Flower Gardens – Flower Borders – Do you need to fertilize?

I did a little looking around the web before I wrote this post to see what was being said and what the general consensus of opinion was about fertilizing flower gardens and flower beds.

I found  those who admitted that flower borders might not need any additional fertilizer were almost apologetic in their tone.  My guess is — the reason for that tone is because the writers don’t want to go against what is  widely promoted.

Most just come right out and say that flower gardens and flower borders need to be or benefit from being fertilized.

How Things get to be “the thing to do”

Most things that are popular in this age — especially when it comes to a product like fertilizer — chemicals — poisons — framed edges for raised beds  — compost tumblers, etc. —- are a direct result of good marketing to sell a product – rather than necessity or fact.

After people are told over and over —- “this is the way” — they just assume that it is.

If you don’t have any experience with something — and you search the web (or library) for information and you see a certain statement repeated over and over regarding the topic you’re researching — it’s pretty hard not to believe that what they’re telling you is indeed “the way” to do things.

I’m sure you’ve already figured out that I didn’t agree with most of what was being said about fertilizing flower gardens. Mainly because I know for a fact — it’s not really correct.

My Experience

I’ve had flower beds ever since I’ve gardened — which is 35 years.  I’ve never once in all those years fertilized my flower beds.  Bloom is always profuse and beautiful unless severe drought prevents it — which fortunately is the exception rather than the rule.

If you want visual proof –

I have more than 1,343 pictures on my other site – TendingMyGarden.   I would say at least 500 are pictures of flowers.  At the end of this post are 10 links to pictures of my flower borders in bloom which will show you just a few of the 500.

Here’s one picture:

One of my flower borders in June.

One of my flower borders in June. This border is 10 years old.

Adding Organic Material and Why

In a previous post I covered preparing your soil deeply — which goes a long way towards giving your plants a chance to do their best.  No matter what soil preparation you end up choosing you still need to add organic material.  Things like straw, leaves, and pine.

Decayed organic material is called organic matter.  That alone will feed your plants.  And nature knows just how much of everything is needed and will take care of the entire process for you.

BUT — that’s not the only reason you add organic material to your soil.  Most soils need and/or benefit greatly by having their structure improved.  And that’s what organic matter will do.  It will improve the structure of the soil.

What does Improving the structure of the soil Do?

In other words it improves how the soil drains and how it allows roots to move through it more easily. It increases it’s ability to hold water for dry times ahead. All this in addition to improving soil fertility.

Is that all there is to it?

Just one more thing.  Each year add a nice layer of mulch.  Straw, pine, decayed wood chips, or pine.  Your mulch will help keep your soil from drying out, hold much needed water, and allow your plants to perform their best.

The mulch will be in a constant state of decay.  This adds more organic matter to soil.  That equals continued soil fertility.

Your plants will give you a bonus of Organic Material

When the foliage of your perennials or annuals dies back in the winter and you’re cutting it in preparation of spring — leave it right on your flower beds.  It doubles for mulch, organic material — thus, ending up as more organic matter.  It helps you continually replace what has been removed from the soil, continually helping soil structure, drainage and water retention.

Keep this in Mind

Every annual and perennial you grow in your borders and flowers gardens can have different nutrient needs.  Some plants do not like what most people like to term “rich” soil.  Most of the great perennials have one foot in the wild and thrive on plain ordinary soil.  (I’ll explain what “ordinary” is  in the next sentence.)

Imitating Nature

When you add organic matter and mulch you are (in most cases) imitating what nature does.  This is what nature would consider “ordinary”.

If you add man made fertilizers — you can throw the balance off.  Most fertilizers are not balanced and do not contain everything needed by plants.   Even with a soil test to help in making decisions about what to add — you can’t know everything nature does.

Nature knows so much more about how and what her plants need.  Just make her your partner and let her do all the complicated stuff.  All you have to do is add the organic material and mulch and pull an occasional weed. Nature will do the rest.

Final Thought

If you do what I suggest you might find visitors to your gardens will be asking you:  “How do you fertilize your plants?  They’re beautiful!”


Posts that will tell you more about adding Organic Matter:

Adding Organic Matter – 2nd Key to Soil Improvement (Part 1)

Adding Organic Matter – 2nd Key to Soil Improvement (Part 2)

Adding Organic Matter – 2nd Key to Soil Improvement (Part 3)

Pictures of some of my flowers: 


All content including photos is copyright by  All Rights Reserved.

Be Sociable, Share!

4 comments to Flower Gardens – Flower Borders – Do you need to fertilize?

  • Sharon

    Thank you for reflecting back to me in this post, Theresa, what I’ve always believed was true and have practiced…The soil is everything!

  • Theresa

    Indeed it is Sharon!

  • Patti

    My hostas are not growing very well. Most that I see get huge after one year. Mine are still very small. What do I need to do to maximize their growth?

  • Theresa

    I’ve never seen a small hosta get “huge after one year” Patti. Many conventional gardens fertilizer with chemicals but that’s not necessarily how to get a large healthy plant.

    If your soil is constantly improved by adding organic material your hostas will grow just fine. Something as simple as adding plant residues and/or straw and/or leaves on top of the soil will do the trick. Each year they’ll increase in size.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.