There are 6 primary nutrients that plants need: oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, phosphate and potassium. Oxygen (from water and air), carbon (from carbon dioxide in the air) and hydrogen (from water) occur naturally. Nitrogen is necessary for plants and lawns to produce protein, which feeds new tissue. Because nitrogen can be scarce, plants will suck up as much as they can, to the detriment of other nutrients. Growth may be stunted as a result, even if foliage grows, the plant may not bear fruit or flowers. Phosphorous is essential to stimulate the growth of the roots. This, in turn, allows the plant to grow buds. A soil of 6.5 to 6.8 pH is necessary for plants to be healthy. This is where our free soil testing becomes a critical element. Potassium helps the overall health of the plant. It then makes carbohydrates, which can protect them from disease.
Plants and laws also need sulfur, magnesium, and calcium. Without magnesium, plants can’t process sunlight. Calcium is needed in cell membranes, to prompt growth and to neutralize toxins. Soil structure is improved by calcium. It binds particles together. There are 7 micronutrients that plants and lawns need, but in small amounts: manganese chlorine, zinc, copper, iron, boron, and molybdenum.
All fertilizers fall into two categories, organic and synthetic. Organic is simply material occurring naturally, usually made of manure, biodegraded bones and plant meal. Synthetic is man mixed from raw ingredients occurring naturally. Organic is not water-soluble, and there is slowly absorbed over time. Synthetic is water-soluble and is there fast absorbing. Because of this high absorption rate, your lawn and plants can be harmed by too much synthetic fertilizer. Adding too much can cause runoff and contaminate the drinking supply if you are on a well water system.
Plants can absorb nutrients much more efficiently (8-20 times more) through their leaves. Spraying can yield more flowers, fruits and vegetables. A good time to spray nutrients would be after transplanting, or just prior to growth season.
As mentioned earlier, pH plays a significant role. It affects the absorption of the nutrients. Most plants prefer a pH pf 6.0-7.0. The trick is to try to slowly change PH over time (1-2 years), so as not to shock your lawn or plants, or prevent absorption of nutrients. Aluminum sulfate and sulfur lower pH, while potash and lime raise it. If you attempt to maintain a steady pH at 6.5, adjustments up or down incrementally become easier and take less time.
Each bag of fertilizer lists the amounts of each macronutrient on the front of the bag. This is called the N-P-K ratio for Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and potassium (K). The numbers are ratios, adjusted by weight, that would be found in a 100-pound bag. The number is the percentage by weight. So if the first number is 10, then it is 10% nitrogen. Nitrogen fertilizers come in two types, fast release and slow release. Fast release is water-soluble and can cause a lawn to grow fast, but also carries a risk of burning it. Slow-release has more uniform growth but is more expensive. The recommended amount of nitrogen is one pound for 1,000 square feet of lawn. Too much nitrogen can cause too much top growth leading to a weaker root system, while not enough can lead to yellow patches of dead grass.
Phosphorus aids in photosynthesis, storing and using energy as well as converting other nutrients. It is crucial for root development in both plants and lawns.
Potassium strengthens root systems. It offers protection from heat and cold. It protects plants from wilting, adds protein while strengthening stems. Potassium is crucial to water regulation. It aids water intake and prevents loss. A lack of potassium in plants can lead to yellow and brown edges in the leaves, weak roots an increase in pests and uneven fruit ripening. There are four classifications of potassium: unavailable, fixed/slowly available, exchangeable/readily available and soil solution. Unavailable is insoluble but eventually breaks. Down over time. Fixed is slowly available. Exchangeable is easily absorbed, it is what soil testing measures. Soil solution is already dissolved and readily available. Oxygen level, soil temperature, and moisture all affect potassium. The best way to increase potassium uptake is to till the soil.