A fertilizer is a solid animal waste or a chemical mixture that is used to increase the fertility of the soil so that the plants can get more nutrients to grow better.
In addition, fertilizers also increase soil’s water retention capacity and filter excess liquid present in the soil. The secret of this effectiveness is the presence of those macronutrients which are supplied by these fertilizers.
With each harvest, some nutrients are removed from the soil, and if the soil is not replenished with these nutrients through fertilizing, crop yield is affected. These nutrients include nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Along with these major nutrients, fertilizers also supply some secondary nutrients, i.e., calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. Whether we talk about a small garden or a large farm, fertilizers are used by every farmer/person dealing with plants to increase the production and quality of their plants.
According to the International Fertilizer Association, globally, 85% of soils are deficient in nitrogen, 73% are deficient in phosphorus, and 55% are deficient in potassium.
A wide range of fertilizers are available on the market that can provide these deficient, essential nutrients. As these are chemicals, they are strictly regulated by state and federal governments to ensure safety for people who are using them as well as for the environment.
Types of Fertilizers
There are two major types of fertilizers: organic fertilizers and inorganic fertilizers.
1. Organic Fertilizers
Animal wastes and plant composts that are used to improve soil structure are known as organic fertilizers. Here are some organic fertilizers which are available on the market:
It is made of animal dung, which usually comes from cows, sheep, horses, and poultry. It is also known as a complete fertilizer. It contains a lot of organic matter but is low in nutrients. Manure provides many benefits as an organic soil amendment, i.e., increasing organic matter in the soil, which in turn improves soil’s nutrient profile and water holding capacity. But don’t use any fresh manure, because it can burn the plants. Always use a well-decomposed form of animal manures.
b) Blood Meal
Blood collected from the cattle slaughter-houses and converted into dried powdered form is a good and rich source of nitrogen. It possesses a large amount of nitrogen; farmers should be careful with the amount while using it. An excessive amount of blood meal can burn the plant roots.
It is also a by-product of the cattle slaughter-house. It is actually fine grounded bones. Bone meal is a rich source of calcium and phosphate. It promotes a strong root system and flowering. It is often used for the fertilizing of ornamental annuals and fruit trees.
d) Bat Guano
Bat guano or feces of bats collected from caves is also used as a fertilizer. Being rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and other trace elements, it’s a good soil enricher. It can be used as a foliar spray at any time of the year. Another type of guano that is also used by the farmers is South American seabird guano. It is also high in nitrogen, phosphorus, and many other nutrients.
e) Shellfish Fertilizer
It is also called shell meal. It is made from ground up shells. It is a good source of calcium and other trace nutrients. Additionally, it contains chitin, which is useful in controlling harmful nematodes in the soil.
- Other such organic fertilizers include rock phosphate (rich in calcium and phosphate), greensand (an iron-potassium silicate), and fish emulsion (a partially decomposed blend of pulverized fish).
2. Inorganic Fertilizers
Inorganic fertilizers are also known as mineral fertilizers. These are mined from mineral deposits or manufactured in factories from synthetic chemicals. Some of these inorganic fertilizers that are mostly used in gardens are:
a) Complete Fertilizer
These synthetic fertilizers contain all basic nutrients, i.e., nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. They also contain secondary micronutrients that include calcium, manganese, and boron. The percentage of basic nutrients present in a complete fertilizer is indicated by three numbers printed on the package as 23-18-18. This means this particular complete fertilizer contains 23% nitrogen, 18% phosphorus, and 18% potassium.
b) Balanced Fertilizers
Balance fertilizers are just like the complete fertilizers; the difference is, they contain an equal amount of basic nutrients, e.g., 10-10-10.
These Fertilizers may also be classified as
These contain large molecules coated with some inert material, which helps them to break down slowly. They can stay up to 50 days in the soil and slowly add nutrients in the soil.
b) Specially Formulated
These are specially formulated for a specific type of plant. They are usually highly acidic and should not be used for any other plant.
c) Nitrogen Fertilizers
Nitrogen fertilizers such as urea, ammonium nitrate, calcium nitrate, ammonium sulfate, and potassium nitrate, contain a high amount of nitrogen. Nitrogen plays the most vital role in the plant’s vegetative growth. Remember, these fertilizers can increase the pH level of the soil, that is why a calculated amount must be applied to the plants, or it can burn the plants’ root.
d) Potassium Fertilizers
These include potassium nitrate, potassium sulfate or sulfate of potash (SOP), and muriate of potash. Muriate of potash or MOP is the most commonly used form of potassium fertilizer. If a plant is sensitive to chlorides, then use SOP instead of MOP. They also slightly increase the pH of soil.
e) Phosphorus Fertilizer
Phosphorus fertilizer such as rock phosphate remains in the soil for a long period of time, once it is applied. They work only in acidic soils as the nutrients present in the fertilizers do not break down in alkaline or neutral pH. These do not increase the pH of the soil. Superphosphate is also a form of these fertilizers.
