Growing plants require a nearly endless supply of the best nutrients to maintain quality plant health. This is true whether the gardener is attempting to grow ornamental flowers, fruits or vegetables. Fertilizer is often added to the dirt as a way to replenish the depleting nutrients that are sucked up by the plant life during growing season.
Organic and chemical fertilizers provide essential nutrients including potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen. Plant life requires these essential ingredients along with other valuable trace nutrients. Applying the right amount of fertilizer, and the correct percentages is based on a variety of factors, but are all highly dependent on each particular plant’s needs.
Testing the Soil
By taking a test on the soil, the gardener can easily determine its acidity, or pH factor. This will provide all the necessary information to determine which nutrients are deficient in the soil. The soil test can be used to help the gardener adjust the types of fertilization used to replenish the nutrients. Even the best testing provides only minimal results when determining how much nitrogen needs to be added to the soil.
Garden centers at the local home improvement store or hardware store will offer sample test kits. These types of tests can give the gardener significantly more information on the soil by analyzing its content. It is possible to achieve high quality soil without using a soil test, but requires significantly more guesswork in selecting the best fertilizer.
An organic amendment is often used in conjunction with strong chemical fertilizers. An organic amendment can be nothing more than compost. The organic matter will continuously decompose and leach out many of the essential nutrients it contains to provide vital ingredients for the soil.
Some gardeners choose to add bone meal as a natural organic substitute for blending in phosphorus with the necessary chemical fertilizers. Additionally, blood meal and manure can provide the necessary nitrogen, and pot ash can generate potassium. All organic amendment should be blended into the soils before planting begins.
When It Is Time to Fertilize
Each different type of fertilizer has its own unique time for application for blending into the soil. It is often listed on its bag. Traditionally, all types of fruit and vegetable plants will benefit greatly by having higher levels of phosphorus during the early part of the growing season. It is phosphorus that encourages the production of healthy stems and roots.
During mid-season, adding more nitrogen to the soil can help in the fruit and foliage production. However, too much added nitrogen will often create too many leaves and only a minimal amount of flowering buds.
For the consummate gardener, over fertilizing the soil can cause just as much damage to the plants as not applying enough fertilizer. When the gardener is in doubt, as to whether or not they should feed the garden plants more fertilizer, it is always advisable to wait until the plant life begins producing less. Only then can the gardener be assured that the proper addition of fertilizer is required.