Magazine article Sunset

How to Choose a Liquid Fertilizer? Learn to Read the Labels

Magazine article Sunset

How to Choose a Liquid Fertilizer? Learn to Read the Labels

Article excerpt

How to choose a liquid fertilizer? Learn to read the labels The attention-getting labels on liquid fertilizer bottles often seem like the latenight TV commercials of the gardening world. Competing with myriad packages on nursery shelves, they make every claim imaginable. In addition to basic nutrients, they tout everything from vitamins to hormones, extracts, and secret formulas supposed to give bigger blooms or better-tasting vegetables.

How do you know what's best for your plants? From fetilizers, plants can receive nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and a variety of micronutrients, including iron, manganese, and zinc. Of these, nitrogen is usually the most important, and for a given price, the fertilizer with more nitrogen is a better value.

Here are some guidelines for choosing liquid fertilizers:

When to use a liquid fertilizer

Liquid fertilizers (or their water-soluble dry counterparts) are valuable for a number of reasons. First, being water soluble, they allow you to get the nutrients down into the root zome--even of established plants--where they are needed. For even quicker uptake of nitrogen and micronutrients, they can be used as foliar sprays. You can apply small quantities of liquid fertilizer with greater precision than you can with dry fertilizer. Dilutions can be easily increased for more frequent, light feedings. Liquid fertilizers are also easy to use and to shore.

Their minus side is that, for large areas like lawn's and vegetable gardens, the are often difficult and usually uneconomical to apply. In such cases, dry fertilizers are aetter buy and easier to use. Also, since all liquid fertilizers are made of dissolved salts, they are more likely to cause leaf burn if you apply too much.

The primary nutrients: it's nitrogen

the matters most

Concentrations of primary nutrients--nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K)--are expressed in the N-P-K percentages listed on a fertilizer label. For example, a 10-10-5 fertilizer label. for example, a 10-10-5 fertilizer contains to percent nitrogen, 10 percent phosphorus, and 5 percent potassium.

Manufacturers often sell fertilizers with certain ratios of nutrients for use on specific types of plants. For instance, mixtures with low percentages of N compared to P and K are often sold as flowering plant food. This is usually done to give the product a unique identity but will have little effect on plant growth. …

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