January 21, 2015
Last week I told you about the three main necessary nutrients in fertilizer. This week, I want to tell you why you may need to use different formulations of fertilizer to make your plants grow their best.
I told you that fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. To review the basics, nitrogen creates green growth i.e., leaves, phosphorous help to form roots and to develop flowers and potassium help with disease control and helps to make flowers and vegetables mature or ripen.
The relation of the ingredients in your fertilizer will determine how your plants will grow. There is an old standby fertilizer known as 5 – 10 – 5. If you look at the numbers, you will see that the phosphorous is twice the other ingredients. This formulation of fertilizer will give you some green growth and some disease resistance. The relatively large amount of phosphorous will help your plants to develop a strong root system and to develop lots of flower buds which in the case of vegetables, will lead to lots of vegetables.5 – 10 –5 was used for many years as the go to fertilizer for vegetable gardens. Lets look at another formulation of fertilizer. 24 – 3 – 3. You will notice that the first number is very high in nitrogen. Because the plant uses nitrogen to produce leaves, this would be a fertilizer that would work well on a lawn. If you used a fertilizer with this formulation on a vegetable garden, you would get a lot of leaves on your plants but very few vegetables would actually be formed on those plants. Now lets look at another fertilizer. 10 – 10 – 20. You will notice that the nitrogen and phosphorous are equal. The potassium is much higher. This fertilizer would work well on tomato plants especially later in the season. In order for tomatoes to ripen, they need a lot of potassium for the ripening process. This holds true for most vegetable plants but especially for tomatoes. If you have green tomatoes but they are not ripening, it most likely means that your plants are not getting enough potassium.
Many people will have a dilemma over using organics verses a synthetic fertilizer. After all, the numbers are so much higher on the synthetic fertilizers. Synthetic fertilizers tend to give up all of their nutrients in a matter of two weeks. Organic fertilizers will slowly release their nutrients over a long period of time. Organics are sort of the 3 meals per day verses the quick snack of synthetic fertilizers. It is strictly up to you as far as using organic fertilizers verses using a synthetic fertilizer. As long as you find a fertilizer whose ratio of nitrogen to phosphorous to potassium is best for the growth of the particular plant that you are growing, both types of fertilizers will work for you.
To sum it all up, if you are fertilizing your lawn, you want higher amounts of nitrogen and lesser amounts of phosphorous and potassium. When it comes to lawn fertilizers, you will find that with the exception of seed starter fertilizers, almost all lawn fertilizers do not contain phosphorous. If you are growing vegetables or flowers, you want the phosphorous to be higher than the nitrogen. You can use a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen and much higher in potassium to get those vegetables to ripen.
This has been a very basic overview of how fertilizers work. As always, if you need more help in choosing the correct fertilizer you can stop by the store and we can help you out.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week