Preparing Garden Soil

Garden Fertilizer

Fertilizers for "bloomers" will help flowers and fruits grow well.

Garden soil often needs some help to achieve the right mix of nutrients. Depending on your soil test results and what you are planting, you probably will need to add packaged fertilizers to your garden soil in addition to mulch and compost.

Use packaged fertilizers according to directions. In most cases, use balanced formulations with similar numbers (5-5-5). The numbers stand for nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), in that order. Sometimes you need special formulations for special purposes. Lawn food is high in nitrogen, which is great for leaf growth, whereas "bloomer" fertilizers for flowers and fruit are proportionately lower in nitrogen and higher in phosphorus and potassium (5-10-10, for instance).

Formulations for roses, vegetables, tomatoes, holly trees, and others have special attributes that are matched to the plants. Slow or time-release fertilizers are usually in a beadlike form and give out their nutrients little by little, through many rains or waterings. They help keep plants blooming or producing all season long.

Liquid or soluble fertilizers reach the roots immediately for an instant boost but must be reapplied on a regular basis. For details on how to use fertilizers properly, read the package labels. The volume of fertilizer required may vary depending on the kind of plant being fertilized and the time of year.

Compost and bulky organic material, such as composted manure, also provide major and minor nutrients and should give you trace elements your soil needs. They improve the texture of the soil and add organisms that contribute to replenished nutrient supply, naturally. Expect to use more organic fertilizer, by volume, than synthetic chemical fertilizers because organic fertilizers contain fewer nutrients by weight, averaging from one to about six or seven percent. Contrast this with an inorganic lawn fertilizer that may contain up to 30 percent nitrogen, more than four times as much as organic fertilizer.

More is not always better when it comes to fertilizers. Lower-dose organic fertilizers are unlikely to burn plant roots or cause nutrient overdoses. Many forms release their components slowly, providing a long-term nutrient supply instead of one intense nutrient blast. Organic fertilizers may also provide a spectrum of lesser nutrients, even enzymes and hormones that can benefit growth.

What kind of fertilizer is best for your garden? Keep reading to learn about the different types of garden fertilizers.

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