and (K) 8, to encourage flavourful fruits.
Plants also need other nutrients to remain healthy, these will be present as trace elements in most general purpose fertilizers.
What Feed To Use
General Purpose Fertilser
These can be used around the bottom of the planting hole to encourage the roots of the plant to build strength and grow throughout the first season. The versatility of all purpose fertilzers will help with a wide range of plant health.
Best utilised as a mulch, this type of fertiliser can be a great nutritional source for your plants. Always make sure that manure is well-rotted to avoid burning your plants.
Uncoated granules are quick release fertilisers, they will start to break down and release as soon as they get damp. Coated granules are controlled release plant fertilisers. This slow continuous release works best when mixed into the compost or garden soil, it's clever coating can provide up to 6 months of continuous feed, but only when the plant needs it.
Fast Acting Liquid Fertilisers
These will generally come as either a liquid concentrate or a soluble power. As nutrients need to be in liquid form for the plants to absorb them through their roots, these feeds are great for quick results and fixing nutrient deficiencies, however, they are not as long lasting as controlled/continuous release fertilisers.
Ericaceous Fertilisers - For Acid Loving Plants
Some plants such as Azaleas, Camelias, certain Heathers and Blueberries, to name a few, need a different feed. These require nutrients that are found in more acidic soils. Specialised feeds are used for these plants so they can survive in soils with a less suitable PH.