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Monica's Weekly Gardening Tips: Chemical Fertilizers

With all the varieties of fertilizer available, it can be daunting to understand which one works best for your particular garden needs.

For today’s news item, I am focusing only on chemical fertilizers. Just be aware that there are organic alternatives to all of these.

All fertilizer labels show three numbers. The first number is the amount of nitrogen in the particular fertilizer blend, the second number is the amount of phosphate, and the third number is the amount of potash. These three numbers represent the nutrients nitrogen (N) - phosphorus (P) and -potassium (K).

To quickly sum it all up, the first number on the label helps promote green, leafy foliage growth. The second number helps to create a healthy root system as well as the plant’s flowering ability and bloom size. And the final number aids in the overall health of the plant. It builds strong cells in the plant tissue to guard against disease, helps with drought protection, and cold tolerance.

Typical grades recommended for lawns and gardens include:

  • 5-10-5

  • 5-10-10

  • 10-10-10

  • 8-0-24

  • 6-6-18

I’ve found that a quick way to remember what each number represents is by thinking “up, down, and all around”. It really works!

So the next time you are selecting your fertilizer, don’t let the numbers on the package confuse you. Just think about what your plants need and match those needs to the numbers.

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