After knowing about all the fertilizers, the question that arises is, “Which specific fertilizer is suitable for a specific lawn/garden”? The following two questions should be kept in mind before making any decision:
1. What type of grass do you have in your lawn?
Depending upon the type of grass you have established in your lawn, you can plan your fertilizing capacity. Cool-season grasses such as fescues do not need fertilizers in summer, whereas warm-season grasses need fertilizers just when the summer starts.
2. Which fertilizers are you using, already?
Observe the nutrient composition of previously used fertilizers in your soil, know your grass’s nutrient requirements, and choose a good fertilizer.
Fertilizer Requirement of Different Grasses
There are two types of grasses, i.e., cool-season and warm-season grasses.
Cool-season grasses are hardy, can withstand fluctuating temperatures, and tolerate drought conditions. Fescue, bluegrass, and rye-grass are examples of cool-season grasses. These grasses grow and turn lush green in the spring and fall, but in summer and winter, they become dormant. That’s why, during summer, these grasses do not need any nitrogen fertilizer. Applying such fertilizer may burn the grass and can cause more stress.
Warm-season grasses, such as Bermuda and zoysia grow and turn lush green during the summer months. These blades of these grasses turn brown during winter and start getting green in late spring or early summer. The time between this late spring and summer initiation is the best time for the fertilizers to be applied in summer grasses.
Your lawn faces more traffic in summer than at any other time of the year. The application of fertilizers will help to keep it healthy. Grass starts to turn brown and slows its growth when the temperature rises above 27 degrees Celsius (80.6 °F). A fertilizer helps the grass to deal with these problems. Fertilizers should not be applied during severe summer conditions and remember to water the lawn quickly after you have applied the fertilizers.
Never use fertilizers on dormant grasses in summer. Use fertilizers that are rich in nitrogen; it will help the grass to maintain its health by promoting vegetative growth. Some of the most recommended fertilizers that are available in the market are:
Green view Lawn Fertilizer 27-0-5
- Nitrogen percentage is 27
- Phosphorus is 0
- Potassium is 5
- Good for the grasses that are growing in the active season.
- Works with all type of turf
- Feed the lawn for up to 12 weeks
- One bag covers 5,000 sq ft
Scotts Turf Builder, Summer Lawn Food
- Feed the grass for up to 6 weeks
- Increases soil water holding capacity
- Safe on all grass types
- Builds strong, deep roots
Organic Lawn Food
- Feathered meal poultry manure and gypsum
- 8-0-0 formula ratio
- Feeds up to 5000 sq ft
- Safe for kids and pets
- Organic and environmental friendly
Green view Weed and Feed and Crabgrass Preventer 24-06-06
- Kills weeds and crabgrass plus feeds the lawn
- Kills dandelions and seedling of crabgrass at the same time
- 24% nitrogen, 6% phosphorus and 6% Potassium
- Do not use on dichondra and carpet grass; it may damage these grasses
- One bag covers 5,000 sq ft
Scotts, Turf Builder, Summer Guard Lawn Food with Insect Control, 5,000 sq. ft.
- Strengthen the lawn against heat and drought
- Kills bugs
- No burning issue
- One bag covers 5000 sq ft; it is also available in 15000 sq ft packing
Scotts, Green Max Lawn Food, 5,000 sq. ft.
- Provides macronutrients and also an iron supplement
- Suitable for a wide range of grasses
- One bag covers 5000 sq ft
Milorganite, Organic Nitrogen Fertilizer
- 4% iron
- 5-2-0 formula ratio
- Available in a 32-pound bag
- Scented to repel bugs, bunnies, and deer
Plants need to be fertilized for their nutrient requirements, and fertilizers are a good source of these essential macro- and micronutrients. Whether we use organic or inorganic fertilizers, the purpose is to get good and healthy growth of the plants.
Fertilizers serve as the primary source of these nutrients and ensure healthy growth if used at a proper time in a proper amount. Mostly grasses and plants need fertilizing in their active growing season. Application of a suitable fertilizer in a lawn can benefit you in many ways, e.g., good quality and lush looking lawn.