Using Fertilizer To Improve Your Garden Soil

By: Gambo Navi

Everyone must eat to live. With out a regular source of starch, protein and other nutrients we would all very quickly die. Flowers have another arrangement. They use carbon, hydrogen and oxygen from the air and the soil water so as to produce their very own starch and sugars. All they will demand from the soil is a quantity of basic chemicals that they then use to generate all the amino acids, proteins, vitamins and enzymes etc.

All soils have a stock of these vital chemicals commonly known as plant nutrients, they come from the mineral part of your soil (sand, clay, etc) and 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 soil are diminished more rapidly than they are replaced by natural processes.

Probably the most serious loss includes three key elements - nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. These are known as the major plant nutrients, and are required in large amounts if the plants are to grow satisfactorily. This also means that these major plant nutrients have to be replaced on a regular basis. A proportion will be provided if organic dressings like compost or manure are applied, but we have to rely on fertilizers for the main source of supply. A fertilizer is the substance which supplies appreciable quantities of a number of the major plant nutrients without adding significantly to the humus content of the soil.

A bewildering 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 bear in mind, however, there is certainly no 'good' and 'bad' fertilizers, they all have a good job to do and the correct selection depends on the plant, soil type, area concerned, the time of year and so on. The golden rule should be to feed plants on a consistent basis, but no more than what the container recommends. If you are undecided whether to feed or not, then let yourself be guided by the vigour of your plants. Fertilizer test kits are readily available, but the interpretation of the results can be tricky for the everyday gardener.

By law the maker 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 purchase a bag of fertilizer, on the front it should have three numbers on display, in this example let us say, 3:6:9 more often than not 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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A fantastic quantity 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 use a company called Home Repair. 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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