Foliar Feeding Your Garden

| 8th July 2013
Micrograph of leaf showing stomata. Image courtesy of
Jakob Barry explains the concept of foliar feeding, a great way to revive any plants that aren't looking their best.......

Feeding the garden or any plants around the house for that matter is a pretty standard exercise. Water is poured at the base of plants so it reaches roots and Mother Nature does the rest. However, there is another way of providing nourishment for organisms of the Plantae Kingdom and it's called foliar feeding.

Unlike standard watering practices foliar feeding is the process by which plants absorb nutrients through small pores in their leaves called stomata. In general these stomata help exchange gases that plants rely on for respiration and photosynthesis but they also act as an entrance way for moisture.

Though some stomata are found on the tops of leaves and around stems they are mainly located on the underbelly of leaves conveniently out of the direct heat of the sun.

Why Foliar Feed?

There are different reasons to feed plants through the leaves, the most common being to give them certain nutrients they appear to be missing. For instance, foliar feeding can be extremely useful when plants look sick.

Because stomata are openings to the innards of plants (a little like pores in a person's skin) feeding them foliarly is like giving a shot straight into the bloodstream. Instantaneously a plant's immune system can be boosted when they are foliar fed.

Another reason for this practice is to simply keep plants healthy and robust and works great on newly transplanted seedlings that are in shock from being uprooted and need a little extra ‘oomph.'

How to Foliar Feed

While water is the most obvious choice of food for plants foliar feeding is usually reserved for something more such as seaweed fertilizer which contains large traces of important nutrients they thrive on.

After mixing a solution at home it can be applied via a simple spray bottle though in large greenhouses controlled spraying is done by way of a delivery mechanism near plants. Either way as long as the food doesn't contain chemicals and is purely natural it fits in perfectly with organic gardening practices.


Meanwhile, it's important to note that if you are spraying anything other than water such as fertilizer it shouldn't be done more than twice a week and the mixture should be less concentrated than if you were feeding plants through their roots.

Otherwise you may ‘overload' the plant.

Finally, light spraying is the objective and not drenching the branches so once beads of water form on the leaves that's a sign to move on.

When to Foliar Feed

Early morning and evening are generally the best times for watering the garden. That's when moisture has a better chance of soaking in before the sun rises high in the sky scorching the earth.

These are also prime opportunities to foliar feed because for the same reason moisture on leaves won't dry as quickly and plants can absorb the prescribed nutrients.

Otherwise in an effort to retain moisture when the sun is too strong, the stomata will go into defensive mode closing up and won't fully benefit from the solution you've chosen to give them.

The bottom line: Foliar feeding isn't a replacement for regular feeding but can enhance the quality of life of plants giving them a greater chance of beautifying your own.

Jakob Barry is a green living journalist for 


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