Gardening Basics For Dummies, 3rd Edition
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Fertilizing is an important part of gardening because given at the right time, fertilizers can really give your plants a boost. When you're trying to decide on which fertilizer to use, keep this list handy to make sense of fertilizer terminology:

  • Complete fertilizers: These fertilizers contain all three macronutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K).

  • Incomplete fertilizers: Incomplete fertilizers are missing one or more of the macronutrients, usually the P or the K.

  • Chelated micronutrients: If your plants don't get nicely green (they remain mottled yellow and green, or just yellow), no matter now much nitrogen you apply, you probably have a deficiency of micronutrients — iron, manganese, or zinc. These fertilizers are in a form that allows a plant to absorb them more quickly than the more commonly available sulfated forms.

  • Organic fertilizers: Organic means that these fertilizers derive their nutrients from something that was once alive. Examples include blood meal, fish emulsion, and manure.

  • Slow-release fertilizers: These fertilizers provide nutrients to plants at specific rates under particular conditions. Some slow-release fertilizers can deliver the benefits of their nutrients for as long as eight months.

  • Foliar fertilizers: Apply this plant food to leaves rather than to the roots (ground). You can use most liquid fertilizers as foliar fertilizers, but make sure the label says you can.

About This Article

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Steven A. Frowine is a noted professional horticulturist and a longtime avid gardener and communicator. The National Gardening Association is the leading garden-based educational nonprofit organization in the United States, providing resources at garden.org and kidsgardening.org.

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