Types Of Fertilizers

Choosing the Different Types of Fertilizers


Every living thing needs specific elements to flourish, and when planting gardens, trees or simply grass, you will need to determine which of the many types of fertilizers will do the best job in helping the plant to thrive.


Just as the human body needs food, water and an assortment of vitamins and minerals to survive, so do plants have vital needs for survival.  While it is a common sight to see straggling blades of grass poking up through a cement wall, or scrubby looking weeds impossibly rising up out of shallow hollows in solid rock, these plants have limited existence and little hope for propagation.  This is due to the fact that there is no basis in those areas to support life yet, by some miracle, life occurred.  The plants will struggle for a time to endure and finally perish from lack of necessary elements. 


Growing plants of any type will require certain things.  Soil is generally the first consideration.  While there are a few air growing plants, the majority need the synergistic interaction with soil to live.  Rich nutrients exist within the soil that is essential to the growth and fruition of plant life.  Water is a crucial element to the survival of the plant; without hydration, most plants wither away.  Not often thought of because it is always available is air.  Some of a plant’s most important elements, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, are obtained from air and water.  Last, but certainly not the least of a plant’s needs is fertilizer; a combination of nutrients and elements that are the finishing touch to the development and maturation of the plant. 


Packaged fertilizers are widely available at most department stores and garden shops.  They are not, as many people believe, “one size fits all” mixtures.  There are specific types of fertilizers for different types of plants.  Variances in fertilizers are noted by the levels of three major ingredients:  nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.  These ingredients are indicated as percentages; for example, if a bag shows the numbers 12-8-10, the contents of the package are 12% nitrogen, 8% phosphorus and 10% potassium.  The numbers can vary, since certain plants need more concentration of one element than the others.  The remainder of the fertilizer is just filler, with no nutritional value to the growing plants. 


Nitrogen is essential to developing plants; lending the necessary growth material to the cells.  Not enough of this element will cause leaf wilt and yellowing, stunt growth and limit the amount of fruit the plant is able to produce.  Too much nitrogen is just as damaging by affecting the maturity of fruit, the growth of roots and the ability of the plant to retain water.


Energy storage and transport is a job that is handled by phosphorus.  The development of the plant overall rests in part on the levels of phosphorus; with deficiencies of the element serving to kill leaves and stems and stunt the plant’s growth.  Having too much phosphorus makes the flavor of the fruit and vegetables bitter. 


Potassium helps the plant to develop sugars and oils, and also to withstand cold weather spurts.  The fruit of the plant achieves better flavor, color and structure.  When there is not enough potassium available to the plant, the leaves and stems suffer by browning while the plant loses strength.  An excess of potassium will affect the nitrogen levels in the plant. 


Keeping a good balance is easy when using the proper fertilizer.  For plants that are primarily foliage, it is important to use a fertilizer with higher nitrogen levels.  When the plant’s purpose is to produce flowers or fruit, higher potassium levels work best.  Different types of fertilizer serve to provide what specific plants need, so knowing the levels to use will yield the best results in your garden and yard.