Choosing the right type of fertiliser

All plants require nutrients. Dissolved in soil water and taken up by the roots, they’re vital for the formation of new roots, shoots, flowers and fruits. As a rule of thumb, the larger and more vigorous the plant, the more nutrients it’s likely to need.


But what type of fertiliser is best? Sandy, free-draining soils tend to be more nutrient hungry, so it’s a good idea to use granular, pelleted or slow-release fertilisers that won’t quickly drain out of the soil. By contrast, silty and clay soils retain nutrients better, so most plants will be happy if garden compost or well-rotted manure is added.

Whichever you use, be mindful of overfeeding, which can scorch plants, doing more harm than good.

Read on to discover which fertiliser to use on your plants, in our feature.

Liquid fertiliser

Available in ready-to-use form or concentrate for dilution in water. Alternatively, try making your own by soaking leaves of comfrey or weeds in water.                                                                               

Use on:


Powders and crystals

Formulated for mixing with water to apply in liquid form, these concentrated fertilisers need to be dissolved completely by thorough stirring before application.                                                                                                                               

Use on:

  • Summer bedding
  • Quick-growing summer crops
  • Houseplants (specialist mixes)

Granular fertiliser

Containing a mix of the major nutrients, basic granular feeds can be mixed into compost and soil, or scattered on the surface. Water in well, particularly during hot weather.                                                                                                                             

Use on:

  • Trees, shrubs and hedges
  • Perennials
  • Fruit trees and bushes
  • Vegetables
  • Bedding plants

Slow-release fertiliser

These give up their nutrients over a long period – in some cases up to eight months. They are applied in the same way as standard granular fertilisers.                                                                                                                               

Use on:

  • Trees and shrubs
  • Perennials
  • Container plants
  • Fruit and veg
  • Bedding plants

Pelleted fertiliser

A compressed form of shredded animal manure, it also sometimes contains additional nutrients. It is best applied to the surface of the compost or soil.                                                                                                                               

Use on:

  • Shrubs
  • Perennials
  • Summer veg
  • Fruit
  • Bedding plants

Animal manure

The amount of nutrients varies depending on the animal. Well-rotted manure can be used as a surface mulch to feed the soil through the growing season.                                                                                                                               

Use on:

  • Trees, hedges and shrubs
  • Perennial flowers
  • Perennial fruit and veg