Feeding plants is essential to healthy growth, colourful floral displays and plenty of fruit set. In this No Fuss video guide, Alan Titchmarsh takes you through the different types of plant food available, and explains when and how to use them.


Alan explains why plants need additional feeding and why gardens can be low in natural sources of nutrients. First, Alan demonstrates the two types of plant food - organic matter and fertiliser. He explains that liquid fertiliser can provide a quick boost to plants that will have an immediate effect. Then he demonstrates how to use more longer lasting powdered forms of plant food, including blood, fish and bone, slow-release fertiliser and tomato food.

Feeding plants: transcript

Most of us like to think that we garden as naturally as possible, either by being organic or just by being kind to the soil and kind to our plants. They grow well in nature, why shouldn't they grow well in the garden? Well, the answer really is that the garden is managed much more than nature is. When leaves fall from the trees in nature, they sit on the soil, they rot down, they're taken into the ground by worms to naturally enrich the soil. Gardeners, we're a tidy bunch. We clear everything up and that means that these poor old plants generally starve. We put plants in the ground that need a lot of food, things like dahlias - and the more luscious they look, the more energy they need - and they get that energy from the soil, but we don't put anything in it. Well, we do
and we should.

There are two distinct kinds of enrichment for garden soil. One is what you might call bulky, organic enrichment like this. This, if you like, is the meat and two veg of soil enrichment. It's goodness you can feel in your hand. It has a physical quality which will hold onto moisture in the soil, aid plant root development because they really need something to sink their roots into, rather than just dust-dry earth. So it has a
tremendous quality of improving the structure of soil. What it won't do much, is much in the way of food, and that has to come from fertilisers, either powdered fertilisers or like this liquid feed. Now, in summer, when plants need a quick fix, liquid fertiliser like this one diluted in a watering can, always at the manufacturer's recommended rate - never double it, it makes no difference at all. Put the recommended rate in there and then watered onto your plants, has the advantage of going into work very quickly because plants take in food
in solution. They suck it up from the soil and into their sap. That will act very quickly. It won't last terribly long. So if you want a plant food which lasts much longer. Any one like this, which is a powdered formulation. This is blood, bone and fishmeal. It's got the three main nutrients that plants need: nitrogen for leafy growth, phosphates for root growth and potassium, or potash to encourage flower and fruit development. Once that's watered in, that feed will last much longer than your liquid feed. But for big flowering plants like dahlias
and anything that's got to put on a good show. A long lasting food like this will keep releasing its nutrients during the course of the summer. Sprinkle these pellets on by hand, right the way around the plant. And as water falls on them, so gradually, the nutrients will be dissolved in solution and taken up by the plant.

When you really want to encourage your plants to produce masses of flowers or fruits, then tomato feed is a good one to choose because it's got lots of magnesium and lots of potash in it which promotes flower and fruit development. This one can be diluted in water. And the great thing about plants is they can't read. They can't
tell it says tomatoes on there, so dahlias really rather enjoy this.

More like this

So it's a matter really of being kind to your soil, to be kind to your plants, with organic matter. Worked into it at the beginning of the season before you plant; general fertiliser like this one applied in spring and if you want, again in summer. If you haven't got time to apply it very often, then a long-lasting, slow release feed like this
will do the job for you. Applied in April May, it'll keep releasing throughout the summer. And then, to get those flowers and fruits, good old tomato feed. And if you just want to give your plants a boost, watering with a liquid fertiliser once a week, at the right dilution, will set them up well and then, they'll be even better than those you find in nature.