Posted on Saturday 4/3
THE WORLD OF FERTILIZERS DECODED
As we all know our plants need nutrients to prosper and remain healthy. The question is what nutrients for what plants? So, we rush down to our local retailers that sell fertilizers and find a large selection of 10-10-10, 0-0-60, 20-05-10, just to name a few. There are some fertilizers on the market that do not conform to the NPK standard coding. There are special fertilizer mixtures for specific plant species, vegetables, trees, flowers, lawn, etc.
What is NPK? What fertilizer should I use?
First, let's look at the labeling of fertilizers which varies by country in terms analysis methodology and nutrient labeling, coupled with minimum nutrient requirements.
Macronutrient fertilizers are labeled with an NPK analysis.
N stands for Nitrogen.
P stands for Phosphorous.
K stands for Potassium.
The number found on the fertilizer bag represents the percentage of the chemical elements contained within.
Nitrogen in higher concentrations is applied in the early growth stage. High levels of nitrogen result in a healthy green plant. There is a flip side. Of the three major chemicals, it can cause the most damage by burning your plants. Care must be taken to avoid direct contact with leaves and vines. Besides burning a plant, nitrogen can also reduce or delay the emergence and number of flowers and fruit. Additionally, it can cause a plant to wilt.
Phosphorous content should be increased as the season advances towards the flowering and fruit set stage. Flowers produce big and bright blooms with a higher concentration of phosphorous. A 5-10-5 or 5-15-5 is very common ratios and a good overall ration for the entire year. Phosphorous promotes root growth and fruit set and development. It does not burn your plant like nitrogen and since it is less water soluble, using too much will not do major harm to your plant.
Potassium is the chemical to promote fruit growth. After fruit set, one should switch to a high potassium fertilizer, or supplement your normal feedings with extra potassium. As with phosphorous potassium does not burn your plants. However, over an application in combination with other ingredients (sun, water, and rich composted soil) can cause negative effects on your plant.
The Importance of a Proper NPK Balance for your Garden's Health
In addition to the infamous NPK, there is a variety of chemicals essential to plant growth. Some of these chemicals may already be in your soil and some not. This is dependant on the type of soil you have, whether these elements are readily soluble and whether they may have depleted through years of growth.
Consider these elements a vitamin pill for your plant. Just as one takes their daily vitamins, the same should be for your plants. If you buy a brand name fertilizer, fertilization these minerals and nutrients are included. An extremely popular fertilization method is liquid fertilizers. Properly mixed, a liquid fertilizer is sprayed on leaves (foliar feeding), poured directly to root systems and for drip or other underground irrigation system included in the water supply. Since it is water soluble, it goes directly into the plant root system for a quick pick-me-up.