Basics of Gardening: Fertilizer

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To grow healthy, beautiful plants, a good organic gardening fertilizer is recommended. Therefore, it’s important to feed plants on a regular basis with a fertilizer that has the right balance of nutrients. Usually, plant food containing an equal mix of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium will encourage maximum plant growth and health.

Plant Health 101

In order to thrive, plants need carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen, which are found in abundant supply in the air and water. They also need the three main ingredients or nutrients found in most fertilizer mixes, or nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Because plants absorb nutrients from the soil, fertilization helps make the soil more fertile so plants are able to grow faster and maintain optimum health. For the purposes of indoor gardening, a 5-5-5 NPK (or 5% Nitrogen, 5% phosphorous, and 5% potassium) mix is generally satisfactory.

Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium

As stated, fertilizing is important to the growth and continuing health of plants. The three main ingredients found in fertilizers supply the necessary nutrition so plants can flourish. Nitrogen, in particular, aids in the growth of leaves and stems. However, you don’t want to give your plant too much nitrogen. An excess amount of the nutrient may cause the plant to grow lush and green but may hinder its ability to flower. Phosphorous, the second main nutrient, encourages the growth of roots and increases the sizes of seeds. Potassium, or the third primary ingredient, regulates the metabolism of plants and assists in keeping them disease-free.

Organic Fertilizers and Synthetic Brands

Organic fertilizers are good for the soil as they release their nutrients gradually. On the other hand, the synthetic type of fertilizers can be absorbed by the plant almost immediately upon application. Therefore, you have to be careful about overfertilization when using a commercial or synthetic product as this type of fertilizer can burn the leaves of a plant or stunt its growth. For the overall quality and growth of your plants, it’s best to choose an organic fertilizer and compost.


Plants take in nutrients more effectively through the surfaces of their leaves; therefore, spraying plants can result in superior plant growth. It’s best to apply a fertilizer spray during transplantation, when the plants begin to bud and when they begin to yield fruit. Just remember that plants that grow at a slower rate need less fertilizer while plants that grow more speedily will need  additional fertilizer. Flowering plants typically need more fertilizer. Apply fertilizer to most plants on a bi-weekly basis from the spring to early fall and taper off using fertilizer, or cease feeding, in the colder months when plants are dormant.

Soil pH

To make sure that that a fertilizer does its job, you need to determine the pH of the soil. Typically, most fertilizers work the best in soils with a pH of about 6.0. You can contact your local country extension office for a pH sample kit or purchase a kit yourself. To neutralize the pH in your soil, it’s helpful to apply compost when you fertilize.

Fertilizer plays an essential role in the growth of plants. Regular and proper feeding will make their care all the more worthwhile.

One Response to “Basics of Gardening: Fertilizer”

  1. August 01, 2010 at 10:02 am, sara said:

    I’m way too lazy to make my own stuff. I just get it here instead because I have this seemingly ever lasting 10% off discount code ( bonsaithanks ) that has been saving me money for a year!! They make the stuff themselves and have a huge selection of goodies that are hard (if not impossible) for me to resist! So I save, which makes my wallet happy…and I get, which makes ME happy! ;o)


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