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Fertilizer… What’s it all about?

Humans, animals and plants rely on a safe, healthy supply of food and nutrients like nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) for proper growth and development. Fertilizer is the ‘food’ that plants need to produce a healthy and bountiful crop. Without nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the plant simply cannot grow because it cannot make the pieces it needs. It’s like a car factory running out of steel or a road crew running out of asphalt. If any of the macronutrients are missing or hard to obtain from the soil, this will limit the growth rate for the plant. In nature, the nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium often come from the decay of plants that have died. In the case of nitrogen, the recycling of nitrogen from dead to living plants is often the only source of nitrogen in the soil. To make plants grow faster, what you need to do is supply the elements that the plants need in readily available forms. That is the goal of fertilizer. Experts estimate that without commercial fertilizers, the world would be without one third of its food supply.

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How much Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium are in your bag of fertilizer? The analysis found on each bag or bulk shipment of fertilizer tells the farmer or consumer the amount of nutrients being supplied. States have a system of laws and regulations that ensure the fertilizer is properly labeled and delivers the amount of nutrients stated to the farmer or consumer. The three numbers on your bag of fertilizer are referred to as the “analysis.” It is the percentage of nitrogen, phosphate and potash that is available to plants from that bag of fertilizer. In this diagram, this product contains 5 percent nitrogen, 10 percent phosphate and 5 percent potash. So what’s the other 80 percent of what’s in this bag? While brands vary, typically the rest will contain some micronutrients and filler material, which allows for even application of the nutrients across the fertilized area. (http://www.tfi.org)

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Here at Pacific Green Landscape, Inc. we fertilize every 4-12 weeks.

During the summer, we use an Iron fertilizer which helps take the yellow out of the landscape because of the intense heat. When a plant is unable to absorb enough iron from the soil, usually because it doesn’t have enough in the first place, it can develop iron chlorosis… a nutrient deficiency. Therefore, during the hot months, the iron enriched fertilizer will help “green up” the landscape.

During the winter months, we use a higher Nitrogen (in the Nitrate form), time-released fertilizer because nitrogen really holds the color green within the landscape longer. The benefit of the time-released fertilizer is that since the nutrients are released at a slower rate throughout the season, plants are able to take up most of the nutrients without waste by leaching.

The advantages of late fall fertilization are increased density, increased root growth, decreased spring mowing, improved fall to spring color, decreased weed problems, increased drought tolerance, and decreased summer disease. This will help the landscape green up faster in the spring and make it more tolerant of heat and drought stress.

By responsibly using fertilizers safely and effectively, it results in a healthier turf and better water quality!