Plant Growth With Fertilizer

Overview

Like other forms of life, plants require certain nutrients to survive and grow. While many of these nutrients exist naturally in various types of soils, adding these in the form of fertilizers ensures adequate amounts for quality growth. Fertilization requirements depend on the types of plants you grow, as well as the existing soil composition. Proper fertilization provides missing nutrients in poor soils and also enriches and replaces nutrients in depleted soils, creating a healthy environment for continued growth.

Mineral Nutrients

Thirteen mineral nutrients come from the soil. Plants draw these nutrients into their tissues through root systems. Commercial fertilizers often contain varying amounts of the primary nutrients. Plants use large amounts of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), often depleting the soil of these nutrients. Nitrogen helps your plants produce leafy, vegetative growth, while phosphorus encourages strong roots and potassium helps your plants stand up to stress. Potassium also stimulates flower color. Fertilizers help to replace these primary nutrients, encouraging continued growth.

Non-Mineral Nutrients

Plants also require non-mineral nutrients, such as hydrogen (H), oxygen (O) and carbon (C). While fertilizers cannot provide these natural elements, supplying adequate amounts of mineral nutrients helps strengthen your plants, encouraging them to turn non-mineral nutrients into energy, a process known as photosynthesis.

Soil Testing

Soil types vary, depending on a variety of conditions. The texture of your soil, as well as its pH level, helps to determine how well your plants grow. A soil test gives you accurate information regarding the existing health of your soil. Test results also recommend soil additives and fertilizers to help with plant growth.

Soil Balance

Fertilizers also help to adjust the pH level of your garden soil. While some plants thrive in alkaline soils, others require acidic mediums to survive. Lime lessens soil acidity and supplies magnesium and calcium. Sulfur helps to lower the alkalinity of soil and encourages healthy growth and plant metabolism. Adjusting the pH level of your soil with fertilizers helps plants develop strong stems, abundant leaves and quality fruits.

Fertilization Practices

The type and timing of your fertilization depends on your soil, growing season and choice of plants. Applying a basic fertilizer during planting encourages sprouting and early establishment. Adding a nitrogen fertilizer when plants begin forming new stems, branches and leaves promotes abundant foliage. Applying a potassium fertilizer when flower buds begin forming encourages abundant blossoms and subsequent fruits.

Keywords: plant food, garden fertilizer, fertilize plants

About this Author

Piper Li, a professional freelance writer, began writing in 1989. Her articles appear in Modern Mom, Biz Mojo, Walden University and GardenGuides. She is the co-editor for "Kansas Women: Focus on Health." With a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Mesa State, Li enjoys writing about health, horticulture and business management.