Every gardener knows how much fertilizer can mean the difference between low producing and high yield crops from their garden every season. But fertilizer can be overwhelming, especially when you are a novice gardener. What is even in fertilizers? Which fertilizer is best for your garden? Can you grow carrots in horse manure?
No, you should not grow carrots in horse manure. Manure is high in nitrogen which is not ideal for growing carrots and other root vegetables. Since you grow carrots for their roots, avoid nitrogen-rich fertilizers and opt for a fertilizer with a high level of potassium, which helps nourish the roots.
Nitrogen-rich fertilizer is ideal for spinach and other vegetables you grow for their leaves because horse manure and other nitrogen-rich fertilizers provide wonderful nutrition for leaves.
Since you grow carrots for their roots, avoid nitrogen-rich fertilizers and opt for a fertilizer with a high level of potassium, which helps nourish the roots. Read on to learn more about fertilizers you would use in a garden, the chemical makeup of fertilizers, how much fertilizer your plants need, and how to apply fertilizer properly.
What Is In Fertilizers
All plants need 17 nutrients to grow and thrive. The plant gets 14 of these nutrients from the soil they are planted in and the remaining 3 from air or water. Of these 17 nutrients, scientists have discovered that nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, or the Big Three, are the most vital nutrients. Thus, most fertilizers contain a mixture of all three. But what do nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium do for plants anyway?
Nitrogen is responsible for helping the plants create protein structures within themselves, and it is considered the most important nutrient for all growing plants. Nitrogen makes the vegetables we eat from the plants healthy and nutritious. A plant deficient in nitrogen will begin to yellow and fall apart.
Phosphorus helps the plant store energy and aids in photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is when the plant takes the sun’s energy and turns it into sugar to be stored within the plant. The plant then uses that for energy to grow, repair, and produce fruit!
Potassium helps create a healthy and robust root system. When a plant has a good amount of potassium, it is well shielded against the cold and may survive a random frost. Potassium also helps plants resist diseases! All-in-all potassium aids in increasing a plant’s yield, providing more produce for you!
Which Fertilizer Is Best For Your Garden
Now that you know what is in fertilizer, you probably wonder what fertilizer is best for your garden. Choosing which fertilizer to purchase requires you to understand a few things. You need to know the difference between organic and inorganic fertilizers, how to read fertilizer packages at the store, and which fertilizer you should use in your garden.
Organic Vs. Inorganic Fertilizer
There are two types of fertilizers: organic and inorganic. Organic fertilizers occur naturally, and they include animal manures and compost. Inorganic fertilizers are manmade and are usually higher in nutrients than organic fertilizers.
Choosing Your Fertilizer at the Store
When you go to the garden center of your local store, you will see a plethora of options for you to choose from. Most gardeners choose an inorganic combination of all three of the Big Three nutrients. When buying a bag of fertilizer, you will see three numbers. These numbers are the amount of each of these nutrients and are always in the same order. A 100-pound bag listed as 10-20-10 has 10 pounds of nitrogen, 20 pounds of phosphorus, and 10 pounds of potassium in the 100-pound bag. The other 60 pounds inside the bag is filler made of perlite, sand, or other husks.
Which Fertilizer Should I Use in my Garden
When purchasing fertilizer for your garden, you can usually get by with using a complete fertilizer. These have twice as much phosphorus as potassium and nitrogen. The numbers on these bags will read either 10-20-10 or 12-24-12. Complete fertilizers are easy to find and can be applied to most gardens. Never use a grass fertilizer in your vegetable garden, as these fertilizers have too much nitrogen and will damage or even kill your vegetables. If you grow a specific vegetable, like tomatoes, you can get a fertilizer made especially for tomatoes. This can get expensive if you grow many different types of vegetables, so do not feel like you need to get the specialty fertilizers.
How Often Do I Fertilize My Plants
The general rule of *green* thumb is to fertilize mature plants every two weeks after they have been transferred to their final home, whether in-ground or in a pot. Vegetables are considered either heavy, medium, or light feeders. This refers to how often they like to be fertilized.
Heavy feeders are the types of vegetables that continuously produce a lot of yield throughout the season—these plants like a more aggressive fertilizing regime. Read the instructions properly on whichever fertilizer you choose, as they will state how often you can apply the fertilizer without damaging the plants. Below find a list of heavy-feeding vegetable plants.
- Broccoli and Brussels sprouts
- Cantaloupe and Watermelon
Medium-feeding vegetables are still hungry and require a lot of nutrients, but not as much as the quick growing and heavy producing heavy feeders need. Avoid using organic fertilizers with these plants as they can be heavy in nitrogen, damaging the root vegetables. Below, find a list of medium-feeding vegetables.
- Pole beans
- Sweet potatoes
Light feeders generally only require one fertilizer feeding at the beginning of the season. Talk about simple! Below, find a list of light-feeding vegetables.
- Bush beans
- Mustard greens
- Southern peas
How Do I Know If My Soil Needs Fertilizer
Experienced gardeners know the importance of getting their soil tested every few years. This process allows you to know your soil’s exact chemical and nutrient makeup. This will give you better insight into which fertilizer is right for you and your garden. If your soil is already rich in potassium, you would not need a fertilizer with a large amount of that nutrient. Too much of any nutrient can cause harm or even kill your plants.
How Do I Apply Fertilizer
Fertilizer comes in either liquid or solid forms. Liquid fertilizers need to be mixed with water and sprayed onto the soil around your plants. Be careful not to get too much fertilizer mixture on your plant’s leaves. Solid fertilizer can be dispensed through a handheld or push spreader. Most solid fertilizers do not need to be mixed with anything as they come premixed with perlite, sand, or other materials. Be sure to read the instructions on the fertilizer package for exact measurements and instructions, as too much fertilizer can kill your plants.
Choosing fertilizer for your garden does not have to be complicated or mysterious. Now that you know the difference between organic and inorganic fertilizers, the Big Three nutrients found in complete fertilizers, and which vegetables are heavy, medium, or light feeders, you can fertilize in complete confidence! Your garden will be happy and thriving with the proper nutrition. Soon, you will be enjoying the tremendous yield of your vegetable garden.
Hi there, my name is Allie and welcome to my blog; GareningWithAllie!
Much of what you see written here is just our personal experiences with gardening. Along with the content I write here, there is also a unique collection of gardening topics covered by some of our close friends. I hope you find everything you read here to be helpful, informative, and something that can make your gardening journey the most lovely experience ever! With that said, Happy Gardening!