Thursday, December 28, 2017

Phosphorous-Free Recipes for Gardeners

Fertilizer is hardly a hot topic for winter, but stay with me: This month’s tip bodes well for pre-planning your spring store needs.

It’s been a few years since several U.S. states passed laws to reduce and eliminate phosphorous content in lawn fertilizers. The grassroots efforts by many of you in your stores to explain the new reasoning have actually spawned some interest among consumers wanting organic and phosphorous-free fertilizers for their plants and flowers, too.

Very few brand-name products are currently available to fulfill this request. However, you can offer a solution that I had used many years before.

Healthy Plants Are Happy Plants

As a former hobbyist and former consulting rosarian for the American Rose Society back in the 1980s, I learned quickly about the importance of good soil, sticking to a spray schedule to prevent diseases and adding plant nutrition regularly via organic fertilizers and supplements. Roses are heavy feeders during their growing season and need a steady diet of foods to maximize bloom production, basal breaks and re-bloom performance.
At the time, studies from both universities and independent trial gardens had shown the connection between the frequency of food uptake and overall plant health. A healthy and happy plant in the fall stands a much better chance of surviving the harshest winter, even in Northern climates, and re-emerging strong in spring. Plants that were installed correctly and fed modestly also showed improved disease resistance.

The Magic Tonic

Back then just as today, no miracle tonic exists to make your plants and flowers grow to their best. With bone meal or super phosphorous being used only at the time of planting, I did what many gardeners chose to do: craft their own “special sauce” for monthly applications during the growing season. It was the balanced diet that made flowers larger, more colorful and longer-lasting in the garden. Some rose hobbyists also used a monthly application of nitrate of soda during the growing season to develop longer stems and promote leaf growth for competition-worthy roses.

The base ingredient for any top dressing recipe included the addition of humus, well-rotted manure (or dehydrated cow manure), alfalfa meal, greensand, worm castings or compost, if available. The supplements included dried blood, kelp meal, fish meal and even bat guano. These products didn’t have a phosphorous analysis but were important for trace elements, minors and slow, continuous feeding. It had to be organic and natural. These items are still available today from manufacturers. In fact, Coast of Maine has recently added many new organic products suited for high-quality plant foods or supplements.    

The Recipe Card

Garden experts, good secondary signage and point-of-purchase (POP) materials are, unfortunately, a distant memory in most garden centers today. But where there’s a will, there’s a way: You can still offer product recommendations to maximize blooming power on your store signage. Consider it the “cliff notes” for gardening.

Nobody has the time or inclination to read labels anymore, to know what products can or can’t do. It’s 100 percent up to us to teach gardening/landscaping/groundskeeping newcomers and show them how to be successful. It might start with your own store’s plantings, but it certainly ends when your retail customer stares at 20-30 fertilizer selections on a gondola run and can’t even identify the plant they have in their cart that needs feeding!
Teamwork Sells Product

As I visit stores across the country, I often ask owners and department managers what’s important to them and their customers. Some of these associates are amazing specialists who love to garden themselves, but they may be challenged to pinpoint what makes them successful – which makes it even tougher to share those insights with customers.

If every team member in charge of their plant department would pick two or three fertilizer items that are must-haves for the success of their customers, and it was shared with every staff member including part-timers, you would certainly increase your sales AND customer success figures. In many cases, we’re only talking about 15-20 items, but this small exercise can make a huge impact.

This Month's Featured Products

Alfalfa Meal - 2.2-0.4-2.3
No 81600019

Buy Now

Blood Meal 12-0-0
No 80030180

Buy Now

7.5 lb Greensand
No 80030034

Buy Now

4 lb Bag Kelp Meal
No 80120005

Buy Now

4 lb Worm Castings
No 81350021

Buy Now

Coop Poop
No 81350006

Buy Now

Nitrate of Soda 16-0-0
No 80070079

Buy Now

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