Fertiliser application methods

There are four basic ways in which fertilisers are applied:

Base dressing

This is when fertilisers are incorporated in the growing medium, be that in the final stage of seed bed cultivation or in back-fill soil when planting out a plant. These are generally applied by hand, either broadcast (scattered around) or close to (but not touching) the roots/seeds.

Top dressing

In top dressing the fertiliser is applied to the surface of the soil and not dug in. To apply a fertiliser as a top dressing it must be soluable so that it can be carried into the soil by water. While these can be applied by hand, if you are covering a large area (such as a lawn) it may be more convenient to use a fertiliser spreader to make it easier and to ensure you are using the fertiliser at the required rate.

Liquid feed

These are fertilisers which have been diluted with water (or are purchased in ready-diluted liquid form) and watered onto the soil over the plant’s root zone. A watering can is the usual method for applying liquid feed, although for larger areas hose attachments can be used, which automatically dilute and then spray out the fertiliser.

Foliar feed

This is the application of liquid fertilisers directly to a plant’s leaves. This is used to apply micronutrients (as they are drawn directly into the plant and don’t risk being made unavailable in the soil) or for quick action where a plant is showing signs of a nutrient deficiency. These either come within a sprayer packaging, or are mixed and put into a separate sprayer.