Introduction to fertilizers
Using the right fertilizer in your vegetable and flower gardens is essential if you want healthy, fast growing plants, and different types of plants and different types of soil require different fertilizer compounds.
Most fertilizer packages will be labeled with three numbers such as 10-10-10, which in this case means the chemical makeup of the fertilizer is 10% nitrogen, 10% phosphorous, and 10% potassium.
Nitrogen promotes the growth of leaves and helps them maintain a rich green color. Phosphorus promotes healthy plant cells, stimulates root growth, and ensures proper fruit and flower production. Potassium is essential for proper plant growth.
Many gardeners and farmers are choosing to use organic fertilizers these days. This type of fertilizer is derived from organic material only and is generally believed to produce the healthiest vegetables for human consumption.
Liquid vs. granule fertilizers
Fertilizer is available primarily in two forms: liquid (or powder that is mixed with water to form a liquid) and granules. Small flower and vegetable gardens do exceptionally well with high quality liquid fertilizers. Liquid fertilizers usually come in small boxes or bottles.
Granule fertilizers usually come in large bags, and they are the best option for fertilizing large plots of ground. Farmers use granule fertilizers on their crop fields for example.
Choosing the best type of fertilizer for your needs
The best chemical composition of fertilizers for your particular needs will depend on two factors: the type of soil you have and the types of plants you plan to grow.
Your local county extension agent can help you perform a simple soil test to determine your soil type. He/she can then recommend the proper fertilizer to add to your soil for maximum growing potential.
You can find out what type of fertilizer to use on each of your plant varieties by reading the package that the seeds, bulbs, or plant starts come in. You can also ask the people at your local garden center for advice.
And don't forget about the neighbor who always has the biggest vegetables and/or the prettiest flower garden on the block! These folks are usually very proud of their success and are flattered when they receive compliments and requests for tips and advice!
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