Monday, May 16, 2016

Choosing the Right Fertilizer for Your Garden

 It's time for gardening to begin.  And that means a little bit of soil fortification through fertilization.  Do all of the different 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 foilage 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 the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that are 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, 5-10-5 is a good all-purpose fertilizer.

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


  1. I didn't know what the mix meant.
    Actually, the only fertilizer I can recommend is Weed and Feed. It really will make your grass grow overnight.

  2. Hi Sherry - not having had a garden since SA ... I'm sort of lost with fertilisers etc ... we grew up with a compost heap ... I've never quite worked what I need out ... still no worries for now as I'm in a flat ...

    Good luck to planting everyone ... this should help Sherry - cheers Hilary

  3. we sent off to the local for our soil test. We are a mix of no phosphorus in the front, and too much of something in the back. Texas is a mess. And we appear to have a mole running amok underground. Alas - I think Ray is contemplating rocks.

    1. Georgia is a mess, too. The only crops it's good for are Vidalia onions and peanuts.