The Q&A Archives: Fertilizing Herbs

Question: What type of fertilizer is needed for herb bushiness and growth? How often do I fertilize?

Answer: Most herbs don't need much fertilizer. You can top dress around the plants with compost. Overfertilizing reduces the potency of their essential oils. If you do fertilize, once per season is probably enough. To promote bushiness, pinch the growing points back on a regular basis, which you can do simply by using the plants (assuming they are culinary herbs). Having said that, here?s some basic info on fertilizer and nutrients that plants require. The 3 numbers on a fertilizer bag refer to the percentage of N (nitrogen), P (phosphorus), and K (potassium) in the bag. There are different formulations for different purposes. In general terms, nitrogen produces lush green growth, phosphorus helps strengthen stems and produce flowers, and potassium keeps the root system healthy. If you're applying fertilizer to fruiting (e.g., tomatoes) or flowering plants, you're not as interested in the plant developing leaves as you are in it flowers and fruit, so you'd use a formulation lower in nitrogen and higher in phosphorus.

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