Plants are like people – all the same but different. And just like people, they require different things to help them succeed.Some plants like lots to drink; some see a sip as too much; some will eat until they burst; some grow their best when food is scarce. Each to their own...
But vegetables are different again. This is one of the busiest times of the year in the vegetable garden. The threat of a late frost has vanished, and there are now rows and rows of veg plants all fighting for food to help them grow big and strong. It’s a tough world when you’re small, particularly when you’re a long way from home and can’t speak the language.
We tend to think that tomatoes, courgettes, peppers and sweet corn are now native to Britain, but in reality, they are still comers-in and they need a bit of help to make them feel at home.
The roots of these plants need to be able to grow in moist, rich soil or compost so that they can draw on moisture and nutrients all the time.
Garden soil is rarely rich enough to encourage strong growth and rapid flowering and fruiting. In almost all cases, digging in home-made kitchen compost, well-rotted animal manure or bags of soil conditioner is the way to root happiness, especially for plants such as cucumbers, courgettes, marrows and the like, which need a moist soil. You can buy bags of multi-purpose compost that will both improve the water-holding capacity of the soil and provide balanced nutrients for strong initial growth. Some are enriched with a slow-release plant food that will give background feeding for up to six months.
And feeding plants is essential if they are to produce maximum yields. If you’ve planted your small seedlings in enriched soil, it’s a good rule of thumb to start supplementary feeding six weeks after planting. But pick your plant food with care. If the plant is going to provide fruits then you need a high-potash feed such as Liquid Tomorite, still a firm favourite for many gardeners.
If the plant is grown for leaves, such as salads and cabbage, then plants need a high-nitrogen feed, and if it’s a root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes, then a soil dressing of something like Miracle-Gro Organic Choice All Purpose Plant Food will fit the bill.