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How do I choose a Fertilizer?

When choosing fertilizer for your garden, you will notice that there are 3 numbers on the label. This indicates the % of each nutrient present in the mix. The nutrients are Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. This is also known as NPK ratio.  Nitrogen will always be the first number. It helps stimulate the stem and leaf growth. This makes the plants greener and increases the amount foliage of the plant. Phosphorus is the 2nd number and this nutrient helps with root development,  and encourages flowers and buds set. Phosphorus is important for overall vitality of the plant. Potassium, which comes in the form of Potash, is the 3rd number. This improves the overall vigor of the plant and improves immunity from disease. For most plants, something balanced like a 5-5-5 is good, but depending on the type of plant you are growing you might consider a different make-up.


Veggies that are grown for their leaves like lettuce, spinach, and kale, like extra Nitrogen, so something like a 6-4-4 is ideal. But with plants that that you want to develop flowers and fruit such as tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers, more Phosphorus is better. If you have too much Nitrogen, you will get a beautiful bushy plant but no flowers or fruit. Also, veggies that have edible roots like carrot, onions, and turnips, do better with more Phosphorus, since it stimulates strong root systems. Thus, for most veggies something like a 2-6-4 or 5-8-6 is best.


As far as how often to fertilize, container plants should be fertilized every 2-3 weeks and garden plants about once per month. There are two types of fertilizer. Granular fertilizer is easy because you can just shake it out on soil around the plants. This type of fertilizer slowly breaks down over time and lasts longer. Liquid fertilizers release the nutrients more quickly and provides immediate benefits, but you have to reapply it more often. Also, liquid fertilizers are usually concentrated, so be sure to read the directions when mixing with water.

Proper feeding of your veggie plants is one of the most important factors in a good crop. Along with water and sunlight, the nutrients in fertilizers combined with good quality soil will make your plants very happy and productive!

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