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Whether planting grass, flowers, shrubs, vegetables or fruit, you want them to thrive and flourish.  For all of these things, fertilizer can be immensely beneficial.  While things can grow independent of fertilizer, fertilizer can help plants and grass flourish more beautifully and fully than they would without.  In fact, certain plants will not only grow more robustly but will produce more flowers and be far more impressive than they would without fertilizer.

Grass and plants need to be fertilized for one simple reason, most soil does not contain adequate essential nutrients to produce optimum growth.  There are many fertilizers available on the market so it can be confusing to choose which fertilizer is most appropriate for your specific application.  For grass, certain fertilizers are better for grass depending on things like climate, grass species, time of year and more.  With the help of fertilizer, grass’s color will be improved, it will have a better ability to recover from stress, it can help prevent disease and help prevent the growth of weeds.  All lawns need three major nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.  Luckily, choosing fertilizer is not a guessing game.  You can test your soil to determine what fertilizer is best so that you ensure the proper ratio of nutrients to encourage growth and health.  Home Depot describes how to test your soil and how the results will influence your fertilizer choice, “Before fertilizing, it is always a good idea to do a quick soil test to assess the nutrient status and pH level of your soil. This is important because when the pH of your soil is either too high or too low, it reduces the ability of grass to effectively utilize the available nutrients in the soil.  Most grasses grow best in soils with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. A soil pH below 5.5 is considered to be acidic, and anything above 7.0 indicates an alkaline soil condition. If the pH level of your soil is below 5.5, you should consider an application of lime, and if it’s above 7.0, you likely need an application of gardener’s sulfur. You can easily do your own soil testing with an inexpensive electronic soil tester, and many local extension services offer comprehensive soil testing for a small fee…. All fertilizers contain three primary nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, often referred to simply as NPK. On the label of each package of fertilizer, you’ll find three numbers prominently listed that represent the percentage by weight of each of these three major nutrients. For example, a common type of all-purpose fertilizer is often referred to as 10-10-10. If you purchase a 50 pound bag, 5 pounds (or 10 percent) would be nitrogen, 5 pounds would be phosphorous and 5 pounds are potassium… “Up, Down and All-Around”is another way to think about NPK and the numbering system for fertilizers. Your lawn needs nitrogen for the leaves’ color and growth, phosphorous for strong roots, and potassium for overall health.”

In addition to grass, plants need to be fertilized as well.  Just like grass, you can test soil to determine what your soil may be lacking that would be beneficial for plants.  Also like grass, fertilizers use the same 3 number ratio to describe what levels of important nutrients are contained in each package.  With the wide variety of plants, it is more difficult to describe a one-size-fits-all approach and fertilizer choice will be determined by what specific plants you are trying to benefit.  Home Depot gives an overview of the types of fertilizers some plants may need, “Most flowers, especially those grown in containers, benefit from all-purpose plant food. Some flowers and flowering shrubs such as roses, azaleas and rhododendrons, however, may require an additional fertilizer or more frequent application. Similarly, most vegetables grow well with all-purpose fertilizers, but there are some varieties that benefit from the addition of extra minerals, such as nitrogen. For houseplants, the formula of nutrients is somewhat standard, though some plants benefit from different fertilizer types depending upon whether they need frequent or infrequent feeding. Familiarize yourself with some of the differences between your plants before deciding if an all-purpose fertilizer will always do the trick.”  Ultimately, if you are unsure, consult a knowledgeable individual at your local hardware or nursery, or even better, leave the decision up to your landscaper who can help advise as to the appropriate fertilizer for your specific landscape.

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