The Lazy Gardener’s Guide to Fertilizing

I used to have a lot more energy for gardening. Over time, however, my yard has become Darwin’s Garden, where Survival of the Fittest reigns supreme. I definitely don’t put in as much time or effort as I used to, and that’s fine with me. As a result, I’ve developed some, er, unorthodox methods for getting my garden fertilized.

First, there’s the lawn. I am no turf connoisseur, but I know that my lawn needs fertilizer a couple of times a year. Maybe I’m completely inept with a spreader, but no matter what I do, the spreader just gums up and fertilizer never gets applied evenly. So I’ve bailed on technology and use a rather old fashioned method….

I wait for a rainy day, and then I don my mucky garden rain gear. I fill up my gunked-up hand-held spreader with fertilizer, and then I scatter the fertilizer over the lawn as if I were feeding chickens. The rain waters the fertilizer into the soil. Poof, done. Note that I am careful to use the correct amount overall for the space provided; I just apply it in my own “special” way. My neighbor actually taught me to do this in the rain (he uses a spreader, though). We actually have our little bonding time across the cul-de-sac when we’re both out there putting down fertilizer in the downpour.


I have never had any luck with hose-end fertilizer applicators, so I don’t bother using them. Instead, I rely on Mother Nature. For my roses, I use all the help I can get from Mother Nature. Again waiting for a rainy day, I go out with my gallon jug of the fertilizer I absolutely detest: fish emulsion. This is THE most noxious-smelling substance known to man. It’s got to be right up there with raw sewage. It makes me gag. But the roses absolutely LOVE it. In fact, I find that the foliage becomes greener and generally happier-looking when I use fish emulsion. But I can’t stand it. So I pour about a tablespoon of the liquid next to each bush, and let the rain wash it in. If I don’t get a good downpour of rain fast enough, every neighborhood animal that finds its way into my yard loves my garden. (The backup plan is to take a hose and wash the blobs into the soil.)


Note that I only use the blob of fertilizer next to the roses with fish emulsion; anything else could burn the plants. Otherwise I use once-a-year time release fertilizer in the wintertime, and a shot of Miracle-Gro during the summertime. (And I have my own special way of applying that too – and it still adheres to the label directions.) I hope the rain picks up momentum because that blob of fish emulsion not only smells gross, it looks pretty gross too…


While I seem to be getting lazier and lazier in Darwin’s Garden, the roses don’t seem to care. In fact, they bloom just fine despite my sporadic neglect. It’s hard to argue with my methodology when you get results like this:


(That’s the rose named Chihuly. It’s the second bloom to open in my garden this year. The first one, on Purple Tiger, was decapitated by the guys who trimmed my pittosporum hedge. It’s always something…)

I also put down pre-emergent weedkiller all over my yard today. The rain took care of that too.

Don’t be like me. Put some care into your garden. But if you really don’t have time, it doesn’t have to be a catastrophe. Wouldn’t you rather go sit out in the garden with a nice glass of wine than toil over it? It’s kind of like the student with senior-itis: how can you put in the absolute minimal effort and not have your grades tank (a.k.a. your garden look awful)? If there’s a way, I’ll find it!



  1. Mary Hennessey says:

    Hi, Robin–I enjoyed your blog! I’m wondering, though–what makes a gardening geek? I am a gardener-when-necessary. What I find is that I just don’t know enough about what to do and when to do it. I let a couple of gardens go for a couple of years (don’t scold, it’s unbecoming!) and I’m planning to carefully put down some weed killer and then a pre-emergent, then weed cloth and then mulch. I would love some suggestions for plants that don’t require a lot of care! Any advice is welcome!

    • Robin says:

      IMHO a Garden Geek is someone who REALLY loves gardening. (I used to read the Burpee seed catalog cover-to-cover as a kid. Yup, I’m nuts.) It sounds like you’re doing all the right stuff. I’d really recommend you go to a local nursery and ask them for recommendations for plants; my memory of what works on the east coast is sketchy at best!

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