Fertilizer affects the growth and health of plants. Too much fertilizer can be as detrimental as not enough. Fertilizer is a combination of minerals that feed plants. As with other living things, plants need food to flourish. Although, there are small amounts of minerals in fertilizer, the three larger, basic ones are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
Fertilizer labels usually have three numbers on the package, reading something like 10-10-10. This formula would be equal parts of the three main minerals, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), always in that order. Each mineral has a different growing affect on plants.
Nitrogen assists plants in processing carbohydrates to build new tissue. It helps them to make proteins that are passed on to animals and humans who eat the plants. Phosphorus helps in the photosynthesis process (produces oxygen and sugar) , provides energy and helps with the breathing process. Potassium controls the flow and absorption of moisture in the plant. It assists the plant in metabolizing it's food.
A lack of nitrogen in the plant's soil affects the growth, as the stems will be spindly and the entire growth is stunted. Leaves turn yellow. Less than adequate phosphorus lessens the plant's ability to produce fruit, flowers and seeds. Too little potassium produces underdeveloped roots and stems. The plant cannot use water sufficiently. It cannot fight against adverse situations, such as pests and cold weather.
Too much nitrogen in the soil will produce a plant that is very leafy, but hardly seems strong enough to maintain an upright stance. Unhealthy plants are less pest- and disease-resistant. It's difficult to give a plant too much phosphorus, as it is so depleted in today's soil. Plus, it is easily lost through watering and rainfall. Plants lacking potassium, also, do not have proper root or stem growth. Remember that potassium helps move the water in the plant's system. Without water, the plant will have difficulty with every aspect of growth.
The first step in determining how much fertilizer, and what type, your plants need is to purchase a pH soil tester at your local garden center. This tester is easy to use. It will tell you the current condition of your soil. Next, educate yourself, through the internet, garden books or classes, on the nutrient needs of the plants you wish to grow. Then configure the amount of each nutrient your soil needs to accomplish the ideal soil for the plant.
- IFA: What are Fertilizers
- Soil Science Education: How Does Your Garden Grow
fertilizer effects, plant fertilizer, nitrogen