Now that spring is nearly here, it’s time to think about pruning and fertilizing your Ayurvedic herbs. Luckily, they tend to be long-lived plants, but that means that they consume the nutrients in their original potting soil and then need a little extra boost.
Most Ayurvedic herbs are day-length sensitive, which means they slow down their rate of growth in the winter when the days are shorter, and then respond rapidly it warms up as you can move them back out into “real” sun. It probably has a lot to do with monsoon season too — they slow down their growth when it’s dry and then perk up when it finally starts raining again.
The first and absolutely most important rule with any plant is DON’T OVER-FERTILIZE. A little bit is good but too much is absolutely deadly. We recommend following the directions on the package you buy EXACTLY the first time you fertilize in the spring and then using it half-strength twice as often for optimum growth through the summer.
Secondly, you need to feed a BALANCED fertilizer. Some organic fertilizers, like fish emulsion, are great supplements but they’re high in one nutrient (nitrogen) and totally deficient in critical compounds like phosphate and potassium. Look for fertilizers with three big numbers on the front of the package and make sure they’re somewhat balanced. They don’t need to 100% match but they shouldn’t read 5-0-0 either.
You also have a choice on what kind of fertilizer you use. We use a balanced chicken poop on our plants because it’s important to us to grow organically, but we have to buy it by the pallet — obviously not a good option for most of our customers.
Honestly, the easiest option is chemical fertilizer. They’re simple to use, easily water-soluble and usually come with balanced nutrients. A friend explained the difference between chemicals and natural fertilizers as something like an intravenous drip that keeps a patient alive vs. real food that you eat. Real food is better but the nutrients are similar. They’re also easily available in big-box garden centers.
If you have a good garden center nearby, we highly recommend that you shop locally for specialty fertilizers — ask a knowledgeable person about what’s best in your region. If your choices are limited, you may want to consider these options:
Organic Plant Magic: Follow the directions exactly and don’t believe the blurb about not burning plants. Any fertilizer overdose can kill.
Neptune’s Fish & Seaweed Blend: We use this regularly in the summer to spray the plants for a little picker-up when we’re getting lots of rain. Using it as a spray early in the morning is like a shot of strong coffee if they’re stressed from so much rainwater leaching the granular fertilizer from their pots
Vegan fertilizer: We haven’t tried this because it’s significantly more expensive than the animal by-product we use most often, but it has great reviews and we like the company’s commitment to fully explaining what their ingredients are and do for your plants.