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  • Writer's pictureKirk Harris



If you’re new to the world of lawn care or gardening, choosing the right fertilizer can be an intimidating task. With so many different options out there, it's hard to know which fertilizer is best suited for your specific needs. So what nutrients do fertilizers normally contain and how can you know which fertilizer is the right one for you?

Understanding Fertilizer Components

Understanding the common components of fertilizers is crucial if you want to determine which fertilizer will work best.

Fertilizers are typically composed of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). These three primary macronutrients are referred to as NPK and their ratios can vary widely depending on the specific brand and type of fertilizer.

Nitrogen (N)

Nitrogen is essential for promoting the healthy growth of all plants, and it's a key component of chlorophyll which gives grass and leaves their green color and is vital to the process of photosynthesis. Nitrogen easily travels with water and can be washed away. A lack of sufficient nitrogen can cause a plant’s growth to be stunted and grass and leaves to turn yellow and pale.

Phosphorus (P)

Phosphorus is important for facilitating strong root development which is crucial to the overall health and longevity of a plant. Phosphorus also helps in the proper development of flowers and fruit.

Potassium (K)

Potassium is critical in allowing grass and other plants to tolerate stress and resist disease, in addition to helping regulate water uptake and movement of important nutrients within a plant.

Other Fertilizer Components

In addition to those three primary macronutrients, most fertilizers also contain a variety of additional macronutrients like calcium, magnesium, and sulfur, as well as micronutrients like iron, zinc, and manganese.

These additional nutrients, often called trace elements, are just as important to the health of your lawn and garden as NPK, but they are required in much smaller doses.

How to Choose the Right Fertilizer

When choosing the right fertilizer, it's important to consider the specific needs of the plants you are trying to grow. For example, the best fertilizers for most types of grass have balanced levels of NPK, while leafy vegetables require a fertilizer with a higher nitrogen content and flowering plants need a fertilizer with a higher ratio of phosphorus.

You can test your soil to see exactly which nutrients your soil is lacking. Knowing exactly which nutrients your soil needs allows you to make a more educated decision about what type of fertilizer is best for your specific situation.

Fertilizers come in both granular and liquid form with granular fertilizers being applied dry and watered in and liquid fertilizers needing to be applied with a hose-end sprayer.

Another thing to consider is whether you want to use synthetic or organic fertilizer. Both types have their advantages but organic fertilizers tend to be better at promoting long-term soil and plant health while synthetic ones often provide more instant, but often less sustainable results.

In general, if you are laying new sod or want to maintain a lush, healthy, green lawn, using a slow-release fertilizer that will gradually release nutrients over an extended period of time is the best option, but if you are choosing a fertilizer for your garden it will entirely depend on the types of plants you are trying to grow.

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