On   other   pages   I   very   briefly   mentioned   the   use   of   peat   based   composts   so   I   thought   it   was   time   to   expand   on   this   subject slightly   (nothing   technical)   along   with   just   what   to   feed   your   fuchsias   with.   We   are   constantly   being   urged   to   abandon   the   use   of peat   in   favour   of   r ecycled   green   waste,   wood   fibres,   paper   waste   and   coir.   While   these   alternatives   may   work   for   other   mature plants   they   are   very   hard   to   use   when   it   comes   to   fuchsias,   the   main   problem   being   controlling   watering.   Peat   is   very   efficient   at holding   water   and   dissolved   nutrients   and   maintains   lots   of   air   space   in   a   growing   medium.   A   peat   based   compost   therefore maintains   its   water-holding   qualities   through   the   depth   of   the   compost.   It   is   clean   to   handle,   light   and   easy   to   grow   in. Unfortunately   the   reduction   of   peat   for   Horticulture   is   an   ongoing   process   which   will   eventually   lead   to   an   end   if   its   use   in   that area.      Not   something   I   entirely   agree   with,   so   until   then   I   will   keep   on   using   it.   I   have   never   used   the   soil   based   composts   so cannot pass judgement on them.
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Take   a   walk   around   the   garden   centres   and   you   will   see   examples   of   peat   based   composts   like   the   ones   above,   but   which   one   to   pick?   You   might   have your   own   favourite   but   the   price   usually   dictates.   For   example   the   Verve   (B&Q)   costs   £5.98   for   a   125   Litre   bale   ( priced   at   April   2013 )   This   sound   like excellent   value   compared   with   others,   but   how?   Because   there   is   less   peat   in   it.   On   the   back   it   states   ‘alternative   sustainable   ingredients   37%’    but   no mention   just   what   these   ingredients   are.   It   seems   its   fine   to   tell   us   they   will   be   reducing   the   peat   content,   but   how   about   telling   us   with   what?      So   it   pays to   take   a   close   look   at   the   wording   just   to   see   what   you   are   getting   for   your   money.   My   choice   is   the   one   on   the   left,   I   have   used   Sinclair   for   a   long   time, tried   other   cheaper   ones   and   gone   back   to   Sinclair.   It   may   have   the   odd   twig   and   a   few   small   hard   lumps   of   peat   but   is   far   better   than   others   and,   for now, this particular brand is 100% peat.  At the end of the day it is your choice. I s it ready to use? That   might   seem   a   strange   question   but   it   depends   on   the   brand   and   what   you   are   going   to   use   it   for.   When   I   started   growing   fuchsias,   some   26   years ago,   I   could   use   compost   straight   from   the   bag,   but   now   some   brands   seem   worse   than   others   regarding   having   rubbish   in   them.   Last   year   I   bought some   Verve   and   ended   up   having   to   riddle   it   and   ended   up   with   2   buckets   of   uncomposted   wood,   and   twigs,   bits   of   wire,   plastic   and   stones,   alternative sustainable ingredients 37%”. If   I   am   going   to   use   it   as   a   rooting   medium   then   I   put   it   through   a   6mm   sieve   and   then   mix   it   50-50   with   perlite   or   vermiculite,   cuttings   will   be   able   to   get their   roots   down   easier.   For   potting   up   cuttings   or   plants   then   I   put   it   through   a   10mm   riddle.   It   is   so   much   easier   dribbling   riddled   compost   around   plants when potting up. I don’t bother riddling at all when making up full or half baskets, just discarding lumps as I go along.
Whether   it   is   riddled   or   not   I   add   perlite   and   grit   to   the   ratio   of   6   parts compost   :   1   part   perlite   :   1   part   grit.   It   doesn’t   matter   what   you   use, either   a   bucket   or   a   6   inch   pot   the   ratio   stays   the   same   -   6:1:1.   This formula   is   widely   used   by   fuchsia   growers   &   exhibitors.   The   perlite will   retain   water   and   then   release   it   back   into   the   compost   and   also opens   up   the   compost   and   helps   with   drainage.   The   grit   can   be omitted   but   most   exhibitors   use   it   to   add   a   bit   of   weight   to   the   pot   as well as helping with drainage. Some   fuchsia   growers   make   up   their   own   compost   using   bales   of peat   and   adding   Vitax   Q4   and   other   ingredients,   but   bales   of   peat   are becoming hard to find.  
Feeding Fuchsias
All composts will (or should) have base fertilisers mixed in. I say ‘should’ because I know some places bring out old stock from last year and any fertilisers may   well   have   disappeared.   A   good   fresh   compost   generally   has   enough   to   keep   your   plants   fed   for   about   6   weeks   after   which,   with   all   the   nutrients gone,   the   compost   now   becomes   just   an   anchor   to   keep   the   plant   upright.   If   you   want   healthy   fuchsias,   you   must   now   start   with   a   supplementary   feeding regime.
