GUIDE TO FERTILIZATION
The secret to sustainable healthy growth in plants is the creation of a vibrant, living soil with a diversity of soil life. The cycle of life and death in the soil provides nutrients in the form of salts from wastes excreted by the animals and from the decomposition of plants and animals. To create such soils, you need to provide organic matter and the vital elements used by the organisms that break down that organic matter.ORGANIC MATTER
Organic material is like money in the bank. It is digested by bacteria and other soil life. This process releases the nutrients contained in the cells into the soil. The more woody the material, the more slowly this will occur. Materials such as sawdust and wood chips have a high carbon content and will break down slowly unless extra nitrogen is added. Nitrogen is not more important than other nutrients, but is the nutrient that is usually the least abundant in soil. Softer materials that are low in carbon such as grass clippings and green vegetation will break down very fast. Perhaps the most useful organic additive is compost.
Compost is usually made of organic waste mixed with a high nitrogen source such as fresh manure. If turned regularly to introduce oxygen and kept moist, the materials break down quickly and the compost will not smell. Once the process of decomposition slows, the compost is ready to use. This stable material contains virtually all the nutrients needed for growth.
The use of mulches on the surface such as rotted bark can provide organic matter. Layer new mulch every 1-2 years. Do not mix it deeply in the soil. This will cause a temporary depletion of nitrogen. Three to four inches (up to 10cm) of mulch is sufficient.SOIL pH (SOIL ACIDITY LEVEL)
The soil acidity is one of the most important factors influencing plant growth. The acidity level of soil is measured on a scale of 0 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline). Most garden plants grow best in the 6- 7 range (neutral). Most Maritime soils are acidic (pH 4-5.5). You can have your soil tested to find out its pH. As a rule of thumb, acidic soils can be adjusted by covering the surface with enough agricultural lime to make the surface white, but with no thickness. Give a light dusting every 4-5 years to keep the level, as rain will eventually dissolve the lime. There are plants such as rhododendron, azalea and blueberry that require an acidic soil. Do not lime the soil around these plants.NITROGEN-THE KEY ELEMENT
Nitrogen, a key component of proteins, is in the air around us but plants cannot absorb it directly from the air. The addition of nitrogen fertilizers will act as a catalyst to stimulate soil life. Nitrogen salts found in commercial fertilizers can burn plants if used in high concentrations and usually only a small portion is used by the plants. Most of it washes to the lower levels of the soil where it enters the water table and can negatively affect ponds and streams. We suggest using organic sources that are eaten by soil life and stay in the root zone area where they are recycled. Organic sources include blood meal, fish meal, linseed meal, alfalfa meal and soy meal. Feed the soil and you will feed your plant.