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Five Recommended Fertilizer Tips

Sunlight and water are two key ingredients to healthy plants in your yard and garden. But as important as these are, they are not the only substances needed to give you beautiful landscaping. Lawns, flowers, and shrubbery also need to be fed, fertilized, and protected against pests and disease. Here are some basic things you should know about fertilizer.

  1. Fertilizer comes in many forms.

    Granular fertilizers can be spread with rotary or drop spreaders. Liquid-soluble fertilizers are applied using a hose-end sprayer to mix them with water. Liquid fertilizers such as fish oil can be diluted or applied full-strength from a sprinkling can or bucket.

  2. The primary ingredients of fertilizer are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

    Nitrogen promotes lush green leaves; phosphorus aids in bloom and root development; potassium protects plants against disease, drought, and cold. You would use a high-nitrogen fertilizer for a lush, green lawn, a high-phosphorus fertilizer when planting, and a high-potassium fertilizer for winterizing plants. The numbers on a fertilizer bag indicate the percentage by weight of each of these components. So a bag of 10-20-10 fertilizer is 10 percent nitrogen, 20 percent phosphorus, and 10 percent potassium. Fertilizers also contain trace amounts of calcium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, chlorine, copper, manganese, zinc, molybdenum, and boron, all of which are needed for plant growth.

  3. Organic vs. inorganic?

    Natural organic fertilizers such as manure, fish oil, and compost have been in use for thousands of years. Modern synthetic fertilizers are more efficient and provide more stable amounts of different elements, but their long-term usage has been questioned by environmental advocates. The choice is up to you.

  4. Weed and feed?

    Many lawn fertilizers contain herbicides to kill broadleaf and other weeds while fertilizing desirable grasses. The most common herbicides used in these fertilizers are 2,4-d, dicamba, and MCPP. If you have small children, there is some danger to them in exposure to these chemicals. An organic equivalent is corn gluten meal, which prevents weed seeds from germinating.

  5. Safe storage.

    Keep fertilizers, as with all chemicals, in a safe place out of reach of children and pets. A locked garden shed is preferable for storage, but a locked cabinet in a garage is also suitable.

This covers just the bare basics of fertilizers and their use. If you have questions or concerns, visit your local nursery and get answers to your specific questions or concerns from a professional nurseryman.