24-8-16 14%-4.4%-22.4% 17-17-21 19-6-12 7-7-17 6-8-8
My   choice   of   feed   is   Chempack.   In   Spring   I   want   lots   of   new,   fresh   growth   so   I   use   Chempack   No.   2   on the   left   and   in   late   Spring/early   Summer   I   switch   to      No.3   shown   on   the   right.   It   is   in   a   crystal   form   and once   opened   starts   to   absorb   moisture   and   can   end   up   in   a   solid   mass   so   has   to   be   kept   in   a   dry   place, not in the greenhouse. I   have   used   others   in   the   past   which   I   have   liked   but,   like   a   lot   of   products,   they   have   been   taken   off   the market, perhaps the powers that be think we have been drinking it in the greenhouse! Most   fuchsia   growers   do   not   use   the   high   Potash   products   like   Phostrogen   or   Tomorite.   Exhibitors might   use   them   sparingly   during   the   showing   season   to   bring   out   the   colour   of   the   flower   but   if   used   too much   it   can   harden   the   wood   too   much   making   the   plants   harder   to   produce   new   growth   the   following year,   Saying   that,   it   can   be   used   sparingly   early   in   the   year   if   the   use   of   a   high   nitrogen   feed   and/or   the lack   of   sunshine   is   making   your   plants   too   lush   and   floppy.   Potash   will   harden   the   stems   up   slightly after which you can revert back to a high nitrogen or balanced feed.
I    have   to   admit   I   have   never   used   any   of   the   products   in   the   illustration   above   so   cannot   vouch   as   to   how   good   they   are   but   I   am   quite   happy   with Chempack   and   have   good   results.      One   thing   I   believe   in   is   feeding   in   small   amounts   and   often,   so   I   always   make   up   a   quarter   strength   feed   and   use   this at   every   watering.   Sometimes   you   may   find   white   powdery   marks   on   the   leaves,   This   just   an   excess   of   salts   and   whilst   unsightly   does   not   do   any   harm. To help avoid this, at every fourth water I use plain water to wash these salts out,
So which is the best?
Fuchsias   will   also   benefit   from   a   foliar   feed   administered   by   a   spray   but   only   when   no   buds   or   flowers   are   present      or   they could   end   badly   marked. There   are   various   products   on   the   market   such   as   Maxicrop   but   one   that   has   appeared   recently   is SB   Plant   Invigorator    (available   from Amazon).   Not   only   does   it   claim   to   be   a   plant   stimulant   but   will   control   pests   including Whitefly, Aphid,   Spider   Mite,   Mealybug,   Scale   &   Psyllids.      It   will   also   control   Mildew   and   is   biodegradable   and   non   toxic.   It   is not   a   systemic   so   has   to   be   applied   on   a   regular   basis.   Certainly   sounds   like   a   good   product   for   the   fuchsia   grower especially for those who suffers with Red Spider Mite, Whatever   brand   of   feed   you   use   always   follow   the   instructions.   If   it   says   10ml   to   1Lt      then   don’t   think   you   are   doing   good   by doubling it to 20ml. You will only do more harm than good. Finally,   I   can   only   tell   you   what   works   for   me   and   that’s   Sinclair   compost   and   Chempack.   There   is   no   ‘magic   formula’   for fuchsias,   it’s   what   works   the   best   for   you   and   your   growing   conditions.   Maybe   you   would   like   to   get   in   touch   and   tell   me   what   you   use,   I   am   always   willing to learn.  
Some   growers   go   as   far   as   making   up   their   own   compost   with   peat   and   fertiliser   formulas   like   Hoof   &   Horn   Meal   (N)   with   Super   Phosphate   (P)   and Sulphate of Potash (K), but as I mentioned earlier bales of peat are becoming hard to find.
Next (Questions & Answers) Next (Questions & Answers)
Even more bewildering than compost is the amount of different brands of feeds available. Pick   up   any   plant   food   and   you   will   usually   find   an   N.P.K.   analysis   somewhere   on   the   packaging,   ‘N’   stands   for   Nitrogen   and   promotes   stem   and   leaf growth,   ‘P’   stands   for   Phosphates   which   feeds   the   roots   and   ‘K’   is   the   chemical   symbol   for   Potash   which   helps   ripen   or   harden   the   plant   and   enhances the colour of the flower. Underneath   the   letters   N.P.K.   you   will   find   a   set   of   three   numbers,   If   they   are   all   the   same   such   as   1-1-1   this   means   that   this   has   the   same   ratio   of fertilisers   and   is   an   equal   strength   feed,   Some   feeds   will   say   25-25-25,   this   does   not   mean   it   is   any   stronger,   it   is   just   the   manufacturers   way   of   saying   it is equal strength feed. You will also see a list of trace elements such as Magnesium, Copper, Iron and Zinc, but its the N.P.K. that is important. A   high   Nitrogen   feed   may   say   25-15-15   whilst   a   high   Potash   feed   may   say   15-15-25,   Sometimes   the   analysis   is   in   percentage   form   as   in   the   Photrogen above,   but   you   can   still   see   it   has   a   high   Potash   content. Anybody   reading   this   in   the   U.S.   may   find   that   Phostrogen   has   been   replaced   with   Debco   Plant Food but it still has the same N.P.K. analysis.  
25-15-15 25-25-25
Composts and Feeds for Fuchsias