A Good Natural Fertilizer for Rhododendrons
Frank B. Packard, M.D., Troutdale, Oregon
We live on the Sandy river, and have found the sandy acid soil good for rhododendrons. We have more than 60 plants, representing nearly 50 varieties.
In addition to previous fertilization with commercial preparations and mulching with bark dust, rotted sawdust, and manure, in the past two years we have added smelt fish to the rhododendron diet. This has been possible with the return of a fine run of these fish in 1974 and 1975. (The Sandy had always been a good stream for smelt although the run disappeared for about ten years prior to 1974.)
Towards the end of the spawning run the fish begin to die and wash up on the shore. They can be picked up in almost unlimited quantity. I have planted from 4 to 12 or more fish two or three inches deep on the root area of each shrub, depending on its size. The result has been greener, more sturdy foliage, and a more prolific setting of larger buds, resulting in better blossoms. This technique seems to be equally beneficial for camellias, azaleas, and skimmias.
Two years of this treatment have considerably improved our rhododendrons and other shrubs, and we are hoping that good runs of smelt will continue so that we can give the garden this additional annual stimulus to more beautiful performance.