Why You Shouldn’t Fertilise Gardens in Winter in Cool and Temperate Climates – Deep Inexperienced Permaculture

diagram no fertiliser in winter

For enough plant vitamin, gardens needs to be fed with fertiliser twice a yr on the very minimal. As soon as in the beginning of spring (September within the southern hemisphere, March within the northern hemisphere) for heat season crops, after which once more in the beginning of autumn (March within the southern hemisphere, September within the northern hemisphere) for cool season crops.

After the primary month of autumn has handed, and temperatures have began dropping in cool and temperate climates, the traditional gardening knowledge is to cease fertilising the backyard, and never fertilise once more till the beginning of spring. We’re instructed that there’s no level fertilising through the chilly seasons as a result of the crops can’t use the fertiliser, and that’s sound recommendation.

Gardener’s with inquisitive minds might ask, “why can’t crops use the fertiliser in winter?”

Chilly Climate Nutrient Availability and the Nitrogen Cycle

The rationale why we don’t fertilise in chilly climate in cool and temperate climates is as a result of low soil temperatures scale back soil microbe exercise. Identical to most dwelling issues, the microorganisms within the soil are extra energetic when its heat, and fewer energetic when it’s chilly.

Microbe exercise performs a vital function within the nitrogen cycle, the method in nature the place nitrogen is transformed to into varied kinds and exchanged between the air, soil and water.

There are two elements of the nitrogen cycle that play an vital function with regards to feeding crops, and nutrient availability, these are the processes of mineralisation and nitrification.

Mineralisation is the method whereby microbes decompose natural nitrogen (N) from manure, plant supplies and soil natural matter into inorganic kinds, first to ammonia (NH3), after which to ammonium (NH4+)

Since mineralisation is a organic course of, the speed of mineralisation varies with soil temperature, moisture and soil aeration (which determines the quantity of oxygen obtainable to the soil microbes).

Mineralisation happens most readily in heat, well-aerated, moist soils with a temperature of 20-35°C (68-95°F),

Nitrification is the method whereby microorganisms convert ammonium (NH3) to nitrite (NO2) after which nitrate (NO3) with a view to get hold of power.

The method of nitrification happens most readily in heat, well-aerated, moist soils with a temperature of 19.5 – 30°C (67-86°F), however just about halts under 5°C (41°F) and above 50°C (122°F).

Feed the Soil, Not the Vegetation

Within the ecological design system of permaculture, there’s a saying “feed the soil, not the crops”.

Once we add fertiliser to the soil, we’re not feeding the crops, have been feeding the soil-food internet, the complicated soil ecosystem which breaks down the natural matter and pure fertilisers right into a type that the crops can use.

Natural matter is transformed into nitrate, the type of nitrogen which crops can use probably the most, by way of a sequence of chemical steps as proven under:

R-NH2     ->     (NH3)      ->      (NH4+)     ->    (NO2)   ->  (NO3)

natural N        ammonia        ammonium        nitrite        nitrate

Within the chemical equation above, we characterize natural nitrogen chemically as R-NH2 as a result of the nitrogen in natural matter is the type of amino acids, that are sometimes made up of an amino group (NH2). The amino teams are connected to an R-group right here, which is an abbreviation in chemistry for any group through which a carbon or hydrogen atom is connected to the remainder of the molecule.

With respect to natural matter, the image R-NH2 is telling us that nitrogen is within the type of an amino group (NH2) connected to carbon-containing molecules, it’s that easy.

It could be price mentioning that the chemistry definition of natural compounds are molecules that include carbon in them. All dwelling issues on the planet are carbon-based, they’re primarily made up of molecules containing carbon. Identical to nitrogen, carbon can also be transformed and recycled although many kinds in a cycle of nature referred to as the carbon cycle.

To summarise, as a part of the nitrogen cycle, the processes of mineralisation and nitrification are carried out by soil microorganisms which can be a part of the soil-food internet ecosystem. By means of these two processes, microorganisms convert natural matter, supplies that have been as soon as dwelling into nitrate (NO3) which is the type of nitrogen that’s most obtainable to crops. Nitrogen in nitrate type is water soluble is extremely vulnerable to leaching out of soils. Soil nitrogen ranges drop as a consequence of uptake from crops, leaching and volatisation into the environment, and due to this fact should be topped up periodically. The very best time so as to add extra nitrogen wealthy supplies such pure fertilisers is when the soil temperature are excessive sufficient for the mocrobial exercise to happen.


  1. Cornell College Cooperative Extension, Agronomy Reality Sheet Sequence, Reality Sheet 2, Nitrogen Fundamentals – The Nitrogen Cycle , http://nmsp.cals.cornell.edu/publications/factsheets/factsheet2.pdf
  2. College of Nebraska, Institute of Agriculture and Pure Sources, Paperwork – Part D: What occurs when nitrogen is utilized to the soil? https://water.unl.edu/paperwork/Sectionpercent20D.pdf
  3. College of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Servi, The Nitrogen and Phosphorous Cycle in Soils, https://www.uaex.edu/publications/PDF/FSA-2148.pdf

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