The Importance of Fertilizing

Whether you are an experienced gardener or a novice, you probably have a hope that your trees, shrubs, and flowers are all healthy and beautiful.  If you spend any time outdoors tending to your lawn, in the form of mowing, trimming, or removing weeds, then you know that in order to have healthy grass, it takes a little bit of effort.  The same can be true for healthy trees, shrubs, and plants.  One procedure that should not be overlooked in order to maintain a beautiful landscape is fertilizing.

Fertilizing your trees, shrubs, and flowers will help encourage growth and will aid in the vitality of the plant.  Perhaps think of fertilizer as the “food” that your plants or grasses need so they can thrive and prosper.  If we only provide them with water, then they will lack important nutrients that they need to flourish.

With this being said, it may seem contradictory that if the plants are fed too much fertilizer, then it can be harmful.  If a plant, shrub, tree, or grass receives too much fertilizer, the plant can grow too quickly and have an unstable structural core.  Too much fertilizer can also decrease some plants’ “immune system” and create a plant that has a hard time fighting off insect infestations or tolerance to extreme temperatures or drought.

The basics of fertilizing your landscape with the appropriate amount of fertilizer starts with the type of soil you have.  Performing a soil test is a great idea if you want to provide your lawn with optimal fertilization needs.  A soil test will be able to give you soil pH levels and nutrient guidelines.  Most nurseries or home-goods stores sell soil test kits.  Once you know your soil’s pH levels and present nutrients, you can choose plants, shrubs, or grasses to plant based on your soil, or you can adjust the levels of existing plants with the appropriate fertilizer.

Plant fertilizers contain three major elements: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  Nitrogen stimulates the production of chlorophyll and gives the plants healthier looking leaves.  Phosphorus promotes stronger stems, roots, blossoms, and fruits.  Potassium is needed for plants to assist in digesting and manufacturing their foods.  Not all plants are able to receive the nutrients they need from the

surrounding soils, hence the need to choose a fertilizer that can provide nutrients that promote vigorous, strong plants. 

If you decide that you just want to fertilize without the effort of performing a soil test, then it is best to use a fertilizer that is enriched with nitrogen.  Most plants lack nitrogen more than the other elements, so a slow-release version of nitrogen-based fertilizer is your best bet.  Organic fertilizers are the easiest fertilizers to work with because they are not as strong as some of the other fertilizers and, because of this, it is harder to over-fertilize your landscape, thus protecting and promoting your lawn at the same time.  One drawback to the organic fertilizers are that they are usually more expensive.

Whichever fertilizer you decide to use, do your homework, either with a plant specialist or from the fertilizer container itself, to ensure that you provide the correct amount of food for your plant, shrub, or tree.  Most greenery requires fertilizer around the base of the plant, which gives the plant or shrub the opportunity to soak up the food through its root system.  One thing is for sure when you remember to fertilize, your plants will thank you as you see them flourish before your eyes.