Picking a Garden Fertilizer

To grow a healthy plant healthy growing conditions are important. Sometimes all a plant needs is watering at the appropriate times. Often, you have to give the plant more and that is where fertilizers can be useful. Fertilizers provide extra nutrients that may not be readily available in the soil. There are many types of fertilizers available for gardeners to choose and it is important to match the fertilizer with the type of plant you are growing. Every plant has different needs and to maximize the growing potential you need to customize the garden fertilizer you choose!

What is NPK?

NPK stands for Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. These are the three main nutrients plants need but they are not the only ones necessary for good plant growth. Calcium, magnesium, and many other micronutrients also help plants to grow properly. A plant with a good balance of nutrition has good cell growth and is better able to resist diseases.

  • Nitrogen – Useful for foliage growth. Too much can result in lots of foliage growth but little flowering or fruiting.
  • Phosphorus – Used by plants for root production, flower production, and the general metabolism of the plant.
  • Potassium – Helps with the movement of water, carbohydrates, and nutrients through plant tissue. (See Potassium for Crop Production)


The Advantage of Organic Fertilizers

I always choose organic fertilizers for my garden. They have lower NPK ratios in general which lowers the risk of putting too much fertilizer on the plant. Synthetic fertilizers may have salts that negatively impact the soil if used often. Organic fertilizers provide the soil with slow release nutrients which is better for the plants. The plants do not become dependent on the instant transfer of nutrients as they do with synthetic fertilizers. Also organic fertilizers contain the essential miconutrients that many synthetics do not have.

When in Doubt – COMPOST!

Compost is by far my favorite fertilizer/additive for good garden soil. It’s tough to beat the natural processes found in the composting process. Sometimes though we don’t have enough compost or nutrition to provide for our plants which is where organic garden fertilizers can help. Finished compost contains nutrients as well as micorogranisms which help convert the nutrients in the soil into forms usable by the plants.

tomatoes on the vine

Which Garden Fertilizer should you Choose?

Every plant is different and has different needs so it is important to do you research before buying a specific fertilizer. Find out what the proper NPK ration should be for growing what you are intending to grow. A plant like tomatoes which is grown for it’s fruit will have different needs than a kale which is grown for its foliage.

As far as a fertilizer brand goes I tend to purchase either Jobe’s Organic or Espoma Garden Tone(Amazon Affiliate Link). Both are organic fertilizers and they have several different lines appropriate for various types of plants. I’ve had great results with both fertilizers on my seedlings.

Just be sure to use the appropriate fertilizer in the correct amounts for your plants. Remember too much nitrogen can cause too much foliar growth on your plants which would be detrimental to fruiting or flowering.


Dave’s Garden Fertilizer Recommendation

Compost everything you can and topdress your plants with it. Work it into the soil with a hand cultivator or a trowel. Also use an organic fertilizer to provide the extra nutrition your plants need. The combination of compost and organic fertilizers nourishes your soil and encourages a healthy environment!