Feed Your Garden: Types of Fertilizer

Fertilizer options got you overwhelmed? Choose the right one for your garden with this helpful guide.

Related To:
Ensure proper nutrition with fertilizer.

Ensure proper nutrition with fertilizer.

©Rustic White Photography

Rustic White Photography

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. 
Keep Reading

Next Up

Lawn Feeding Simplified

Keep your lawn nourished for its long-term health and beauty.

The Fertilizer 411

Simplify the important task of choosing the right products for a lush, healthy garden.

Gardening Q & A: Summer Snowflake Plant and More

Master gardener Paul James talks about pruning candles, cool plants, and no-hassle manure tea.

Going Green: Organic Fertilizer

Keep your crops and land healthy the clean, green way.

The Straight Poop on Using Chicken Manure as Fertilizer

Chicken manure is chock full of nutrients that will benefit your garden.

When Soil Comes in Bags

How can you tell if bagged soil is any good -- before you take it home? Read on.

How to Fertilize a Tree

Trees growing along roadsides, in urban areas, and around new homes may need extra nutrients.

Compost Crib Notes

Organic fertilizer keeps crops—and the planet—healthy and productive.

Remember These Gardening Don'ts

Check out these don'ts in this article on HGTV when it comes to garden maintenance in the summer and early fall.

How to Fertilize Your Lawn

Lawn fertilizers consist of nitrogen, phosphate, potassium and other nutrients. Of these, nitrogen is the most important for healthy growth.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.