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Don’t Force Anything To Feel the Need to Grow

Q: I feel the need to fertilize all of my shrubs and roses now. Would that be a good thing to do? – K.J., Rio Rancho

A: It’s weird how we get the calling to do things in our gardens, especially when there is a big change in the weather – and what a nice change it’s been! As far as fertilizing, you should not apply any product that contains a lot of nitrogen. Remember, the nitrogen is used to promote new, green growth, and this time of year you need to encourage plants to start to settle. Granted, they are starting to do that on their own with the lessening of daylight and now the cooler weather, but don’t force anything to feel the need to grow. With that there is one caveat: If you have a lawn that is made of bluegrass or any of the fescues, you can get in one more fertilization with a “normal” lawn food. That’ll plump up the turf, helping to repel any weed growth. Most of the turf weeds we have in these parts don’t handle the cooler weather, so do feed the lawns.

As far as fertilizing your shrubs and roses, since you are feeling the need, go ahead and apply a product containing a high concentration of phosphorus. You won’t be feeding any blooms now but this round would help with the creation of more encompassing root systems. And with healthier root there will be healthier above-ground growth. Available this time of year you’ll find several granular products that will offer higher phosphorus levels in their mix. Sprinkle them around the plants and give everybody a good watering. Since the season has advanced, it’s time to amend your watering habits, too. Weather allowing, it’s time to slow how often you are watering. Remember to water deeply, just not as often. Another thing you could do in the landscaping is add to the mulch layer you’ve applied to your grounds. A thicker layer will help keep the ground from heaving this winter by keeping everything insulated. Remember too that a thicker layer of mulch will help prevent weeds and keep the moisture you do offer from evaporating. It’s a win-win situation! So, feel free to fill your need to fertilize as long as you promise to apply the correct product.

Q: Can I start to plant any of the spring blooming bulbs that I am starting to see available?

A: Purchase your new treasures now for sure. Sometimes if you don’t get the ones you have your eye on, poof, they’re gone!


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I’d recommend waiting a while longer for the soil to cool off a bit. If you were to plant your latest treasures now there is a very good chance they’d start to grow. With the advent of less light and rapidly approaching winter weather there isn’t enough time for the plants enjoy a complete growing cycle. The young plants would be stunted and perhaps not be able to rebound next spring. So, I’ll suggest waiting to plant these little wonders for the time being but shop for the ones you do want to add soon for sure! Happy Digging In!

P.S.: Don’t forget to check out all of the agricultural buildings this year while you are enjoying our 75th New Mexico State Fair! The flower buildings are full of color just waiting for you to peruse!

Need tips on growing your garden? How much to water those bushes? How to transplant a tree? Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send your garden-related questions to Digging In, Rio Rancho/West Side Journal, P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103.
— This article appeared on page 15 of the Albuquerque Journal