Fertilizing Basics [Video for Exmark]
Okay, truth be told I had hoped to get this post on fertilizing basics … Fertilizing 101 … out a month or so ago when it would have been more timely. But it’s amazing how a teensy kidney stone can put a kibosh on the best laid plans. Sorry about that…but without further ado…
Why is it so important to fertilize?
We all know that it’s largely our lawns, trees, and shrubs that help create the perfect outdoor living space. Right? But you may not fully understand how important it is to properly, and routinely, fertilize them to help them look their best.
With that, once again I teamed up with Exmark — the lawn mower manufacturer of all lawn mower manufacturers, to do another ‘Done-in-a-Weekend’ video. On it l discuss the benefits of and science behind properly fertilizing your lawn, plants, and shrubs. I even explain what those potentially confusing numbers and letters are on every bag of fertilizer.
If fertilizing is something you want to learn more about…either check out the video below or keep reading. Or heck, do both!
Just like multi-vitamins supplement the food we eat, fertilizer provides grasses, plants, and trees —particularly those not planted in compost-rich soil — with a vital nutritional boost. On the flip side, even plants planted in great soil may eventually absorb and deplete the essential nutrients; and therefore, may need to be fertilized as well.
At the root of everything it’s important to understand that all plants require six essential nutrients: oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen…that come from above-ground through air and water; and then nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium…that are provided by the soil they’re living in. This is where those potentially vexing numbers and letters come into play.
Every bag of fertilizer has three numbers separated by dashes emblazoned on it. These represent the three nutrients that your plants rely on their soil to provide: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Always in that order, by the way.
Not wanting to go all Chemistry 101 on you, simply know that the bigger the number, the more of that element or nutrient there is. So, for instance, in a bag of fertilizer labeled 11-7-7— 11% is nitrogen, 7% phosphorus, and 7% potassium. The remaining 75% is made up of inert fillers.
Now don’t feel slighted by the words ‘inert’ and ‘fillers’ – as the clay and limestone being referred to here actually help properly distribute the Ns, Ps, & Ks to help prevent chemical burn that could potentially occur without them.
So, what exactly do the Ns, Ps, & Ks do?
Now that you have a better grasp on what the numbers and letters stand for, below you’ll find a quick run-down as to why these nutrients are important for your plants’ health.
- Nitrogen fosters leaf and vegetation development.
- Phosphorus aids in root development and is responsible for flower and fruit production.
- Potassium helps roots regulate water and move nutrients to plant cells properly, as well as promotes disease resistance.
Clear as mud? Well it probably is…especially when you’re standing in the fertilizer aisle looking at the dizzying array of fertilizers to choose from and combinations of numbers that there are!
But it’s really not that complicated. Think of it this way – just like people need different vitamins and nutrients depending on their age, illness, or other health factors to help them remain healthy…plants also need varying proportions of nutrients based on their unique circumstances. That said…
- Choose an all-purpose fertilizer — one with equal parts N, P and K — if overall plant growth is your primary objective.
- Pick a fertilizer with a higher first number — or nitrogen proportion — to promote lush, green growth. Most grass fertilizers will have a greater percentage of nitrogen.
- If root growth or fruit & flower production is what you’re looking for, go with a fertilizer high in phosphorus — one with a higher middle number.
- Finally, use phosphorus & potassium-rich fertilizers — those with higher second and third numbers — to winterize your plants and ward off diseases.
As I did on the video with Exmark, I’m going to wrap things up here with a few key pointers for fertilizing your plants and lawn.
- For both the safety & health of your plants, always read the label before using any fertilizer…and for your safety, wear the appropriate clothing and protective gear.
- Resist the urge to fertilize newly planted grasses or plants until they’ve grown for a full year. If you do, you’ll run the risk of burning their root system.
- More is NOT better where fertilizing your plants is concerned. Over-fertilization could lead to burnt root systems and possible soil toxicity. Neither good.
- Always distribute granular fertilizer at the plant’s root zone. This area is also where water generally drops from the outer leaves and will direct the fertilizer where it’s most needed…to its roots.
- Always water in dry fertilizer. This will activate the fertilizer, as well as mitigate the chances of root burn.
- As to when to fertilize:
- Fertilize perennials and vegetables in early spring, just before or as new shoots begin to emerge.
- Lawns, trees, and shrubs should be fertilized in early spring, then again in early fall.
- Annuals like to be nourished in their respective growing seasons.
Alright, I’m done. Hopefully this post on fertilizing basics & the video above have both clarified some of the mystery behind fertilizing all the green and colorful beauties that make up your outdoor living spaces, but have also equipped you with some helpful information too.
And if you’ve missed any of the posts I’ve done for the other Exmark ‘Done-in-a-Weekend’ projects, be sure to check them out on RYGblog (the links should be below) or you can find all of the videos in one place at WeAreExmark.com or on Exmark’s YouTube channel.
Thanks friends…and I hope you have a great rest of your week and weekend.
Take care & happy fertilizing,
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