Plant Food: Keep Your Garden Healthier Than Ever

For flourishing, houseplants need four vital elements: light, water, a substrate to develop roots, and food. When the substrate is present, everything is fine, but when the nutrients run out, they need to be replaced. The most common nutrient depletion cases are found in pots and hydroponics when the plant is grown in a closed circuit.

peace lilies growing in pot in home room

You know you should fertilise your plant once in a while, but does that mean you should also give it plant food? What’s the difference between fertiliser and food for plants? The critical distinction is that plant food is a naturally occurring nutrient, while fertiliser is not. Plants must produce their food to survive. The compost also provides nutrients for life, although it does so commercially rather than naturally.

What is plant food?

Your plants are watered regularly, but it takes more than just a watering can every now and then for them to grow. Plant feed is also needed. Your indoor plants are brilliant at producing their food. Is there another name for it? Photosynthesis is the one that converts light into energy.

A plant flourishes in a garden

Your plant will begin to produce food using a combination of sunlight (which provides energy), carbon dioxide, and water. You provide them with sunlight and water, and they absorb carbon dioxide from the air in your home or apartment. The leaves allow carbon dioxide to reach the plant, interact with chlorophyll or leaf pigment. The result is a food made up of carbohydrates and sugar, the latter produced by chlorophyll’s chloroplasts. Watering can form sugar which travels to the plant, keeping it healthy.

What is a fertiliser?

Sometimes, the garden’s soil is depleted significantly of nutrients, as in monoculture, where plants always draw the same trace elements from the ground. As a result, it becomes necessary to provide nutrient supplements, which can be done by using composts. Some are titled according to the specific needs of the plant. This is obvious if you think that a rose does not have the exact needs that citrus fruit or an orchid have. 

A man having soil in the palm of his hand

To find your way around, here are the essential and main ingredients that you can find in the composition of all the composts for your indoor and outdoor plants:

  1. Nitrogen (N) is one of the essential elements for the formation of foliage. Poor growth and yellowish foliage indicate nitrogen deficiency.
  2. Phosphorus (P) is a fortifying substance that brings strength and resistance.
  3. Potassium (K) promotes flowering and improves the flavour of fruits and vegetables.
  4. Magnesium (Mg) is an element of chlorophyll. Spots on the leaves indicate a lack of this element.
  5. Iron (Fe) participates in the construction of plant parts in the same way as other trace elements. Yellow leaves indicate that your plants are lacking this one.

What’s the difference between plant food and fertiliser?

Fertilisers are not always naturally occurring, while food for plants is. Houseplants are self-sufficient in terms of nutrition. They need your assistance in the form of water and sunlight to begin the process. It’s all about photosynthesis! When it’s time, it’ll do it. If it doesn’t happen, it’s possible that something is wrong with your plant.

A man adding fertiliser in his garden

Fertilisation isn’t a natural occurrence. While natural composts are available, plants in the house do not fertilise themselves. It’s something that you need to do for them. While you can go out there and buy different kinds of fertilisers, you can’t do the same with food for plants. And even though there are some brands out there that claim to have food for plants, the thing is that it’s more of a compost product at the end of the day.

How much does a houseplant grow with plant food variety and fertilisation?

It depends, but since nutrients deplete, fertilisation should be done on a semi-regular basis, such as every couple of weeks or even more regularly. You cannot, or at least should not, fertilise your plant regularly. Natural or chemical nutrients can be used in composts. So think twice before adding any of it to your plants, especially if we’re talking about edible vegetables and fruit.

Compost, for example, is a natural source of organic nutrients. Organic nutrients can slow-release, taking longer to decompose in the soil, but they are sometimes cheaper, especially for gardeners who have their compost heaps. Chemical nutrients are generally water-soluble food for plants and can be absorbed by plants immediately.

When it comes to plants’ ability to consume composts and produce their food, the soil’s pH level is critical. Very acidic soils (above 7.0) or low pH (less than 5.5) pH are not as nutrient-friendly. The nutrients in composts are either too soluble or not soluble at all in these soils. Indeed, the plant cannot absorb nutrients, or nutrients become toxic. Thankfully, the ground can be modified and you can lower or raise the pH level according to your needs.

