, Newburyport, MA

March 13, 2013

Tim's Tips: Fertilize plants as they grow indoors

Tim's Tips
Tim Lamprey

---- — When the weather forecast on one television station calls for 1 to 3 inches of snow and another station has the total at 4 to 8 inches and yet another monitor sees 6 to 10 inches, you know it will be a doozy of a snowstorm. Enough is enough with winter. Bring on spring!

It is time to start your vegetable and flower plants indoors. As I have said in prior columns, you need about 8 to 10 weeks from when you plant seeds until it is time to set the plants into the garden. If you use Memorial Day as the time to plant, we are now right on cue for starting the seeds.

People tend to forget how important it is to fertilize the plants as they grow in your house. Once the seeds begin to sprout, they will put out a tiny set of leaves. Soon the plants will put out another set of leaves and soon after, another. At this point, you should begin to fertilize your plants.

You should use a very diluted amount of fertilizer. Plant roots are very sensitive to over-fertilization at this point. If you add too much fertilizer to the soil, you can easily burn the roots. You should use the smallest concentration of fertilizer listed on the package. At this point, it is always best to use a fertilizer that you dilute with water. In most cases, fertilizer powders that you mix with water will be diluted at the rate of one-quarter teaspoon in a gallon of water. Initially, you would use this rate each time you need to water your seedlings. As time goes on, you should be able to increase the amount of fertilizer powder to one-half teaspoon in a gallon of water.

If you choose to use an organic fertilizer, be sure to keep the dilution rate low. Even though the fertilizer is organic, you can still burn the roots if you use too much. If you have your plants near a sunny window and you use a diluted fertilizer, you should have nice stocky plants to put out into your garden.

Speaking of plants, mid-March is also the time to begin fertilizing your houseplants. During the winter, your houseplants don’t need a lot of fertilizer as they are in almost a dormant state. As the sun gets stronger, plants respond by putting out new growth. Fertilizing your houseplants will help them to get that new growth.

When you fertilize your houseplants, you should mix the fertilizer with water. Water your plants with this solution to the point that it comes out the bottom of the flowerpot. Any excess solution that winds up in the saucer should be dumped out. Houseplants that sit in a saucer of water will eventually develop root damage from the constantly wet soil.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.


Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. His website is Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.