Gardening Basics: Use Of Fertilizer

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Fertilizer

One of the biggest things many people who are taking care of plants miss is the fertilizer. This is because most people associate fertilizer with lawn care. But this isn’t all that fertilizer is used for.

There are three main nutritional ingredients that all plants need: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These three ingredients can be found in fertilizers and should be used with all plants. The nitrogen stimulates the plants growth from the leaves to the stems. Phosphorus increases the plants maturity, increases seed formation, and stimulates the growth of the roots. Potassium (also known as potash) helps to strengthen the leaf and stem growth and helps improve the quality of life of the plant overall.

There are both organic (made using natural sources) and inorganic (man-made) fertilizers. Depending on the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the existing soil, there are a few options for your plants. For general gardening there are all-purpose or balanced fertilizers can be used. Specialty plants, such as vegetables, roses, and lawns will typically have their own fertilizer. Read the packaging to see what that fertilizer should be used for.

When cultivating a new garden it is easiest to use a rototiller, or other machinery if you don’t want to dig up the existing soil by hand, and mix the fertilizer in. The soil should be tilled down to 4 – 6 inches to get the best results. Read and follow the instructions on the fertilizer packaging to determine how much to use.

Liquid fertilizer is available. These types of products generally need to be diluted with water. This is a great way to feed your plants each season, but be sure to read and follow the instructions to determine which plants to use it on, how much to use, and how to dilute the solution.

If you choose to use dry fertilizer for established plants, soften the soil up around the plant (usually about a foot out from the base of the plant, less if it is a small area, and about 4 inches down), mix in the fertilizer, and water the plant well.

Typically, plants should be fed in the fall to help stimulate growth. A few tips to keep in mind when fertilizing your plants:

  • Only fertilize once per year. Doing this more often can give the plant too many nutrients and can harm or kill the plant.
  • When using the liquid form, water the plant (or lawn) well with water before applying.
  • Do not fertilize plants for the first year, or if the plant is stressed due to a drought.

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