What’s the difference in foliar and root fertilizing?
Our question this week is on fertilization, and the difference between foliar and root “feeding.”
Plants require specific nutrients to grow and be healthy, and often these nutrients are lacking in the soil. Even when nutrients are present, they may not be available for the plant to take them up, or they may be only be present in very small amounts.
So, we fertilize to help our plants along and speed up their growth spurts. If we don’t fertilize, plants will grow; they just may not be as big or robust.
Most native plants do just fine on the level of nutrients already present in the soil, but perennials, herbs, vegetables and flowering plants will all benefit from a little extra nutrition, most often applied to the soil as fertilizer. Nutrients must be dissolved in water before they can be taken up by plants, so uptake through the roots is the primary pathway for fertilizers.
But a small amount of certain nutrients may also be absorbed through the leaves, and fertilizing this way is known as foliar feeding. Applying compost “tea,” made by soaking compost in water to make a nutrient rich solution, has become a very popular way to foliar feed. Foliar feeding works great in some situations, but isn’t the best in all. Newly planted vegetable seedlings, lettuces, herbs, and other crops with thin, soft leaves respond best to foliar feeding.