Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Choosing the Right Fertilizer for Your Garden

It's almost time for gardening to begin.  And that means a little bit of soil fortification through fertilization.  Do all of the fertilizers have you a bit confused?  If so, here's a brief tutorial.  There are three main ingredients in fertilizer bags:  nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  Nitrogen is for foliage growth, phosphorus is for flowers and roots, and potassium is for overall health.  When you look on a bag of fertilizer, you'll see a set of three numbers.  These represent percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the mix. So, a 5-10-5 mix has 5% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus, and 5% potassium.
 
"Okay," you say.  "So what do I need?" Well here's how you decide:

1.  Test your soil.  Those tests you get at the store will tell you your pH, but not necessarily what nutrients are missing in your soil.  So I would recommend contacting a government agency or local university to have a soil test done.  These are usually free (or there might be a small fee.) This will tell you exactly what kind of nutrients you will have to add to the soil in order to grow your desired plants.

2.  If you aren't able to test your soil, then pay attention to your plants to see what they need.  If the leaves on your plants are yellow and unhealthy, select a fertilizer with a high nitrogen count (21-3-3).  Be aware, if a plant has too much nitrogen, it won't produce flowers.  If you want to produce more flowers or fruit, choose a fertilizer with more phosphorus.  Note:  purplish leaves usually indicate a deficiency in phosphorus.

3.  If you want a general guideline, follow this:  1-2-1 is a great mix for vegetable gardens, and 5-10-5 is a good all-purpose fertilizer.

4.  There are also fertilizers for specific plants.  Always follow the labels on the packaging when fertilizing plants.

Hopefully these tips will take some of the guess work out of the fertilization process.

Happy gardening!

10 comments:

  1. Hi Sherry,

    Being an avid gardener who turned a dump into a place of splendour, I appreciate your helpful tips. I learnt the hard way when it comes to ericaceous plants and their need for high acid content, lime-free soil.

    Thank you, Sherry.

    Gary

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    1. I would love to see your gardens. I bet they're beautiful!

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  2. I think we really should test our soil. We've tried a garden and everything has died. Some from green caterpillars, others just withered and died.

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    1. A soil test would probably help determine if you need to add minerals to your soil.

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  3. I might try a potted garden again this year. I just need to remember to water it.

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    1. I used to have a potted vegetable garden. It actually worked pretty well.

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  4. Great tips, Sherry. I'll be buying some organic dirt for my container gardening, so hopefully the dirt will be alright from the start. I'll definitely keep an eye on how the plants are doing. I want to also try and figure out how I can do some composting on a small scale.

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    1. I wish you luck with your gardening efforts!

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  5. Or you could be a wuss like me an hire someone to come fertilize. =) I guess Floridian soil, ahem, sand, takes significant maintenance.

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    1. Florida soil is tough to work with. I used to live there, and I remember how sandy it was!

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