We all need food and plants are no exception. As you gain experience, you’ll be able to tell if your plants lack nutrition by how they’re growing. Hard, dull foliage, anemic growth, yellowing—these are all signs of hunger.
If you go with an organic fertilizer be sure that it is well composted and aged. Fresh manure can actually harm your plants. Since it needs to be worked into the soil, manure is more useful for a new bed. Most of us don’t have access to cow, horse, or chicken manure so a store bought fertilizer is the way to go. You’ll have two types to choose from: water-soluble (like Miracle Grow) or a solid feed (which will look a bit like bird seed). If choosing a solid feed, a time-release variety works the best. This will slowly feed your plants every time you water or when it rains. It will usually last approximately 3 months.
Whichever product you choose will give you detailed instructions on application and rates. Just remember that if you go with the “while I water” soluble type, it’s very easy to under-water.
On established beds we like to feed in the spring about the same time you see dandelions beginning to flower. For shrubbery, don’t feed from mid-summer on as winter will harm fresh, late season growth.