Fertilizer is an essential part of any yard, whether you’re gardening or have a simple landscape design. We’ll cover the basics of fertilizer components and how to choose the right ones for your yard.
Why Fertilizer is Important in Your Yard
While we’d like to think that we can always grow things in the same soil year after year, the soil has finite nutrients that our plants pull from as they grow! Eventually, those nutrient levels will deplete and need replenishing for healthy plant growth. Rather than waiting for natural decay processes to replenish the soil, adding fertilizer will keep your soil healthy and your plants happy.
What Does NPK Mean?
NPK is the ratio of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) contained in the fertilizer. Each of these compounds will trigger different results in your plants. A well-balanced ratio will look like 10-10-10, while a high phosphorus fertilizer might be 5-12-10. Nitrogen encourages foliage growth, phosphorus promotes root and flower growth, and potassium assists with nutrient and water uptake. If you use the wrong fertilizer, you can scramble the growth process and end up with a berry bush with lots of leaves and no berries! Do some research and follow the instructions on the package for the best results.
Synthetic vs. Organic Fertilizer
The main distinction between synthetic and organic fertilizer is that synthetic fertilizer feeds the plants while organic fertilizer enriches the soil; it’s like the difference between eating candy and a home-cooked meal for energy. Organic fertilizer tends to release slowly into the soil, becoming part of the everyday intake for your plants, whereas synthetic fertilizer will give your plants a quick pick-me-up, but doesn’t contribute to the long-term health of your soil. If your garden needs a lot of help, a combination of both is a great option to give your plants a boost and then provide them with long-term nutrients to carry them through. Of course, if you prefer to stick to organic fertilizer, your plants will do just fine—you may have to be patient for results.
When to Fertilize Your Yard
The best times to fertilize your plants are in the spring to boost their growth and follow up throughout the summer. Certain plants are heavy feeders and will need more fertilizer than others, such as vegetables, so ask our staff if you aren’t sure how much fertilizer to give your plants. Once the weather starts changing, you’ll want to stop fertilizing and let your plants have a rest over the winter; otherwise, they’ll keep growing when they shouldn’t, and you’ll get scraggly-looking plants!
Choosing the Right Fertilizer for the Job
If you want to be thorough, you can test the soil acidity in your yard before using fertilizer to adjust your soil pH to the ideal acidity level. Some plants need higher acidity than others, such as hydrangea and blueberries, but you’ll want your soil to be at about 6.5 for most plants. You can add lime to raise your pH (decreasing acidity) or use an acidic fertilizer to increase acidity.
Once you know your pH, you can choose the right fertilizer for your plants. Here are some popular choices and how they differ from each other. Keep in mind that these will vary based on the product, but this is a good starting point!
Flower Fertilizer: phosphorus promotes bloom growth, so a 1-2-1 ratio is ideal for big, healthy blooms.
Vegetable Fertilizer: 3-4-4 is a typical ratio for vegetables, though you can also combine this with a balanced fertilizer. Uptake and root development are important for veggie growth, so the P and K are higher in this ratio.
Citrus Fertilizer: citrus typically requires at least a 2-1-1 ratio to promote foliage and bloom growth.
Acidic Fertilizer: great for plants such as blueberries, raspberries, hydrangeas, azaleas, and evergreens; acidic fertilizers usually include natural additives to increase acidity, such as elemental sulfur or ammonium nitrate.
If you are looking for fertilizer for sale, visit us at Lehigh Valley Home & Garden for help selecting the right fertilizer for your yard.