The following are some of the most common questions related to gardening:
What kind of fertilizer do I need?
In general, there are two kinds of fertilizers used for growing vegetables and flowers. They are either synthetic or natural. Synthetic fertilizers have been made using chemical substances such as petroleum products, coal tar derivatives, methanol, etc., which contain toxic chemicals. These chemicals may cause cancer and other diseases if consumed in large quantities over long periods of time. Natural fertilizers are not harmful to humans but they may be less effective than synthetic fertilizers.
Which type of fertilizer is better?
There is no right answer because both types of fertilizers work well. There are several factors that affect your choice between them. Some of these include soil type, climate zone, location within the home, and whether you want to grow annual crops like tomatoes or perennial crops like lettuce.
Synthetic Fertilizer Types
Most commonly known as “chemical” fertilizers, synthetic fertilizers are often the most popular type of fertilizer. Synthetic fertilizers come in granular form (powder), liquid form (dish soap), and even liquid concentrate form (ice cubes).
Most synthetic fertilizers are made from one or more ingredients that act together to increase crop yields. The most popular synthetic fertilizers include: nutrients, water soluble nitrogen (N), water soluble phosphorous (P), and water soluble potassium (K). Fertilizer ingredients are normally listed as N-P-K. Arsenate and other chemical elements are also included in some types of synthetic fertilizers.
Natural Fertilizer Types
Natural fertilizer types are more beneficial to the environment than synthetic types. They are also less toxic to humans and animals.
Manure: This type of fertilizer is usually from cows, horses, chicken, sheep, or other farm animals than convert vegetable and grain nutrients into animal waste. It is also known as compost when it has decomposed.
Manure needs to age for a long time before using it on plants. Otherwise, it will burn your plants. Manure can be bought in bags from nurseries or you can collect it yourself. Some people even use their own human waste!
Human Waste: This fertilizer is the highest in nitrogen and lowest in potassium and phosphorous. Human waste may or may not be treated depending on where it’s used.
It must be aged before use. If this type of fertilizer is not aged then it will burn your plant’s roots.
Bone Meal: This fertilizer is made from animal bones that have been baked until they are crushed into a powder. It is high in phosphorous which promotes flower and seed development.
It does not burn the roots and should be aged before use.
Fish Emulsion: This fertilizer is made from fish such as salmon, tuna, or other saltwater fish. It is very high in nitrogen and promotes green leafy growth.
Fish emulsion should be aged before use.
Seaweed Extract: This type of fertilizer comes from seaweed and has similar properties to fish emulsion. It promotes leaf and stem growth.
It is high in potassium and should be aged before use.
Kelp: This type of fertilizer is made from seaweed and is used for acid loving plants like blueberries and rhododendrons. It has a low analysis rate but it does contain all the major elements to some degree.
It promotes strong rooting and is a good supplement to any fertilizer mix. Kelp should be aged before use.
Aged horse manure and aged fish emulsion are great soil builders but they do not contain much nutrients for the first two years. For this reason it’s best to mix them with some other type of fertilizer unless you’re attempting to develop a new garden bed.
The following lists some common fertilizer ingredients and their properties:
Nitrogen: promotes green growth, helps plants develop leaves, stems, and roots, also helps fruits and vegetables produce abundant yields. Sources of nitrogen include: blood meal, cottonseed meal, and hoof and horn meal.
Phosphorous: promotes flowering and seed production in plants. Sources of phosphorous include: bone meal and fish bone meal.
Potassium: promotes plant growth and helps plants combat disease and stress. Sources of potassium include: greensand, sulfate of potash (SOP), and wood ashes.
The type of fertilizer you use depends on two factors: the kind of plants you want and how fast you want them to grow. Fertilizers are available as liquids, granules, and crystals.
Most are available as all three types. The fastest types are liquids and granules while the crystals are the slowest.
Liquid Fertilizers: Most liquid types need to be applied frequently to produce results. They should only be used on houseplants and indoors because they can be harmful to children and pets if misused.
Granular Fertilizers: These types are easy to apply and can either be scattered over the soil or worked in. They should be rinsed when water is applied to the soil.
Crystal Fertilizers: These types should only be worked into the soil as they take a long time to dissolve. They are best used on trees and shrubs because the amount used varies depending on the response of the plant.
Synthetic Fertilizers: These types provide quick results but can be harmful to the environment and people if misused. They should only be used in emergencies.
Organic Fertilizers: These types are not as strong as synthetic types but are less harmful to the environment and people. They can be made at home or purchased.
Natural Sources: Many natural sources contain plant nutrients but it takes a lot of time and effort to extract them. These sources include: eggshells, coffee grounds, and animal manure.
The strength of the fertilizer depends on its nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium content. Fertilizers are available with more of one ingredient than another.
Nitrogen promotes green growth.
Phosphorous promotes flowering and the creation of seeds.
Potassium helps plants combat disease and stress.
Compost: Some people make their own fertilizer using compost bins to break down organic matter from kitchen scraps, hay, and manure. Compost also contains trace elements required by most plants.
It can take several months to a year for the compost to be ready. Gardeners without their own bins can use community bins at local farms or buy compost from nurseries.
Making your own liquid fertilizer: some people prefer to make their own liquid fertilizer because it is easy to apply and inexpensive. All you need are some containers and a source of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.
