19 Feb WHAT’S IN YOUR FERTILIZER?
Every plant needs nutrients in order to grow. Whether it’s a rose bush, an agave, turf grass, or petunias, each plant has specific needs when it comes to the kind of “food” they like or need. Fertilizer is your plant’s food — when you apply it to the soil, it enriches the soil, which then feeds the plant. So what’s in your fertilizer? It really boils down to three key ingredients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
When using fertilizers, look for the three numbers on the product package — 4-4-4 or 4-5-4, for example. The first number corresponds with nitrogen, the second with phosphorus, and the third with potassium levels. There are many different types of fertilizers with varying ratios of these three nutrients, so be sure you know what you are trying to achieve before applying any fertilizer. If you have to just choose one, reach for a 4-4-4 fertilizer which provides a well-balanced meal to most of the plants in your garden.
Nitrogen: (N) Nitrogen is the primary growth nutrient, responsible for healthy leaf and stem growth. Nitrogen deficiency results in stunted growth and yellowish leaves, while excess nitrogen prevents flowering and fruiting. Lawn fertilizers feature a higher N number because it promotes healthy and lush green grass.
Phosphorus: (P) Phosphorus stimulates root growth, fruiting, and flowers. If your soil is deficient in phosphorus, you’ll notice poor root growth, pale leaf color, and a purple/red-tinged stem color. When you start seeds or plant plants with flowers, you’ll want a fertilizer with a higher P number.
Potassium: (K) Potassium improves tolerance to drought, heat, and cold as well as resistance to disease. It helps to build up strong cells within the plant tissue, increasing the overall health of the plant. Fertilizers labeled “winterizer” often have a higher K content as a result.