Using Fertilizer To Improve Your Garden Soil

By: Susan Sportman

Everyone must eat to live. Without a regular source of starch, protein and other nutrients we would all very rapidly die. Flowers have a different arrangement. They make use of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen from the air and also the soil water so as to produce their own starch and sugars. All they want from the soil is a quantity of simple chemicals that they then use to create all the amino acids, proteins, vitamins and enzymes et cetera.

All soils possess a stock of these vital chemicals normally known as plant nutrients, they come from the mineral part of the dirt (sand, clay, etc) as well as from the humus it contains (fallen leaves, dead roots, etc). When the soil is cultivated and garden plants grow in it, the balance is sometimes upset. Essential elements in the dirt are diminished more rapidly than they can be replaced by natural processes.

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

A bewildering number of fertilizers are available in garden centres these days - organic and inorganic, straight and compound, liquid and solid. The decision is all yours. Do bear in mind, however, there is certainly no 'good' and 'bad' fertilizers, they all have a job to do and the correct selection depends on the plant, dirt type, area concerned, the time of year and so on. The golden rule is to feed plants on a regular basis, but no greater than what the package recommends. In case you are undecided whether to feed or not, then let ones self be guided by the vigour of your plants. Fertilizer test kits are available, but the interpretation of the results can be difficult for your 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 when 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 example let's 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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An extraordinary 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 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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