Plants often tell us what they need but in a language that can be hard for us to understand. Stunted growth, color changes, wilted foliage — all are clues if we could just figure them out.

In mid-growing season, chances are they’re saying, “feed me.”

So give your garden a boost of nutrients with an application of quality liquid fish fertilizer — preferably organic and sustainably produced.

I went for the good stuff: Neptune’s Harvest Organic Fish and Seaweed Blend Fertilizer ($46.50 a gallon), delivered right to my door.

Now I know what you’re thinking: Doesn’t it smell terrible?

Well, it depends.

When I used a different brand of fish emulsion the first time, it was, well, there’s no way to be polite about it — really stinky. As in, hold-your-nose stinky and don’t-breathe-in stinky.

This time, with Neptune’s Harvest, I got a whiff of — not an ocean breeze, exactly — more like an old fishing boat surrounded by a flock of scavenging sea gulls.

As I sprayed the plants, the smell immediately took me back to the old family beach house, where we’d cook up a traditional New England seafood feast — only dinner is over, the clam shells have piled up, and it’s my turn to take the garbage out.

In other words, not so bad.

So don’t worry about the smell if you use a high-quality or deodorized product.

Even the zucchini plants vary in size, despite being planted at the same time.

There was one big drawback, which I’ll get to in a bit.

The need to feed: In my home garden, where I’ve planted several varieties of corn, squash and bush beans, some of the plants are thriving while others struggle. Some corn stalks are just 8 inches tall while others reach my waist.

This is a new bed in an old pool, and I amended it, of course, but it never seems to be enough here in the desert. And with lots of monsoon rains lately, much of the nutrients are getting washed out.

I’ve nicknamed one stalk Mr. Stripy because its yellow striations are trying to tell me something. Is it lacking a key nutrient? Maybe nitrogen?

This little guy could use some help. More nitrogen perhaps?

Also, two of the bean plants have turned a pale green when they should be a deep, healthy color.

Corn is a heavy feeder, so it needs a nitrogen boost every 3 weeks or so. But to hedge my bets, I sprinkled in more soil sulfur to cut the alkalinity. This should make more nitrogen and other nutrients bio-available.

The good stuff:

Neptune's Harvest Organic Fish and Seaweed Blend Fertilizer, 1 gallon for $46.50. (Makes up to 128 gallons.)

  • Contains 2% nitrogen, 3% phosphorous and 1% potassium.
  • Cold processed to preserve nutrients.
  • Provides vitamins, minerals, macro- and micronutrients, amino acids, trace elements and growth hormones, according to the company’s website.

One gallon of concentrate makes up to 128 gallons of fertilizer.

How to apply it: Mix 1 ounce of fish concentrate per 1 gallon of water. Mix up just what you need for each application. A gallon of concentrate should be enough for several applications throughout the growing season, depending on the size of your garden.

Spray or drizzle it over the leaves of the plants and saturate the ground around the root system. If you apply it to the foliage, it’s best to do so in the early morning or late evening, the directions say. (I watered first, then applied the solution.)

Getting back to the one big negative: The next morning, I had a ton of flies partying in the garden. And quite a few worked their way into my house over the next several days. Ick.

Maybe I’ll go back to manure tea next time — and save the fish fertilizer for my community plot.