Everyone has to eat to live. With out a regular source of starch, protein and other nutrients we would all very quickly die. Flowers have a different procedure. They make use of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen from the air as well as the water in the soil in order to manufacture their very own starch and sugars. All they need from the soil would be a quantity of straightforward chemicals which they then use to generate all the amino acids, proteins, vitamins and enzymes etc.
All soils contain a stock of these vital chemicals known as plant nutrients, they come from the mineral part of the soil (sand, clay, etc) as well as from the humus it contains (fallen leaves, dead roots, etc). When the ground is cultivated and garden plants grow in it, the balance is upset. Essential elements in the dirt are diminished more rapidly than they can be replaced by natural means.
Essentially the most serious loss involves three key elements - nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. They are known as the major plant nutrients, and are necessary in large quantities if the plants are to grow as expected. This means that these key plant nutrients need to be replaced on a regular basis. A percentage will be supplied if organic dressings like compost or manure are applied, but we have to use fertilizers as the main source of supply. A fertilizer is the material which offers appreciable quantities of a number of the major plant nutrients without adding considerably to the humus content of our soil.
A confusing variety of fertilizers are available in garden centres these days - organic and inorganic, straight and compound, liquid and solid. The choice is all yours. Do remember, however, there is no 'good' and 'bad' fertilizers, they all have a job to do and the correct selection is dependent on the plant, dirt type, area involved, time of year and so on. The golden rule is always to feed plants on a consistent basis, but no greater than what the packet recommends. If you are in any doubt whether to feed or not, then let ones self be guided by the vigour of the plants. Fertilizer test kits are available, but the analysis of these results can be difficult for your everyday gardener.
By law the manufacturer of a product which is described as 'fertilizer' must declare the nitrogen, phosphates and potash content on the package. The content of most other nutrients must also be declared if they are added to the product.
The meaning of the words and figures on the package:
N = Total Nitrogen
P2O5 = Total phosphates
P2O5 soluble in water = Phosphates which are immediately available
P2O5 soluble in neutral ammonium citrate and in water = Phosphates which are immediately or very quickly available
P2O5 soluble only in mineral acids = Phosphates which are available slowly
K2O = Total
As an example: You buy a bag of fertilizer, on the front it should have three numbers on show, in this instance let us say, 3:6:9 typically in red. What does this mean; number 3 refers the nitrogen content, so this fertilizer contains 3.0% N (nitrogen). The number 6 refers to phosphorus content, so this fertilizer has 6.0% P2O5 (phosphates or phosphoric acid). The number 9 refers to potassium content, so this fertilizer contains 9.0% K2O (potash).
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