Monday, June 20, 2011

Choosing the right fertilizer for the job?

I'll be the first to admit that I am an indecisive procrastinator, great combination hey! If there are to many choices then it can wait, its time to find something else that needs my immediate attention...ah yes, the weeds they need pulling, I'm good at that! Hence why I love to "potter" around in my garden so much! The feeling of still doing something without really doing anything, its great!

So as you can guess when it comes to fertilizer for my garden, I am completely lost! Overwhelmed to the point of not even doing it, yep that's where I am poor plants! The wall of choice is dizzying, honestly I am so confused by all the varieties....liquid, granular, slow-release, rose, perennial (what, will it hurt non-perennials?) organic, foliar and the list goes on. Not to mention throw some random numbers on the side of the box (lost again) and the promise to myself this year to go organic...its enough to make me run screaming from the garden department!

Agh...what, I know its trying to tell me something?

I just want to know what to feed my yellowing lawn and my plants that aren't as vibrant as they should be, in the most organic way if possible...HELP!

I am on a mission! Mission....stay and face the fertilizer!
It has to be done or my plants are really going to suffer. In the past we have used a gardening service who did all of this for us (I know cheating!) more recently I have used organic products like kelp-food and coffee grounds, but I really didn't see much change! Maybe I am doing it wrong? The thought of over fertilizing and burning my plants does scare me, I do lean on the side of caution, maybe they are not getting enough? We have had a very wet year, maybe the nutrients in the soil is being washed away to often? My goal this year was to change and be organic only, but not at the risk of losing my plants, I have accepted that this will be a process and a learning process at that. Now to figure out what my plants need....and to just DO IT!!

First, what is in fertilizer and what are all those numbers really trying to tell me? While on an hour long online hunt for some answers, I came across gazillions of articles all with their own facts and research, however none where as well written and as easy to follow as this brilliant article at the You must check it out and really it is all you need to read, my job is done...hehe!!

The post is full of great info on how to choose the right fertilizer for the right job, what they consist of, even a great table listing all the varieties and what you would use them for. Really this is a very thorough post, thank you Weekend Gardener!

Here is an excerpt that I will refer to often...
N = Nitrogen: Encourages plants to produce dark green leaves. This is the chief staple in the diet of most plants. Yellowing leaves means the plant isn't getting enough nitrogen from sources in the soil. But it only takes a little nitrogen to do the job, and if your goal is to set fruit or vegetables, you don't want to use excesses of nitrogen because you will only get overgrown plants and little to no fruit.

Nitrogen can leach quickly from the soil requiring frequent reapplication. Nitrogen applied in the nitrate form is usually inorganic, fast acting, but can leach quickly into surface and ground water. Nitrogen applied as ammonium is from organic sources (blood meal) and IBDU (isobutylidene diurea - a synthetic organic fertilizer) and is released more slowly and lasts longer in the soil.

P = Phosphorous: Stimulates root growth. All plants need it to get their root foundation off to a healthy and vigorous start so they can support all the growth on top, but root crops and bulbs especially need phosphorous to do well. Phosphorous and potassium don't move readily through the soil and should be applied near plant roots to do the most good.

K = Potassium: Is critical to the continuing health of all plants, especially during the second half of the life cycle in fruit and vegetables when the plants are setting flowers and bearing fruit. Potassium is often expressed as potash or water soluble potash. Potassium and phosphorous don't move readily through the soil and should be applied near plant roots to do the most good.

So please wish me luck! What I have learned, is that my yellowing lawn could really use a good dose of nitrogen so the first number is what I need the most of. I'm off to buy some Alfalfa meal to spread around my lawn and garden beds! Excited to give this organic, nitrogen rich fertilizer a try.  

Some other useful websites.... - Avoiding Fertilizer Burn - Applying Fertilizer


  1. Until I got to the end of your post, I was going to say something about alfalfa meal. My husband also uses a lot of bone meal and in the spring he uses Epsom salts (which is not really salt) .... And of course our excellent manure compost from a local dairy farm. It's all such a learning experience isn't it!!! Personally, I am happy to leave the chemistry up to him (a science major).

  2. I have almost always used organic fertilizers, some do work better then others. And for my garden I found a Canadian company called Rain Gro. I hope that they are still in business, since I am running out of the enormous jug I bought a while ago.

    It's great. Good luck, it can be a bit intimidating to find what works for your area. But you are well on the way to success.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  3. Good luck! And thanks for this info, I face similar questions myself with my vegetables, as some need more of one ingredient than the other.

  4. Hi Julia, The concept I learned in the Master Gardener classes was that going organic means feeding the SOIL which in turn will feed the plants. If you have healthy soil your plants that grow in it will be healthy. Inorganic fertilizers don't feed the soil. Great post, Julia!

  5. I agree with Grace. Feed the soil, not the plants. Well fed soil = compost compost COMPOST. Soil building is the only lasting solution to anemic plants. If you make much of the compost yourself, it will save you a fortune too. We'd go broke buying fertilizer, especially organic fertilizers. We augment our compost with poultry manures, or horse manure from the local stables (they give it away, tons of it, literally!). I'd also recommend a worm bin if you don't have one. Worm castings are probably more expensive than gold pound for pound, and do wonders for plants. Good luck!

  6. Compost is the best, no doubt. But I also use other carbon based products such as nutralene on turf. Its slow release by water and microbes. Theoretically organic fertilizer is carbon based, which feed the soil(microbes).

  7. It is hard to figure out what is best...we mostly use organic fertilizers, such as compost. Good luck and hope it all works out well.

  8. Oh I love that...feed the soil!! Thank you so much for that wonderful advice. I am excited to look more seriously into making my own compost (usually just by it) but its something I have thought about and even gone as far as pricing the bins in the past (see indecisive procrastination hits again!)
    @Kimmie, interesting about epsom salts, I had no ieda it wasnt a salt.
    @Muddy boots, I'm goin to check out Rain gro, you are the second person who has suggested it this week, its a sign ;)
    @Bumble, good luck with the veggie's, its scary what some people will put on their veg beds just to make them grow!
    @Grace...I LOVE IT! one of those pearls of wisdom I will refer to always!!
    @CFV, GREAT advice, I am loving this feed the soil concept!
    @Greggo, Thanks for the tips on Carbon, you sound like quite the scientist ;) I'll check out the Nutralene for the lawn.
    @Michelle, Thanks, I'm crossing my fingers here and am grateful for all this wonderful advice.

    I value all your opinions so much...thank you!!
    Huge hugs Julia..xx

  9. Hey Julia, I love all of the great advice you were given! I was told to use a compost/manure blend in the fall on my flower beds. I did last year and it's produced some fantastic blooms this year..ya know..when we have sun.

  10. Sounds like you're off to a great start! There is just so much to learn; it's great to have such wonderful resources in our gardening blog friends!

  11. Business people keep on piling up products to confuse some of us, gardeners :). For lawn, I go for NPK because it's easy to use. Dead leaves and grass chippings will add to the soil organic content

  12. I use loads of home made compost in my garden. We are totally chemical free. Liquid feeds are also made from comfrey and nettles which gives a perfect balanced feed for everything.

  13. I am as confused trying the organic way but have found some great organic lawn fertilizer...a local nursery is organic and had this so we tried it and loved it...
    Bradfield Organics®
    Luscious Lawn & Garden™ 3-1-5 Natural Fertilizer

    now the organic weeding is another thing..the clover is doing great growing all over ...ugghh

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Thanks for stopping by and reading my latest post! I love sharing my gardening adventures and reading your wonderful comments. Happy digging...Cheers Julia!!

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