A well-managed hedge blessed with a fertile soil, tended with care and nourished with compost etc. is unlikely to need the addition of fertilisers…
However, if the soil is too acid or alkaline or unsuited to the plants you wish to grow; if you are planting a new hedge – be it yew, hornbeam, beech or privet (above) etc. and want to give it a boost; if you want your rose garden or vegetable plot to be as productive as possible, then you may well turn to the fertiliser shelf…
Think of hedge fertilisers as horticultural vitamins – elements essential to health and strong growth. And just as we can get Vitamin C from a tablet or an orange, so fertilisers can be either organic or inorganic (synthetic). Which you choose is down to your style of gardening and even though organic fertilisers like fish, blood & bone or seaweed tend to be slow-release and less concentrated, they should certainly not be overlooked. Given that hedging plants tend to be pretty well self-sufficient, general purpose organic fertilisers often suit them best.
Hedge Fertilisers – Application
Fertilisers are applied in four basic ways:
Top dressing: The most common way to apply a hedge’s annual feed
Base dressing: Incorporated when the hedge is being planted
Dissolved in water: The best method for getting nutrients to the roots
Topological or foliar: Also a solution, this time applied direct to the foliage. Hedges are not normally fed in this way and if you use this method elsewhere in the garden, remember not to do so in strong sunlight as the leaves may well scorch.
Hedge Fertilisers – Key Ingredients
Nearly all proprietary fertilisers of whatever kind are based around three key substances:
NITROGEN (N): For foliage growth
PHOSPHORUS (P): For root and shoot growth
POTASSIUM (K): For flowering, fruiting and general resilience
The letters in brackets are the chemical symbols for each of the three elements and are used on fertiliser labels to indicate the mix of each element that fertiliser contains – always in the above order i.e. NPK. These figures are arrived at by somewhat complex calculations, themselves the result of equally involved chemical analysis. Fortunately, gardeners do not need to be chemists to interpret and apply this information. To confuse things further, a fertiliser balanced across the three main constituents would not have equal numbers:
- A fertiliser with a 10:12:24 ratio has a high potassium content to maximise flower or fruit production – great for your Perovskia Blue Spire
- A fertiliser with a 1 1 1 ratio is, indeed, not evenly balanced but designed to aid colour not growth
- A fertiliser marked 15:9:11 is more evenly balanced and intended for general use – for example, giving your newly planted Privet, Box or Photinia Red Robin a helping hand.