What dose Fertilizer Do?

Fertilizing your garden can make a big difference in how it turns out. This is going to be a 3 part postings this first post will be about Nitrogen Fertilizer and a general overview of fertilizing.My view of fertilizing is that it should only be done when necessary. If you continuously add organic matter to your garden soil multiple times a year, eventually your soil will be so fertile, that you will no longer need fertilizer. But this takes time to get your soil to this point. So in the mean time, especially if you are starting out, it is a good idea to fertilize your garden plants. When planting most of the garden plants in the spring, take a handful of fertilizer and throw it in the hole a little deeper than the plant will be placed so that after the plant gets established it can get a boost from the fertilizer. Getting your plants started off right and growing well before the summer heat sets in is always a great idea.

Fertilizer comes with 3 macro nutrients: N-Nitrogen, P-Phosphorus, K-Potassium. The numbers associated with the nutrients are percentages included in the container of fertilizer you are buying. So a 16-16-16 would be considered an even fertilizer with all the macro nutrients being the same amount. You can also get many different variations from the fertilizer only including Nitrogen: 20-0-0 or even two macro nutrients like 20-5-0 which would be 20 percent nitrogen, 5 percent phosphorus, and 0 percent Potassium. There are many different variations and it is always a good idea to follow the directions given on the container of fertilizer so that you do not over fertilize and “burn” the plants you are trying to help.

So what dose the nitrogen do for your plant? Why is it included in fertilizers? Nitrogen helps plants to develop the green leafy parts of their plants. But it dose very little to encourage fruit and flower production. In fact, if a vegetable plant is given too much nitrogen, it can cause the plant to mostly produce the leafy part, and little to none of the fruit. Nitrogen helps to encourage the plant to grow vigorously. You might notice this most, the week or so after fertilizing your lawn that it will need to be mowed an extra time that week, and will look green and lush. That is the nitrogen hard at work.
Nitrogen is quite easily washed through the soil, and usually doesn’t linger very long. This can be a problem when nitrogen is used too much and is washed into the water supplies. It is actually considered a pollutant at this point.

With vegetable gardens, it is good to be cautious when using nitrogen fertilizer in your garden. You can learn more about fertilizer on Wikipedia. Watch for the next article about Phosphorus. Until next time, Happy Gardening!
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