Improve Your Garden soil By Adding Fertilizers

Published: 18th November 2011
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Everyone needs to eat to live. Without a steady supply of starch, protein and other nutrients we would all very rapidly die. Flowers have a different arrangement. They exploit carbon, hydrogen and oxygen from the air and the water in the soil so as to manufacture their very own starch and sugars. All they need from the soil is a number of simple chemicals that they then use to produce all the amino acids, proteins, vitamins and enzymes et cetera.

All soils possess a stock of these vital chemicals normally known as plant nutrients, they come from the mineral part of your soil (sand, clay, etc) and from the humus it contains (fallen leaves, dead roots, etc). When the ground is cultivated and garden plants grow in it, the balance is often upset. Essential elements in the dirt are diminished quicker than they are replaced by natural processes.

Probably the most serious loss involves three key elements - nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. They are known as the major plant nutrients, and are required in large quantities if the plants are to grow satisfactorily. This means that these key plant nutrients have to be replaced on a regular basis. A percentage will be provided if organic dressings like compost or manure are applied, but we have to use fertilizers as the main source of supply. A fertilizer is a material which supplies appreciable amounts of more than one of the key plant nutrients without adding significantly to the humus content of our soil.

A bewildering number of fertilizers are available in garden centres these days - organic and inorganic, straight and compound, liquid and solid. The decision is all yours. Do bear in mind, however, there is no 'good' and 'bad' fertilizers, they all have a good job to do and the correct choice is dependent on the plant, soil type, area involved, the time of year and so on. The golden rule is always to feed plants on a regular basis, but no more than what the packet recommends. If you are in any doubt whether to feed or not, then let yourself be guided by the vigour of the plants. Fertilizer test kits are available, but the analysis of these results can be difficult for the ordinary gardener.

By law the manufacturer of a product which is described as 'fertilizer' must declare the nitrogen, phosphates and potash content on the package. The content of most other nutrients must also be declared when they are added to the product.

The meaning of the words and figures on the package:

N = Total Nitrogen

P2O5 = Total phosphates

P2O5 soluble in water = Phosphates which are immediately available

P2O5 soluble in neutral ammonium citrate and in water = Phosphates which are immediately or very quickly available

P2O5 soluble only in mineral acids = Phosphates which are available slowly

K2O = Total

As an example: You buy a bag of fertilizer, on the front it should have three numbers on display, in this example let's say, 3:6:9 more often than not in red. What does this mean; number 3 refers the nitrogen content, so this fertilizer contains 3.0% N (nitrogen). The number 6 refers to phosphorus content, so this fertilizer has 6.0% P2O5 (phosphates or phosphoric acid). The number 9 refers to potassium content, so this fertilizer contains 9.0% K2O (potash).

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