Everyone knows that fertilizers are amendments which are added to the soil to promote healthy plant growth. But beyond that, most homeowners do not know very much about the products that they are using. Applying fertilizer is good for the most part but there are a few key points to understand to ensure that your plants the maximum benefit from the fertilizer you are using. This information is also critical to avoid inadvertently damaging your plants and grass.

Two Most Common Types of Fertilizers

First, there are two main types of fertilizers, organic and inorganic. The main difference is the source of the components for the fertilizer and not the quality or a better form of nutrient for plants. In general, organic fertilizers are found to be more diluted than inorganic fertilizers and also less soluble so they are always considered to be a slow release fertilizer. The benefit of the slower release of nutrient is that the organic fertilizers will not cause nitrogen burning as some inorganic fertilizer can if improperly applied.

Second, it is important to understand the labeling on the different fertilizers. There are normally three numbers on the label that represent the primary macronutrient. These numbers are displayed in the 10-10-10 format. The first number represents the proportion of the nitrogen, the second number is the phosphorus and the third number is the potassium. These proportions will vary depending on the specific uses that the fertilizer is designed for.

What the Number Means

Selecting the right fertilizer for the right plants is very important as certain types of plant material have very specific nutrient needs which are quite different from the average ornamental shrubs and bushes. Palm trees will require a mixture that contains about 9% nitrogen, 3% phosphorus and 12% potassium (3-1-4 ratio). The specific palm fertilizers will also contain about 2% iron and magnesium and trace amounts of zinc, copper and boron to prevent deficiencies that can be fatal to palms. Citrus trees require more nitrogen and will produce a higher quality fruit when a fertilizer with a 2-1-1 ratio is applied. The citrus fertilizer will also include iron, zinc and manganese as trace materials which are specific needs of citrus trees. The average ornamental fertilizer will be labeled as a 10-10-10 blend and is basically even parts nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. This blend will work well on all average shrubs and flowering bushes.

Following the Manufacturers Recommended Application Process

Finally, it is very important to read all of the instructions on any fertilizer package. This will explain the application rates as well as the technique that the manufacturer has found to work best with the specific product. The application rate should be strictly followed as too much fertilizer can be more detrimental to plants than no fertilizer at all. Because fertilizer is basically a salt, it can be very easy to burn the plants roots by applying too much fertilizer or applying it improperly. This damage can be amplified by the extreme heat and dry conditions in Phoenix.

Following these easy tips will help to ensure that all of the plants in your landscape will thrive and be attractive. Investing a small amount of money in the correct fertilizers for your plants will help to avoid costly disease treatments in the future as well as reducing the cost of replacing dead or unsightly plants.