Fertilizer is crucial for a healthy garden, and understanding the basics of fertilizer can help take your outdoor spaces to the next level. Whether you’re looking for something to make your petunias pop or help your lawn look its best, fertilizer could be just what you need! Read on to learn everything you need to know about feeding your plants this growing season.
What is Fertilizer?
Fertilizers contain nutrients—like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—that plants need to grow. These essential nutrients can be found naturally in the soil, but oftentimes they are depleted before a plant has had a chance to take them up. This is why fertilizer must be added to replenish these lost nutrients and ensure plants can access them.
Types of Fertilizer
There are two main types of fertilizer: organic and inorganic. Organic fertilizers are those derived from natural sources like compost, bone meal, and seaweed extracts. Inorganic fertilizers are made synthetically from minerals or other chemicals. Each type has its own unique benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to consider what type is best for your plants.
Problems with synthetic fertilizers
Synthetic fertilizers can be highly concentrated and easily absorbed by plants, but they also have the potential to cause environmental damage if not used properly. They can increase soil acidity, which can lead to an unfavorable growing environment for some plants. Additionally, synthetic fertilizers are often made with chemicals that can leach into nearby water sources and potentially contaminate drinking water.
Benefits of Organic Fertilizer
Organic fertilizers are made from natural sources, so they pose fewer environmental risks. They are also more slowly absorbed by plants than synthetics, which means that nutrients can be released gradually over a longer period. This is beneficial because it reduces the chances of nutrient run-off
Organic fertilizer types:
- Manure (chicken, horse, goat, cow, rabbit, etc.)
- Worm castings
- Blood meal
- Fish emulsion
- Kelp meal
Note: Technically, compost is not a fertilizer but a soil amendment. It adds organic matter to the soil but doesn’t provide any nutrients on its own, like other fertilizers do. However, it does break down over time and can eventually create some of its own nutrients in the process. Compost is a great way to give plants an overall nutrition boost without using synthetic fertilizer. Plus, it actually improves the soil structure, including drainage and aeration. For this article, I will refer to compost as a fertilizer.
For more information on how to get started with your own compost pile, check out this article!
How to select the best fertilizer?
When selecting a fertilizer, you need to consider your garden’s soil type and pH levels. Different plants require different types of fertilizer, so it’s important to research what type will be best for the plants you are growing.
Perform a soil test
If you’re unsure what type of fertilizer to use, the first step is to perform a soil test. To do this, you will need to take a sample of your garden’s soil and send it off for testing. This will tell you the soil’s pH and nutrient levels, which can help you decide which type of fertilizer should be used. You can order soil test kits online or get them at your local nursery.
When do you need to use fertilizer?
Most plants need fertilizers to reach their full potential, but it is not necessary for established plants that are in healthy soil. If your soil has been recently amended or you’re planting a new garden, adding fertilizer will help ensure the best results. Additionally, if your plants are not growing as vigorously as they should be, fertilizer can give them a boost.
When should you fertilize your plants?
When it comes to fertilizing your plants, timing is everything. To ensure that your plants get the nourishment they need to thrive and grow, you should fertilize them at the right times throughout different stages of their lifecycle.
Here are a few tips for when to fertilize:
- At planting time: When you first plant your plants in the ground, it’s a good idea to give them a boost with some fertilizer. This will help kickstart their growth process and ensure they have all the nutrients needed to thrive.
- During growth spurts: As your plants start growing, they may need additional fertilization during periods of rapid growth. Pay attention to how your plants are growing; if you notice they’re growing quickly, add some fertilizer.
- Before blooming: If your plants are about to flower or produce fruit, it’s a good idea to give them one last boost of fertilizer before the blooming period. This will ensure that they have all the nutrients they need to create beautiful flowers or delicious fruit.
- During the blooming and fruiting period: As your plants are producing flowers and fruit, it’s important to keep them nourished with regular fertilizer applications.
Indoor plants also need fertilizer to stay healthy and grow properly. Since they are not exposed to natural elements like sun, rain, and soil nutrients, it’s important to give them an extra boost of nourishment every once in a while. Liquid fertilizer is often the best option for house plants since it is easy to apply and can be absorbed quickly.
Be cautious of over-fertilizing houseplants
It’s important to note that over-fertilizing indoor plants can be detrimental. Too much fertilizer can burn the roots and leaves, so it’s best to err on the side of caution and use only as much as the manufacturer recommends. Additionally, always read the instructions on your fertilizer package carefully before applying it. This will ensure that you are using the correct amount.
If you notice your plants’ leaves turning yellow, then you may be over-fertilizing them. In this case, it’s best to postpone fertilizing until your plant returns to a healthy state.
The bottom line
Feeling overwhelmed? Once you start trying to select the best fertilizers for your plants and soil, things can start to get confusing. If you’re a beginner gardener (or don’t feel like overcomplicating things), at least add organic compost to your soil. It’s a great way to naturally add nutrients and boost your soil health – with very little effort required! However, keep in mind that your plants may need more specific nutrients to grow their best.