Fertilizer is any material that provides one or more of essential plant nutrients.
What does N P K mean to your fertilizer?
N-P-K refers to the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium present in the fertilizer. The higher these numbers, which are actually percentages of each nutrient in the fertilizer, the higher the level of nutrients available to the plant.
What does N P K do for the plant?
N-P-K are the most important elements required by the plant. These are referred to as macro elements because plants need large amounts of those nutrients.
N Nitrogen – Promotes plant and leaf growth, also accelerates the plant’s metabolic processes.
P Phosphorus – Promotes strong, healthy root growth and fruit development
K Potassium- Also referred to as potash. Regulate the plant’s water retention and provides protection against frost and drought.
A balance fertilizer contains equal parts of each element – 10-10-10
A complete fertilizer contains all of the major elements – 10-6-4, 10-10-10; while an incomplete fertilizer is missing one or two of the elements – 0-20-0
Slow release fertilizers release nutrients over an extended period and don’t have to be applied as often. They are also safer for the environment as there is less potential of leaching into ground water. There are many types of organic (natural) fertilizers available including: fish emulsion, dried blood, wood ashes and animal manure.
Proper fertilization is key in maintaining the health of your landscape. Many gardeners mistakenly apply too much fertilizer in hopes of correcting existing problems or encouraging faster growth. Adding the proper amount of fertilizer at the right time is an important element in promoting healthy flower production as well as foliage growth, while an excessive amount of fertilizer can be detrimental to plant health. An unhealthy plant is more susceptible to disease and insect infestation.
Plants which are stressed and growing poorly may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:
Leaves with dead spots
Smaller than normal leaves
Fewer leaves or flowers than normal
There are many different conditions that may cause these symptoms including: too much or too little water, incorrect pH, disease, too much sun or shade for that particular species, salt or other adverse climate conditions or poor soil aeration. Any of these conditions must be corrected to maintain proper health of your landscape. Adding fertilizer will not correct any of these problems, it will just compound them.
Different plants require different types of fertilizer. For example lawns prefer a 3-2-1 ratio which could translate to 6-4-2 or 30-20-10. Vegetable gardens call for 1-2-1 or 5-10-5 or 10-20-10. Most trees prefer 2-1-1 or 20-10-10. Application instructions are always included so for best results, read labels and follow directions.