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.