“Just as it’s important to properly nourish our bodies to ensure good health, plants need a bit of nourishing too!”

fertilizer from leaf mulch


Fertilizing is an essential step in ensuring a healthy garden

In my experience most landscapes are under fertilized or over fertilized.

When: Spring and Fall. I’d apply a natural, slow release fertilizer at least once a season, preferably twice.  You could also get away with once every other year too. If you haven’t fertilized for a long time I recommend low and slow- add a little in spring and fall for 3 years.

What: I always add a mix of leaf compost (leafgro), manure and/or nautral fertilizer into the hole when I plant something. We use Espoma fertilizers- Holly Tone, Rose Tone, Plant Tone, etc. Plant tone is a general fertilizer that you can use on all plants and can be applied twice a year- spring and early fall.. If you want to get more specific you can use Holly Tone on the plants that like acidic soil. This will help the plants thrive, bloom well and remain pest and disease free. Manure is a cheaper option and can be applied before spring mulch goes down.

We don’t recommend the use of chemical fertilizers due to the environmental pollution they cause in the Chesapeake Bay when the excess chemicals run off our properties. It’s easy to misuse and overuse these fertilizers. We can consult with you to determine the right type and amount of fertilizers to use safely and properly. You can also think about installing a Rain Garden on your property to keep the nutrients that would normally run off on your property instead of the Bay.

I also gather leaves and weeds and chop them up and make compost from them- it takes time!

When in doubt- use compost or manure. It’s more difficult to over fertilize with something like compost or manure. Be sure you have a good source that has composted long enough so that no weed seeds sprout after you apply the compost or manure!

How: Apply a 1/2-1 inch layer of manure in your garden beds around your plants, being careful not to cover the base of the plants. If using a bagged fertilizer like Espoma products follow the instructions on the bag for application. Plant tone and holly tone are 1 cup of fertilizer per 1 ft of plant width. I underestimate and apply less because I also add compost with all new plantings and I want to make sure there is no run off. Don’t apply fertilizers when there is about to be a large rain storm- your money will wash away and pollute the Bay! Once fertilizer is applied I like to ‘scratch’ it in by running a hard rake or hori hori across the dirt around where I have applied it for proper infiltration. If you have a lot of time (gardeners rarely do) I would mix it well into the soil.

Who: My favorite places to get fertilizer are as follows:

Clarks Ace Hardware in Ellicott City for leaf gro and holly tone

Maryland Ground Covers in Glen Elg for topsoil/leafgro mix

Veteran Compost in Aberdeen for great quality locally made compost

Your yard- We collect leaves and weeds from our clients gardens and compost them and use them in our gardens! Start making your own- we’ll leave your yard waste on your own compost pile and you’ll have the best free compost in the world!