The care information provided in this section represents the kind of practical advice is available for all the plants in this web site if you subscribe to the monthly customized newsletter Yardener’s Advisor.
Ferns need plenty of moisture to thrive. They do not like soil so soggy that it puddles, but they have no problem with soil that is damp most of the time. They must have on average at least 1 inch of water per week for most of the year and 1 1/2 inches or more a week in the heat of summer from rain and/or a watering system. Their roots are close to the surface of the soil and dry out quickly. A leaf canopy may prevent light rain from getting to ferns located under trees, so watch these ferns and give them extra water as needed. A rain guage placed where ferns are growing makes it easier to keep track of how the accumulation. Soaker hose systems, which drip directly into the soil while keeping the fronds dry, are excellent watering devices in the fern bed. Mulch fern beds to keep soil moist. For information on products see the file on Choosing Watering Equipment
Ferns grown in the shade need regular feeding because nearby tree roots often take up the available nutrients from the soil in and around the ferns. Feed ferns in the early spring by sprinkling a small handful of granular organic all purpose fertilizer on the soil or surface of the mulch around each clump for the rain to soak in. While it is not essential, ferns appreciate a spray of dilute liquid fertilizer on their foliage, every few weeks during the heat of the summer. The best time to do this is in the early morning. Do not fertilize with a liquid fertilizer when the temperature reach 85 degrees or higher. For more information see the file for Fertilizer Products
Mulching and Weed Control
Ferns benefit greatly from mulch. A 2 to 3 inch layer of of an organic mulch, such as chopped leaves, bark chips, finely chipped wood, tub ground yard waster or chopped straw, spread on the soil over their shallow roots cools the soil in summer. This will also discourage weeds and help keep soil moist. As the organic mulch breaks down it will also enrich the soil and provide food for the beneficial organisims that help to feed the ferns and other plants.The organic mulch also protect the roots from winter heaving. For more information see the file on Using Mulch