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Question: 1385-4216
What fertilizer should I use for my day lilies and hybrid tea roses? Pat, North Stonington, CT

Mort's Answer:
You should not use synthetic fertilizers on hybrid tea roses. Any aged manure or composted manure can be applied in the fall. Work about an inch into the soil and let it work for you. It will release ample phosphorus and potash in your soil. Day lilies will also benefit from this natural process.

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Question: 207-5201
Why do fertilizers have different numbers? Can I use one for everything?

Mort's Answer:
Most experts agree that we should use different numbers. The three numbers that are required by aw represent the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus and potash, respectively. Higher first number fertilizers (10-6-4 for instance), which include (2-1-1, organic manures) are for leafy vegetables, tropical plants without conspicuous flowers, ferns and lawns, will supply a higher proportion of nitrogen. Higher phosphorus fertilizers, like bonemeal (1-23-0) are excellent for fruit and flower bearing plants. House plants that bloom, fruit and flowering trees and shrubs, annuals, perennials, bulbs, and vegetables that have fruit above ground require copious amounts of phosphorus. Other excellent fertilizers with high phosphorus content are 5-10-10, 5-10-5. 10-20-10 is the same as 5-10-5. Directions on the package will give recommended applications. Potash or potassium is the third number. It is used for stem vigor and root development. Vines, tuberous plants (bulbs, corns) and root vegetables (potatoes, turnip, beets) need potash. Dry fertilizers feed the soil and are released in different chemical combinations. Bacteria in the soil alter these chemicals and the newer forms are absorbed through the roots. Soluble fertilizers can be directly applied through the leaves. These are usually higher concentrations that are diluted in water. Many people feel because a little does a lot of good than a lot will do even more. This thinking can cause problems in both the liquid and the dry. Soils can build up salts, especially in confined areas, such as urns and pots. Usually, brown tips will appear when this occurs. Many plants cannot tolerate excess fertilizers and often die. In New England, we need to add lime to our soils periodically to help release these essential elements.

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