Feed Your Garden: Types of Fertilizer

Fertilizer options got you overwhelmed? Choose the right one for your garden with this helpful guide.
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Use Slow Release Fertilizer to Keep Soil Fertile

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©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

We all know fertilizer helps plants thrive by supplying them with essential minerals and nutrients. But with all the choices on the market, choosing the right one can be tricky. Here’s a guide to some of the most common types of fertilizer and why you might choose each one: 

Inorganic Fertilizers 

Inorganic fertilizers are artificial, synthetic fertilizers that infuse nutrients directly into plants, but don’t enrich the soil they’re growing in. They’re a good emergency choice for plants that are dying of malnutrition, but aren’t very effective at helping plants thrive long-term. Think of them as the equivalent of getting a vitamin injection: it will help you in the short run, but if your diet is bad, it can’t keep you healthy for long. 

Organic Fertilizers 

Organic fertilizers refer to any natural substance that is used to create healthier, richer soils for your plants to grow in. They’re a lasting solution, because healthier soils grow healthier plants for the long haul. Some of the most common kinds of organic fertilizers: 

  • Bone Meal Just like it sounds, bone meal is made from crushed animal bones. It’s rich in phosphorus and calcium, and supplies some nitrogen. Bone meal is often used for flowering plants like bulbs and roses. 
  • Fish Emulsion This blend of finely ground, decomposed fish delivers a big dose of nitrogen. Used in small quantities early in the spring, it can give plants a big increase in growth. It’s smelly, but the odor fades quickly. 
  • Manure One of the most common organic fertilizers, manure can come from a variety of animal sources including horses, cows and chicken. Commercial manure fertilizer is pasteurized to kill bacteria, which makes it less odoriferous than you might imagine, and it’s widely available everywhere from nurseries to hardware and big-box stores. 
  • Compost Recycled kitchen waste – everything from vegetable scraps to cardboard – is mixed together and allowed to break down over time, creating a rich substance that can be used as an effective garden fertilizer. Compost can be made at home or purchased commercially, and may contain manure and other animal by-products. 
  • Cottonseed Meal One of the most effective non-animal-based fertilizers, cottonseed meal is super-high in nitrogen and can help you grow thick, green grass. It works best for plants that like acidic soils. 

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