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Gardening Tip: Fertilizers

Gardening Tip: Fertilizers

Can you believe it is already the second week in March? Spring weather is officially here; maybe you’ve already been by the nursery once or twice, or maybe you still have to come by for the first time this year. Well either way, that garden or flower bed that you already planted, or that you plan on planting, will need some food, nutrition, FERTILIZER! And there can be an overwhelming amount of choices, but that’s what we are here for, to give you the scoop! Let me break it down for you.

Every fertilizer label consists of three numbers on the label. They are usually separated by a dash, for example: 19-8-10. These numbers represent the percentage of Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium in that particular fertilizer. The first number, or the Nitrogen, is the element responsible for the overall healthy, green, leafy growth of the plant. Nitrogen is an essential element for all plants, young and old! The middle number, Phosphorous, is the element that we rely on to promote the flowering of a plant. And the last number, Potassium, is an element responsible for many different functions of a plant, two of which are root growth and fruit development and yield.

It is important to consider all of these factors when choosing a fertilizer for your needs. If you are trying to fertilizer new or existing evergreen shrubs, consider using a fertilizer with high Nitrogen – 10% or higher. If you are fertilizing small flowering plants, or even some tropical plants, look for a fertilizer with high phosphorous – 20% or higher.

Beyond the N-P-K components of a fertilizer, you should consider two other things:

  1. Do you want to use a granular, water soluble or liquid fertilizer? And,
  2. Should I go organic?

I often recommend using granular fertilizers around plants that are in the ground or in raised beds. You can also use them in potted up plants, just be sure not to use too much so that you do not burn your plants. The same concept applies with water soluble and liquid fertilizers too. Always follow the label when mixing up solutions of these types of fertilizers. If you go over the recommended rate, it is very possible that the solution will be too strong and burn the roots of your plant. I typically recommend using water soluble or liquid fertilizers for container grown plants.

And lastly, when choosing a fertilizer, consider using an organic product. Organic fertilizers typically have very low concentrations of the N-P-K elements so burning is rarely a concern. They not only feed the plants with the beneficial nutrients, but they encourage micro-organisms to grow and develop within the top layer of soil – which is VERY beneficial for all types of plants. Adding organic fertilizers such as manures and organic composts also help with soil structure, loosening up any compact, clay-like soils.

If you have any questions about which type of fertilizer is best for you and for your plants, do not hesitate to give us a call – that’s what we’re here for!