Different Fertilizers To Improve Your Garden Soil

By: Susan Sportman

Over the years a huge mythology has grown up round the magic of fertilizers. The head gardeners of the pre-war estates had their own unique secret potions. Today you will discover feeds that are claimed for being ideal for everything in your garden.

The fact is much less exciting. All nutrient-providing ingredients are required to be reduced to the same simple compounds before the roots are capable of absorbing them. That means the nutrients in a liquid fertilizer containing organic salts may be immediately available to the plant roots, on the other hand the plant foods locked up in the coarsely-ground organic mix may have to wait months before release.

There is no good or bad here, the required speed of release and the ideal balance of nutrients will depend on the soil type, the season and the plant. No single fertilizer is the very best in all situations.

Every gardening expert agrees that nitrogen, phosphates and potash have to be added to the soil. The fertilizers which provide these nutrients are described as either 'organic' or 'inorganic'. Most authorities agree that both kinds do important but rather different jobs.

Organic Fertilizers:
These materials are of animal or vegetable origin. Most of them provide nitrogen, and this organic nitrogen must be changed into a simple inorganic form before it can be absorbed by the roots. This breakdown is performed by soil bacteria. It is important to keep in mind that these organisms are not active in cold, acid or waterlogged soils, so the speed of action is determined by the soil condition.

Inorganic Fertilizers:
Some of the fertilizers are minerals removed from the earth - Chilean Nitrate is every bit as natural as Bone Meal. Others are manufactured and have earned the titles of 'synthetic' or 'artificial' fertilizers. Plants are unable to tell the difference between plant foods from synthetic or natural sources - breakdown to the same nutrients occurs before any uptake by the plant.

Inorganics are generally quick-acting, providing plants with a boost when used as a top dressing. They are usually cheaper than organics and have become a lot more popular than the old-time favourites. Only one organic fertilizer, Bone Meal, has kept its place amongst the very best-selling plant foods.

Garden shops show off a wide selection of solid fertilizers, powders or granules which are sprinkled on top of soil by hand or applied through a fertilizer distributor. Powders are dustier to apply than granules but are generally quicker acting. Sticks of concentrated fertilizer for insertion in the soil are also obtainable.

Liquid feeding means applying fertilizer diluted with water all around the plants. In the beginning it began with soaking bags of manure in a barrel of water, bottles of concentrated liquid fertilizer then became accepted and in recent years soluble powders have taken pride of place. All are applied through a watering can or hose-end diluter.

A straight fertilizer is based on a single active ingredient. It nearly always contains just one major plant nutrient, although a few (e.g Bone Meal) contain a small quantity of another one.

A compound fertilizer is based on a mixture of active ingredients. It nearly always consists of all three major plant nutrients, although a few contain only nitrogen and phosphates.

Several foliar feeds are solid, either as leaf-feeding fertilizers or mixed with pesticides as multipurpose products. When sprayed onto leaves the nutrients enter the sap-stream within in a couple of hours, even where root action is restricted by poor soil conditions. A useful technique especially for Roses and sick plants. For maximum effect make certain that sufficient leaf growth exists and spray in the evening when rain is not forecast.

Many standard compound fertilizers contain both quick and straightforward slow-releasing sources of nutrients, so feeding goes on for some time. A true steady-release fertilizer, however, is a complex chemical which provides a prolonged supply of nutrients as it breaks down in the soil or as the outer coating dissolves. The best known example is Urea-formaldehyde.

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A fantastic period of my time is spent in my garden, but as I am getting older and things have become harder to do. I have decided to make use of a company called Gardener London. So far they have given me all the help and advice that I have asked for. I still do a bit of pottering around my own garden.

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