Choosing the right fertilizer

Fertilizers have been used since ancient times to improve agricultural yields. They are mineral or organic materials used to improve the quality of the soil, correcting its deficiencies. Fertilizers are used in agriculture, horticulture, forestry and gardening activities. This guide will help you choose the right fertilizer by outlining key information such as composition, form and function.

 

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  • What are the different types of fertilizers ?

    In order to grow, plants need four vital elements: light, water, a substrate and nutrients. When soil has a nutrient deficiency, it is then necessary to fix this with fertilizers. To do so, it’s important to choose the right kind from the three that are available:

    • Organic fertilizers: This category of fertilizers comes from living matter: animals (horn, blood, manure, etc.) or plants (algae, etc.). They differ from mineral fertilizers in that they are not directly assimilable. They have a slow decomposition, which will provide plants with the nutrients they contain little by little over several months. This slow and progressive process significantly eliminates the risk of overdose.

     

    • Mineral fertilizers: These substances are produced in nature and can be exploited by mining the nautral deposits of certain rocks. However, most mineral fertilizers are chemically manufactured. These chemical fertilizers contain the primary nutrients nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Depending on their dosage, they can be more or less concentrated in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and thus meet the different nutritional needs of different plants.
    • Organo-mineral fertilizer: These are a mixture of mineral and organic fertilizers composed of mineral materials and a minimum of 25% of organic substances of animal or plant origin.
    ACRECIO - mineral fertilizer

    ACRECIO – Mineral fertilizer

  • Do you need a slow or a fast release fertilizer?

    • Organic fertilizers: These are slow to act because the nitrogen they contain must undergo a transformation, a decomposition in the soil, before being assimilated by the plant. This degradation depends on the raw materials in the fertilizer and on the microbial activity of the soil which requires a sufficient soil temperature. Organic fertilizer will therefore be ineffective on cold soil.
      Organic fertilizers are also much less concentrated in nutrients than mineral fertilizers, so three or four times more must be applied.
    • Mineral fertilizers can be divided into two main families. On one hand there are fast-acting mineral fertilizers for a boosting effect because they are immediately assimilated by the plant. The disadvantage to this type of fertilizer is that they must be carefully dosed, otherwise they can cause overdoses which can lead to disordered growth. On the other hand there are slow-release mineral fertilizers. These are fertilizers whose nutrients are recomposed to copy the form that exists naturally in the soil. The release of nutrients is controlled over time, regardless of the season and soil temperature.
    Bioenergy LT, UAB - Azofix Plus Fertilizer

    Bioenergy LT, UAB – Fertilizer

  • What's the purpose of each fertlizer component?

    Nitrogen (N) is mainly used to improve the quality of photosynthesis, which enables the development of stems and leaves. However, given the potential environmental impact, the objective is to use as little as possible according to needs, in order to leave only a minimum of nitrogen in the ground at harvest. Overdoses of nitrogen can also cause aphid attacks and unbalance plant growth.

    Phosphorus (P) plays an essential role in plants in the storage of energy and the development of cells. Phosphate fertilizers enhance flower production and promote fructification. Phosphorus is also essential for improving the formation of root systems and stem development.

    Potassium (K) is an element that gives plants better growth and above all better resistance to diseases, parasites, frost and drought.

  • How do you properly read fertilizer labels?

    Just  as there are different types of fertilizers, there are different ways the name can be written on the label. The fertilizer name can either be written as the ratio (e.g. 20-10-20), the nutrient (e.g. calcium nitrate) or the functional use of the fertilizer (e.g. for low light conditions).

    If the label shows the ratio, three figures will be in bold characters and separated by dashes. These digits represent the percentage, respectively, of total nitrogen, phosphate (P2O5) and potassium (K2O).

    For example, a 20-10-20 fertilizer contains 20% nitrogen, 10% phosphate and 20% potassium.

    The label may also indicate what water alkalinity level (low, moderate, medium and/or high) is best for the fertilizer.

     

    Suståne Natural Fertilizer Inc. - Organic fertilizer

    Suståne Natural Fertilizer Inc. – Organic fertilizer

  • How to choose the correct fertilizer for the season?

    • Before planting in autumn or winter, you will need to favor organic fertilizers, which will take time to decompose
    • When planting: A fertilizer rich in nitrogen and phosphorus should be selected to give all plants a good start. In terms of organic fertilizer, you should select blood powder, which will stimulate growth quickly, or a good compost or well decomposed manure. For chemical fertilizers, favor slow-release fertilizers.
    • During vegetation (from spring to summer), faster release fertilizers should be favored. It is therefore recommended to use mineral fertilizers.
    OCP - Mineral fertilizer

    OCP – Mineral fertilizer

  • How to choose the right fertilizer for specific plants

    The type of plants will also require certain fertilizers over other ones. Here, we’ll point to three specific plants that have particular needs: perennials, grass and potted plants.

    Perennial plants feed heavily on phosphorus in order to bloom abundantly, and require fertilizers rich in this mineral such as ones that use fish bone meal, bone meal and even guano. A supply of phosphor at the very beginning of spring will favor their start, while another in the summer will add to the beauty and generosity of the flowering. Perennials will also benefit from an additional supply in early fall.

    Grass, like all foliage plants, needs nitrogen all the time, but also phosphorus after sowing, in order to root well. When freshly mowed, a lawn is deprived of a certain amount of nutrients, which you will have to renew by fertilizing again.

    Potted plants have particularly significant needs because the limited volume of soil in which they are installed is quickly devoid of any nutrients. Suitable fertilizer must be added regularly. Geraniums and other balcony flowers require a fertilizer rich in phosphorus and especially potassium to flower well. Potted flowering shrubs will need a fertilizer slightly more balanced between P and K.

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