January 24, 2019
Last week, I was telling you about the importance of fertilizing your plants. This week, I will tell you about the different types of fertilizer and I will tell you what those numbers you will find on the fertilizer container mean for the growth of your plants.
There are basically two types of fertilizer. For many years, synthetic fertilizers were the main type of fertilizer. This fertilizer was composed of artificial ingredients that were mixed and placed into bags. The fertilizer was spread on the soil to feed the plants. Organic fertilizers have been around for thousands of years. Organics were originally composed of animal manure and in some cases human, shall we say, manure. Over time, organic fertilizers were blended from additional sources of nutrients and packaged in bags.
Everyone who uses fertilizer will have a preference for either synthetic fertilizers or organic fertilizer. I won’t get into the debate over this, but will leave the decision up to you as to which type you use on your plants.
Fertilizers can come in a granular form or they can come as a powder you can mix with water or as a liquid that you mix with water. Again, everyone who fertilizes his or her plants will have a personal preference. My advise to you would be to try the different forms and see what will be best for you.
There are some basic differences in how your fertilizers will work in the soil. Synthetic fertilizers tend to release their nutrients over a short period of time. Organic fertilizers tend to release their nutrients slowly over a longer period of time. Organics, being composed of organic matter will also tend to build up the organic matter in the soil over a period of time.
Lets’ talk about those numbers on the fertilizer container. Those numbers appear in a specific order on the fertilizer container. The first number is always nitrogen. The second number is always phosphorous. The third number is always potassium.
Nitrogen causes green leafy growth in your plants. If you look at a bag of lawn fertilizer, that first number is usually higher than the other 2 numbers. The reason is that you want those blades of grass to grow. Nitrogen is important for the young plants that you put into your gardens. If you set out those tomato plants in the spring, you want those plants to grow leaves that help to make the plant put out additional growth. Houseplant will need a certain amount of nitrogen to help the plants to put out new leaves. The only problem with nitrogen is that if you have a heavy hand applying too much nitrogen you can damage plant roots. If you have ever applied too much lawn fertilizer to your lawn, you have seen what most people call burning the lawn.
Phosphorous has earned a bad reputation over the last few years. If too much phosphorous is applied to the land, it can run off the soil in rainy weather and wind up in lakes and streams. This excess of phosphorous can provide the fuel that algae need to grow and pollute those lakes and streams. You will notice that most lawn fertilizers now have no phosphorous in the fertilizer mix. This helps to minimize the effect that lawn fertilizer can have on the lakes and streams. However, phosphorous is very important in plants growth. Phosphorous helps plants to develop a strong root system. It also helps in flower bud formation. It also helps plants to develop strong stems.
Potassium is kind of the ignored ingredient in most peoples fertilizing regime. Potassium is important for a few reasons. Potassium helps plants to fight off diseases. It also helps plants to mature. For instance, it will help with the ripening process of your vegetables. If you get later in the season and you have a lot of green tomatoes and very few red tomatoes, you tomato plants need more potassium to help those green tomatoes to turn red.
When you look at a fertilizer container, you will notice that the numbers can show higher and lower amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Next week, I will tell you how to figure out the jumble of numbers and how to pick the best fertilizer for your plants.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.