Sources of nitrogen include: blood meal, cottonseed meal, and manure. Sources of phosphorous include: bone meal and soft wood ash. Sources of potassium include: greensand and sulfate of potash (SOP).
Manure: Manure from herbivores contains more nitrogen while manure from carnivores contains more phosphorous. Manure should be composted before using.
Green Sand: Green sand is found in the form of small grains. It is mined near the shores of the ocean and is high in potassium.
Greensand can be added to soil for tomato plants, eggplants, peppers, and all types of berries. It can also be used for most flowers and house plants.
Greensand should only be used in smaller amounts for other plants as it can damage them.
Sulfate of potash (SOP) is most effective on flowers and houseplants. It should only be used in small amounts as it can burn the roots of some plants.
Bone Meal: Bone meal comes from animal bones that have been cooked down to a pulp. It is high in phosphorous and can be used for most plants.
Blood Meal: Blood meal is made from dehydrated animal blood. It is high in nitrogen.
Manure and Urine: Liquid manure is made from animal manure that has been liquified and strained. It contains all the necessary nutrients for plants and can be used to condition soil or to apply directly to plants.
Solid manure should not be used as a fertilizer unless it has first been composted.
Liquid Manure: Urine contains all the ingredients plants need to grow and can be used directly on plant roots. This is considered one of the most efficient ways to recycle plant waste and it’s free!
Dairy, Beef, and Sheep Manure: These manures are good for improving soil or for direct application. They must be composted before use.
Most store bought chemical fertilizers do not contain all the trace elements that plants need. If you are growing your plants using chemical fertilizers you may need to add a trace element supplement every few weeks.
The best and cheapest supplement is ordinary rock dust. It can be used for most, but not all plants.
Types of Chemical Fertilizers: Some common types of chemical fertilizers include:
Blood & Bone Meal: Blood and Bone meals are high in nitrogen. They can be used for most plants and should be added at the beginning of the growth cycle.
Cottonseed Meal: This meal is high in phosphorous. It can be used for most plants and best if added at the beginning of the growth cycle.
Bone Black: Bone black is made from animal bones that have been charred. It is high in phosphate and makes a good additive to soil because it helps keep the pH stable.
It should be mixed with sand or soil and added at the beginning of the growth cycle.
Green Sand: Green sand is high in potash and makes a good slow-release fertilizer for plant roots. It should be mixed with sand or soil and should only be used when transplanting because it takes a long time to break down.
It should not be used when first starting a garden because it can disturb the beneficial bacteria in the soil.
Sulfate of Potash: Sulfate of potash is made from wood ashes and seaweed. It can burn plant roots if it’s too concentrated, so it should only be mixed with soil to make it weaker.
It should be added at the beginning of the growth cycle.
Liquid Manure: This is made from liquified animal manure. It can be used for direct application to roots or it can be mixed with soil.
Mushroom Compost: This is made from composted manure and rotting plants. It can be slow releasing fertilizer, but it is best mixed with soil because it can damage plant roots if used straight.
Blood & Bone Meal: This is made from the ground up bones and dried or liquified animal blood. It is high in nitrogen and best mixed with soil rather than used straight.
Seaweed Extract: This is made from seaweed that has been extracted with water. It can be used as a slow-release fertilizer or as a nutrient additive.
It must be used straight and should not be mixed with soil.
Sewage Sludge: This is made from waste water that has been treated and solidified into a block. It can be used as a slow-release fertilizer or as an additive to soil.
It should not be used straight and should not be used as a growing medium because it tends to get very hot during the summer.
Liquid Fertilizer: These are usually created by mixing together two or more ingredients that are high in nitrogen like animal manure. They can be used as a direct application fertilizer, but they can burn plant roots if the mixture is too strong, so it is best to mix them with soil.
Seeds are an essential ingredient to growing plants from seeds rather than cuttings. If you don’t have seeds, then you don’t have anything!
Here are some of the more common seeds used for agriculture:
A common garden bean that grows in a vine that can be Vine Maple or any other kind of wood. It bears yellow flowers that form into pods with a few beans inside.
Sources & references used in this article:
… Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System: Compost Food Waste, Produce Fertilizer for Houseplants and Garden, and Educate Your … by M Appelhof, J Olszewski – 2017 – books.google.com
Approach to biomass production of the marine microalga Tetraselmis suecica (Kylin) Butch using common garden fertilizer and soil extract as cheap nutrient supply in … by J Fabregas, L Toribio, J Abalde, B Cabezas… – Aquacultural …, 1987 – Elsevier
Preventing pollution problems from lawn and garden fertilizers by CJ Rosen, BP Horgan – 2005 – conservancy.umn.edu
Nitrogen fertilizer use in China–Contributions to food production, impacts on the environment and best management strategies by ZL Zhu, DL Chen – Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems, 2002 – Springer
Fertilizing the Vegetable Garden by D Relf, A McDaniel, SJ Donohue – 2009 – vtechworks.lib.vt.edu
Test of fertilizer-applying in arid hillside jujube close planting garden by Z Yuming – JOURNAL-NORTHEAST FORESTRY UNIVERSITY …, 2001 – en.cnki.com.cn
Garden Fertilizers as a Source of Salmonellae. by MC Timbury, WC Forsyth, JS Stevenson – Lancet, 1966 – cabdirect.org