Improve Your Garden Soil By Using The Correct Fertilizer.

By: Susan Sportman

Over the years a vast mythology has grown up around the magic of fertilizers. The head gardeners of the pre-war estates had their own secret potions. Today there are feeds which are claimed to be ideal for everything in a garden.

The fact is much less thrilling. All nutrient-providing ingredients have to be reduced to exactly the same simple compounds before the roots are able to absorb them. That means that the nutrients in the liquid fertilizer containing organic salts may be immediately there for the plant roots, on the other hand the plant foods locked up in the coarsely-ground organic mix may need to wait months before release.

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

Every agriculture expert agrees that nitrogen, phosphates and potash have to be added to your 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 has to be transformed into a simple inorganic form before it can be absorbed by the roots. This breakdown is performed by soil bacteria. It is important to remember that these organisms are not usually active in cold, acid or waterlogged soils, so the speed of action is dependent upon the soil condition.

Inorganic Fertilizers:
Some of these 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 natural or synthetic 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 nomally cheaper than organics and have become so much more accepted than the old-time favourites. Only one organic fertilizer, Bone Meal, has kept its place amongst the very best-selling plant foods.

Garden shops exhibit 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 use than granules but are generally quicker acting. Sticks of concentrated fertilizer for insertion in the soil are also available.

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 popular 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 an individual active ingredient. It nearly always contains just one major plant nutrient, although a few (e.g Bone Meal) contain a tiny quantity of another one.

A compound fertilizer is based on a mixture of active substances. 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 sure sufficient leaf growth is present and spray in the evening when rain is not forecast.

Many standard compound fertilizers contain both quick and simple 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. One of the best known example is Urea-formaldehyde.

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A fantastic quantity of my time is spent in my garden, but as I am getting older and things are becoming harder to do. I have decided to make use of a company called Landscape 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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