Ask a Question forum: Getting organic fertilizer to the roots

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Jun 26, 2016 6:44 AM CST
Would it not be a good idea to get fertilizer (the kind that will not burn) in the ground and close to the roots?
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
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Jun 26, 2016 6:50 AM CST
The easiest way to do so is to add the fertilizer on the surface and water it in, and the roots are never disturbed.
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Jun 26, 2016 7:50 AM CST
I've read that organic fertilizers (as opposed to water soluble, chemical or salt fertilizers) should be dug into the soil so that the soil microbes can convert them into usable forms for plant roots to absorb. Amendments such as compost can be used as a mulch on top of the soil where they continue to decompose with nutrients leaching into the soil with rain. Compost can also be worked into the top few inches of soil.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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Jun 26, 2016 8:00 AM CST
I would not dig a fertilizer in where the plants may be shallow rooted because then you can damage the very roots that are supposed to be taking up the fertilizer. It would be OK to incorporate when digging over an empty bed. It is true that organic fertilizers need to be converted by microbes into usable form but one would hope they can do that near enough to the surface that one didn't have to disturb the roots. There's also a potential downside to working the fertilizer in too deep, because then the nutrients may end up below the "feeder" roots and wasted. I would just scratch the fertilizer gently into the surface.
[Last edited by sooby - Jun 26, 2016 8:02 AM (+)]
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Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Jun 26, 2016 8:04 AM CST
I agree, Sue. I don't even bother to scratch it in any more. I have found that just watering it in is sufficient in my climate.
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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Jun 26, 2016 8:24 AM CST
If you add compost on top of your organic fertilizer as a top dressing, the compost will surely have the necessary microbes to convert your fertilizer. This is the way nature intended it to work - leaves falling on top of the soil, breaking down, fibers washing down into the soil to enrich it.

There's really no need to dig it in, and especially on an established plant the danger of damaging the roots is a good reason not to do that. Any plant anywhere can benefit from a top dressing of compost each spring, jmho. (well maybe not succulents . . . )

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