What Makes Plant Food Work?

Overview

Plant food is made of several macro and micronutrients that all plant life needs to survive. Different formulations are available for different types of plants. When applied at recommended rates and intervals, necessary nutrients are absorbed by plants, making them healthier and stronger than they would be on their own.

Function

Plant food, or fertilizer, provides vital nutrients to plants in a form that they can easily absorb. These nutrients can be isolated and reassembled in exact amounts by both organic and conventional means.

Types

The three most important nutrients (called macronutrients) for all plant life are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK). Plant foods usually list their NPK levels in very large print on their packaging for easy decision making by gardeners. Micronutrients that are necessary for plant growth are calcium, magnesium and sulfur. Additional nutrients (including boron, copper, molybdenum and zinc) are present in trace amounts. Plant food manufacturers may label certain mixes of all these nutrients as better for certain plant types. Tomatoes prefer one formulation, while other plants prefer other formulations for best growth.

Time Frame

Plant food formulations must be reapplied at rates designated by manufacturers for best results. Each formulation is designed to be absorbed into the soil and into plants over a certain period of time, which varies by plant and food formulation. Failure to reapply may lead to negative effects on plants, such as poor growth and poor resistance to diseases and pest insect threats.

Misconceptions

Plant food is good for plants when administered in recommended amounts and by recommended application methods. Application of more than the recommended amount is not better for the plants; in fact, it can actually be quite detrimental. Excess amounts of nutrients can burn fragile root systems and plants, weakening plants and making them less resistant to insect pests and diseases. Similarly, plant food should also not be underapplied. Applying it once will be helpful for a short period of time, but it should be applied on the schedule recommended by the manufacturer for best results.

Benefits

Benefits of plant food include strong, healthy, vigorous plant growth. Additional benefits include bigger blooms and fruits, as well as stronger resistance to disease and harmful insects. As a result, plants often need fewer pesticides.

Keywords: plant food information, plant food nutrients, plant fertilizer benefits

About this Author

Amrita Chuasiriporn is a professional cook, baker, and writer. In addition to cooking and baking for a living, Chuasiriporn has written for several online publications. These include Chef's Blade, CraftyCrafty, and others. Additionally, Chuasiriporn is a regular contributor to online automotive enthusiast publication CarEnvy.ca. Chuasiriporn holds an A.A.S. in culinary arts, as well as a B.A. in Spanish language and literature.