Woman gardeners watering plant in marble ceramic pots on the white wooden table.

How to make your own plant feed

You can provide your plants with the nutrition they need without burning a hole in your wallet, thanks to this DIY recipe and intelligent feeding tips. You’re in luck if you want lush, organic plants and garden growth but don’t want to pay for expensive commercial foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce. You shall make your food for plants at home for a fraction of the cost and, as a bonus, you’ll know exactly what’s in it. You don’t need a wish list! All you need is three popular ingredients. They are all that is required to keep your favourite plant species flourishing and beautiful. You may be shocked to learn that the following items have the properties and nutrients that plants need to survive:

  1. Magnesium and sulphur, both of which are beneficial to plant development, are found in Epsom salt. Sulphur aids in the absorption of nutrients from the soil, while MG boosts the plant’s ability to generate chlorophyll, which is responsible for the plant’s vibrant green colour.
  2. Baking soda encourages flowering blooms while also reducing the possibility of fungal disease. It is beneficial for plants in pots vulnerable to mildew due to overwatering and poor air circulation.
  3. Nitrogen is a component of household ammonia that promotes healthy root development.

Note: Use pure ammonia that is free of other ingredients, including scents or cleaning additives. Know that ammonia is harmful to humans and pets, so make sure your homemade food for plants is properly labelled and stored.

All you need to make it:

  • A jug
  • Epson salt
  • Baking soda
  • Household ammonia

mother and her blond son planting salad in the raised bed in her garden

Now follow the below steps:

Step 1: Calculate 1 ½ tablespoon Epsom salt in a jug that has been cleaned. This homemade food for plants can be processed in a rinsed-out plastic milk jug with its lid.

Step 2: Add 1 ½ teaspoon of baking soda

Step 3: Add into the jug ½ teaspoon of household ammonia. Don’t use too much ammonia; a small amount goes a long way!

Step 4: Fill the rest of the jug with simple tap water, tighten the lid, and swish it together.

Step 5: Leave it for 30 minutes so the Epsom salt can dissolve completely. Mark the jar and keep it in a cold, dry location away from children and pets. There you go! Time to use your liquid plant food.

Tips and tricks for making homemade plant food:

Do you want to find out some more hacks that will keep your plants at their finest? Then, you need to check this list with our tips and tricks and be the best gardener ever!

  1. There’s no need to dilute it. It’s all set to go!
  2. Once every three to five weeks, feed potted plants.
  3. Once every five weeks is adequate during the dog days of winter when plants grow more slowly.
  4. Increase feedings to once every three weeks once the plants show signs of new growth in the spring.
  5. Use the same volume of liquid food as you did before to water your indoor plants as you would normally. For example, instead of one cup of water, give your potted plant one cup of homemade plant food, which will provide enough water and nutrients.
  6. Instead of putting homemade food for plants on the leaves, pour it around the base of the plant. It is the most effective method of nutrient absorption for the roots.
  7. In an outdoor flowerbed or greenhouse, this homemade food can be used as all-purpose compost.
  8. During the growing season, pour two to three cups around each plant’s base every three weeks, when the ground is still damp, after daily watering.
  9. Before they go dormant in the late fall, stop feeding garden plants.

Plants with the most significant nitrogen (N) requirements are plants that mainly develop leaves, such as leafy vegs (spinach, salads, sorrel), grass, indoor green plants, bamboos, and other decorative foliage shrubs. Those that require more phosphorus (P) are mainly flowering plants, fruit plants, and seed vegetables such as peas and lentils. Plants requiring potassium (K) are flowering shrubs such as rhododendron, camellia, azalea, fruit trees, bulbs, root vegetables, and rose bushes.

raised planting beds for growing vegetables and herbs

Your garden isn’t all about the barbecue! It’s not all about landscaping either! Your plants, either indoor or outdoor are what makes your garden unique. And using a weed killer isn’t the only thing you should have in mind. Now that you know all about the NPK ratio, it’s time to give your plants what they really need. There’s no such thing as a continuous release of nutrients in the soil, that’s why you have to try something else. Fertilisers might seem like a good idea, but what about plant food instead? Now you can make your own DIY filler and give your plants that fixing they need!

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