Introduction to fertilizer
Fertilizers are the food which feeds the soil, enabling the soil to then feed the plants growing out of it. In order for garden plants, flowers, shrubs, trees and all other plant life to grow successfully, there has to be a perfect balance of sun, water and food to meet the needs of each particular plant. In nature, there is a decomposition process which occurs that feeds the plants, but it’s up to us to provide the food to keep the plants well nourished in our gardens. This introduction to fertilizers will help you learn which type of fertilizer will be best for your plants.
Organic or Chemical
Organic fertilizer is any type of natural product that contains no additives or chemicals. Compost, leaf mold, cow manure and other types of animal manure are examples of organic fertilizers.
Bags, boxes and bottles of fertilizers that are purchased at the store typically contain some type of additives, chemicals and/or non-organic fillers.
Granulated, Pelleted and Water Soluble
Organic fertilizer will come from the farm, your compost bin or from the store in clearly marked bags. Chemical versions will come in the one of three forms – granulated, pelleted or water soluble.
Granulated fertilizer describes the size and shape of the product. The product is small granules that dissolve quickly once it’s placed into the soil and provide plants with a quick meal. Granulated fertilizer is sold most often in 10 pound bags, but also comes in 1-2 pound boxes for smaller gardens.
Pelleted fertilizer, also known as slow-release fertilizer, is basically a granulated fertilizer covered with an non-organic coating. The coating causes the product to dissolve at a slower rate to provide plants with a slow and steady diet throughout the growing season. The pelleted version is typically sold in 1/2 to 5 pounds containers.
Water soluble fertilizer is a plant food product that must be mixed with water before it can be used. Using water soluble fertilizer is a great way to feed and water plants at the same time. This product is usually sold in small boxes and is best used in small gardens or container-grown plants.
All types of fertilizers will have three numbers on the container. These numbers indicate percentage of the three major nutrients, nitrogen (N), phosphate (P), and potash (K), in the product. The numbers are always in that order.
Nitrogen (N) promotes vigorous plant growth. Phosphate/ Phosphorus (P) stimulates healthy root formation. Potash/ Potassium (K) promotes fruit and vegetable formation, strengthens the plant tissues, and is essential for photosynthesis.
The higher the number, the more of that particular nutrient that is in the product.