Artificial fertilizers are those products that use chemical compounds to synthetically mimic natural minerals and elements found in the soil for optimal plant growth. Synthetic fertilizers tend to have higher and faster acting doses than the similar compounds found naturally occurring in soil or organic fertilizers so they are used sparingly according to recommended doses. Artificial fertilizers come in a range of forms from liquids, to water soluble granules to slow-release coated granules. All artificial fertilizers are sold with a three-number guaranteed analysis (such as 10-10-10) that represents the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium respectively.
This is the most common form of artificial fertilizer and is produced in a broad range of formulations and specialty blends such as those for fruit trees, indoor plants, flowering plants, palms, lawn grass and acid-loving plants. It typically comes in granular or crystalline form that is dissolved by water and is deposited on top of the soil or into the planting soil and then watered in. These typically require regular or repeated applications throughout the growing season. An example of this type of fertilizer is MiracleGro.
Slow-release fertilizers are similar formulations to fast-acting fertilizers but the active ingredients are manufactured with coatings that do not dissolve immediately upon contact with water. Slow-release fertilizers degrade gradually over a period of three to six months. They also prevent plants from being burned chemically by fast-acting fertilizers, which also makes them attractive formulas. An example of this type of synthetic formulation is Osmacote.
Used primarily in commercial agriculture gas fertilizers also exist. The most widely used is anhydrous ammonia, which is kept in storage as a compressed liquid under pressure but turns to a gas when released from pressure. It binds with moisture in the soil to form ions that adhere in the soil. Anhydrous ammonia is the most nitrogen-rich fertilizer on the market.