Early spring is the desired time to start spreading fertilizers to your garden’s plants and trees. Fertilizing helps return certain key nutrients back into your soil. A complete fertilizer is one that offers nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous, a typical blend that offers a well rounded nutrients coverage is Harrel’s 14-14-14 (nitrogen - phosphorous - potassium) that we use on site at Flint Hill Landscape Supply. If it's not apparent to you on what nutrients you are missing, a soil test can easily tell. Soil tests can be found at your local home and garden stores or can be administered by most landscaping companies. You have your soil tested and you know your soil needs certain nutrients but what type of fertilizer you use is going to depend on environmental and lifestyle variables.

The three nutrients phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium are needed in the greatest amounts for plant productivity. Fertilizers can come in many strengths and variations, organic or inorganic.

Processed Quick-Release Fertilizers

In order to make more concentrated fertilizers, material is refined from natural ingredients such as rock phosphate or greensand. Other names for processed fertilizers are conventional, chemical, or inorganic.

An advantage to processed quick release is its nutrients are readily available to a plant. It’s easier to use than most organic fertilizers that can be bulky and hard to handle. Costs are typically low per nutrient.

Processed Slow-Release Fertilizers

Processed slow release fertilizers have been sulfur-coated or encapsulated in order to create the slow release factor. Costs are typically not as high as organic fertilizers and low as processed quick releases. With it being encapsulated makes it dependent on environmental variables. If no weathering process has occurred to the fertilizer it won’t release the nutrients when needed and may continue to fertilize into fall and stimulate late growth.  Slow release presents a benefit to the low maintenance gardener; you may only need to spread once each season v. multiple applications using quick release.

Organic fertilizer

Fewer applications are needed with organic fertilizers because of their slow releasing qualities. With these qualities fertilizer burn is less likely. Organic fertilizer replenishes the soil with organic matter, this improves water retention at a manageable level. If purchased from a landscape supply or garden center, it can be costly. On the other hand, if you live on a cattle farm it can be completely inexpensive. Although, you have to consider certain risks like disease, weeds, and pollution in organic material such as manure. Organic fertilizer like manure needs worked into your ground in fall to help control disease and pests. If you work it in around your plants especially close to growing season it can increase risk for fertilizer burn.

Many soils contain the right amount of nutrients if properly cared for. When fertilizing, it is important to understand why you’re fertilizing. Again, the only accurate testing for measuring soil’s nutrients is through soil tests.

Fertilizer is a salt but not like the salt on our table, it has the same quality that can draw water. Placing it to close to roots can pull water from the roots and this is the cause for fertilizer burn.

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