Gardening 101: Understanding the Different Types of Fertilizers

For centuries, people have applied fertilizers to the Earth in order to produce better harvests. This practice continues today. It makes the plant healthier and also, it greatly affects the health of the soil. Yet considerable confusion surrounds the process of adding constituents to soils to enhance plant growth. 

This brief article offers a quick overview of popular types of fertilizers and what they do to your plants and soil.

Broad categories of fertilizers

Today, most experts will distinguish two main categories of fertilizers: Organic and Inorganic. The former typically represent plant or animal byproducts. The latter derive primarily from synthetically extracted minerals.

Common plant and animal byproducts

Waste products obtained from plants and animals have likely contributed to the quality of farming soils for thousands of years. Popularly known as “composts”, yard and kitchen (non-meat) waste products contain many ingredients which help create richer plant growth environments, for example. From leaves and grass clippings to tea bags and banana peels, the contents of home composting bins frequently help gardeners produce bumper crops. Aged compost mixed into the ground supplies ingredients contributing to the development of healthy root systems. Many composts provide a great medium for the growth of valuable soil fungi and molds.

Some animal waste products also function well as additions to well maintained flower and vegetable plots, too. One popular item in this category includes worm castings. What are worm castings? Quite simply, this item consists of earthworm excrement. Since worms consume nutrients while digging through the ground, their waste products usually include a rich mixture of important elements required by young plants. Adding live worms to a garden offers the added benefit of furnishing soil aeration assistance. Cattle dung also supplies a popular soil addition, furnishing a great source of Nitrogen. Avid gardeners also seek manure produced by other herbivores (like horses, sheep, and chickens).

Synthetically extracted minerals

Today, manufacturers often employ industrial processes to synthesize inorganic minerals for use in fertilizers. These commercial products enhance the growth of young plants by providing essential elements. Unless gardeners periodically replenish these materials in depleted soils, some ingredients eventually become scarce in heavily utilized locations. (Think of these amendments as vitamins for flowers and vegetables.)

The addition of these fertilizers to gardening plots performs two key functions. First, it permits a gardener to restore a diminished supply of one (or more) essential minerals. Second, the use of the fertilizer impacts the overall pH of the soil. Many plants grow only within specific pH ranges. Too acidic or too alkaline a pH prevents some crops from thriving. By adding amendments in the form of synthetically produced minerals on a regular basis, people cultivating plants ultimately help create ideal soil conditions for flowers, shrubs, and vegetables.

Three popular fertilizer ingredients

Of course, soil typically consists of a variety of different minerals. One popular way to evaluate the contents of a specific fertilizer quickly involves the measurement of three key components: nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. In the periodic table of elements, scientists refer to these elements as “N”, “P”, and “K”.

Chemical fertilizers typically include the proportion of these three ingredients in a shorthand form, such as 20-10-10. This formula refers to relative levels of Nitrogen, Phosphorus (i.e. phosphates), and Potassium. Various plants require differing quantities of these three main additives in order to thrive. Gardeners hoping to produce bumper crops may need to apply different types of fertilizers as “food” to individual garden locations. One variety of fertilizer might nourish the lawn, another sustains a vegetable garden, and yet a third benefits an acidic blueberry plot.

Other important nutrients

Today, popular commercial fertilizers also offer gardeners the opportunity to add minerals of secondary importance to their yards. Three critical “macro-nutrients” which eventually require replenishment include Sulfur, Magnesium, and Calcium. Manufacturers often produce these fertilizers alone or in combination with other constituents in various formulations.

Additionally, in smaller quantities, gardeners may need to add Iron, Copper, Manganese, Boron, Zinc, Molybdenum, Cobalt, Vanadium, or Silicon to a garden. By adhering closely to the directions included with popular commercial fertilizer mixtures, they obtain the ability to supplement these missing nutrients as necessary. Product labels typically inform consumers of the specific additives included within a fertilizer.

Use fertilizers to produce bountiful gardens

Just like weeding and pruning, adding fertilizers to the soil constitutes a vital aspect of gardening. Both organic and inorganic fertilizers serve a valuable purpose in the production of healthy plants. Learning to add the correct quantity of specific amendments at recommended intervals assists avid gardeners in producing awesome crops!

Indeed, gardening is a serious hobby to do, as it takes a lot of time and effort on your part. You have to know the basic knowledge on proper care of each plant in your garden in order for them to grow and blossom. Having a beautiful garden is everyone’s dream and with the help of the above mentioned tips and tricks, you’ll be a pro in no time.