Monday, July 9, 2012

A New to Me Kind of Fertilizer


Last summer I was offered some fertilizer spikes to trial in the garden. The fertilizer spikes came by way of Winchester Gardens in Ohio. Normally I don't accept freebies unless I have a use for them and can trial them in my own way. I almost never use fertilizer in my gardens preferring instead to use organic amendments but thought perhaps I was missing something and should try some fertilizer. My plants do tend to lose some punch later in the season so maybe I don't fertilize enough. It was food for thought so I said sure, go ahead and send me some spikes. 

As you can see from the above picture I received several types of fertilizer spikes including the following: elephant ears, tomato, rose, and vegetable spikes. Each type of fertilizer is custom tailored for maximum nutrients especially for each specific crop or ornamental. This special formulation made it easy for me to use the fertilizer. I had no need to try to figure out the calculations for me as the scientists responsible for the spikes had already done that work. Application if fairly easy but you do need a soft soil that has been saturated or you will need to dig a hole to place the spikes into the soil.
I really wanted to trial the fertilizer spikes to see if they would make a difference in my garden. While I used all of the spikes last summer I could really only trial the tomato spikes. My experiment is unscientific at best but I did try to have a control group. In the above picture you will see four tomato plants on the left side of the picture behind the 'Blueberry' sign. They are all 'beefsteak' tomatoes. They were planted in the exact same bed in the exact same conditions. The soil was well aerated and the pH was approximately 7.0. I have added a lot of compost to the beds to feed the vegetables I grow. All of the tomatoes are caged in exactly the same way. The only difference between the four plants is the fact that the two plants on the end (furthest away from the camera) get more sun because they are on the southwest side of the garden. Therefore when the sun is setting they will block some sun from the two plants closest to the camera. I decided it was these two plants I would fertilize to see if the fertilizer would make up for the difference in the amount of sun. Let me put it simpler, my garden is 'sun challenged' and without sun tomatoes do not grow well. Even with only one tomato plant growing in this bed the plant would at best get about 5-6 hours of sun; which is really not ideal for tomatoes. It is a miracle I can even grow vegetables but I struggle along with it since my garden orientation is perfect for maximizing the sun's rays. More sun equals more growth and more food making chloroplasts in order to grow more fruit. I was hoping more nutrients in the soil might give these two somewhat shaded tomato plants an extra boost and I think the spikes did exactly that. Again, I did not measure output of the tomatoes produced but I could clearly see the two tomatoes closest to the the camera are taller than the two tomatoes on the end of the bed. Now you could say those slightly shade tomato plants are stretching for the sun but I like to think the fertilizer spikes made a difference in the growth of the tomato plants.

I used the other fertilizer spikes too. I did not use a control group but can report I had an excellent vegetable garden last year so perhaps the fertilizer spikes helped all of the vegetables....

in the garden....

 Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden


  1. I rarely use fertilizers in the garden as well. But when I do, I can see a difference! I had no idea there was a fertilizer for elephant ears! That’s a new one to me…

  2. I use an organic fertilizer to help the peppers and tomatoes especially since our growing season is short.

  3. I use an organic fertilizer to help the peppers and tomatoes especially since our growing season is short.

  4. interesting... Does that mean you'll be using more fertilizer stakes?? I think you grow amazing amounts & varieties of vegetables. I would never have guessed how sun challenged you were by your results.

  5. Sometimes a plant needs a little more food. I just put out some fertilizer on my peppers and the cantaloupe. They're looking good despite the heat but obviously need something. The spikes do sound easy.

  6. I don't use chemicals either. I'm afraid if the chemical hurts or kills the insects, the birds eat them, then the birds die. I use Milorganite if at all. That is a slow release natural material. Really like to use organics.
    Crazy fur baby is laying on her back, asleep. lol

  7. Almost 30 years ago we used tree spikes on our little baby trees in Texas. They worked as years later it looked like a forest in our former front yard.
    I am surprised the fertilizer your showed has a 11-50-11 for a non-flowering plant.

  8. Hi Tina, so you are not yet a fully organic gardener! I am both, in the province property i am organic, here in the high rise condo in the big city i am not, haha! I have some vegies in pots put on the ledge near the aircon unit, so when it rains all the nutrients in the pots are drained. I resort to commercial fertilizers in the form of slow release. I think it is still imported from the US.