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Plant Diseases

Types of Plant Diseases - Blight

Plant diseases take the fun out of growing a garden which can be extremely fulfilling when seeing your hard work pay off. Taking the time to work the soil beds, adding amendments, planting seeds/plants and then watching them grow through to harvest can instill a great sense of satisfaction. But there are very few things more frustrating, and bewildering, than seeing garden plants succumb to garden pests and plant diseases. To fix them you need to diagnose the cause in order to treat the problem. This plant disease list will hopefully help you identify and treat some common plant diseases.

Types of Plant Diseases

Bacterial Leaf Spot

Miniscule, microscopic single celled organisms are the cause of the visible foliage damage associated with bacterial leaf spot. Early identification is crucial to save plants from extensive damage. Bacterial leaf spot shows up on lettuce, beets, eggplant and pepper plants as dark, necrotic looking spots on foliage. When the bacterial disease attacks the leaf edges, leaves become papery and delicate often breaking off due to the dryness of the tissue. Severe infestation will cause defoliation and severely impact the health of a plant. There are no recognized chemical treatments so prevention and control are important. To prevent bacterial leaf spot make sure to rotate crops, plant disease resistant varieties and avoid overwatering. The best control method is removing infected plant parts to prevent the spread of bacterial leaf spot.

Blights

Early Blight

The beginning symptoms of early blight show up as small 1-2mm brown or black lesions on the fruit/stem/foliage of tomatoes, and the stem/foliage/tubers of potatoes. If the conditions are conducive to progressing the small lesions will grow, forming the characteristic “bulls eye” pattern early blight is known for. These concentric rings are often surrounded by a halo of yellow tissue. If lesions are allowed to worsen the entire leaf can become chlorotic and die.  Lesions that form on fruit/tubers appear leathery in nature, often causing premature drop from the plant. Preventative measures include a 3-year crop rotation, promoting good air circulation around the base of the plant, and/or applying a potassium bicarbonate solution to the plants and soil starting approximately two weeks before early blight symptoms occur. Chemical controls are limited – a copper based fungicide being one of the few, albeit expensive, options – and it is highly recommended to remove infected plants entirely and dispose of properly.

Plant Diseases - Tomato Blight

Plant Diseases – Tomato Blight

Late Blight

Late blight also affects tomato and potato plants, spreading quickly and wreaking havoc on a stand of plants. As its name implies it occurs later in the growing season, most often after the plant blossoms. Triggered by rainy, damp weather, late blight causes plants to rot and die if left untreated. Early symptoms look like grayish-green water spots on older leaves; as it matures the spots darken in color and a white fungal growth occurs on the undersides of foliage. Like early blight the chemical controls are limited to expensive copper sprays that work best when the disease is caught early. Often times, an entire stand is infected and plants need to be removed entirely and then disposed.

Bacterial Blight

Similar in symptoms and treatment to late blight in tomatoes and potatoes, bacterial blight is a fungal disease that affects legumes in Eastern and Southern North America. Symptoms appear on foliage and pods as grey water spots that eventually turn necrotic and drop out of the leaf tissue. To control plant resistant cultivars in a 3-year plant rotation; remove and dispose of infected plants to prevent spread to other plants.

Damping Off

Soil borne fungi cause damping off in wet, cool conditions. Seeds or seedling are typically affected by the pathogens; seeds rot before germination or seedlings deteriorate immediately after emergence, causing them to fall over. Damping off can be prevented by ensuring the soil is well amended with organic matter prior to planting, keep the soil damp but not waterlogged, encourage ample air circulation in seeding areas, and make sure the soil is warm enough for that specific seed before planting.

Downy Mildew

Downy mildew affects many vegetable plants, causing the growth of white or purplish “down” on the undersides of foliage. The top side of older leaves may demonstrate patches of white or yellow. Symptoms of downy mildew are exacerbated in cool, wet weather prone to occur in early spring and late fall. Downy mildew affects many vegetables crops and prevention is a critical management method: plant resistant varieties is they exist, water the roots of plants early in the day, avoid overwatering, encourage good air circulation around the base of susceptible plants, and apply copper spray as a preventative every 7-10 days when the weather is cool and wet. Infected plant tissues should be quickly removed and disposed of in an area away from the garden, to reduce contamination of other plants.

Fusarium Wilt

A soil borne pathogen that affects nightshade plants such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers, fusarium wilt is commonly found in gardens all across North America. The plant disease enters through plant roots and interferes with the vessels within the plant that are responsible for water transport. Once in the plant, fusarium wilt spreads up the stem and into the leaves, restricting water flow. Without proper water the foliage wilts and turns yellow. This fungal disease is more rampant in hot, dry weather and can survive for years in the soil. The best methods of control are to remove affected plants quickly and dispose of them away from the gardening area. Also make sure to sterilize gardening implements with a dilute bleach solution to prevent transferring the disease. There are some fumigants available to treat fusarium wilt but many require professional application, making them a costly solution. If the disease persists in a garden area, it may be necessary to sterilize/solarize the soil to kill the pathogens. To do this remove all plant materials and cover the bare ground with black or clear plastic. Allow the plastic to sit on the soil for 4-6 weeks during the hottest part of the summer; the intense sun and heat generated will kill fusarium wilt.

Mosaic Virus

Mosaic virus is a viral disease found all across the United States that affects a wide range of horticultural and vegetable crops: roses, beans, tobacco, tomato, potato, cucumbers, and peppers. Some of the symptoms include yellow, white or green stripes/streaks on foliage, pronounced yellowing of foliage veins, wrinkled/curled or stunted leaves, overall stunting of plant growth and reduced yields. Mosaic virus spreads through the feeding of insect pests and has no cure once a plant is infected. The only treatment option is to remove and destroy anything infected. To minimize infection prevent resistant plant varieties, spot treat with diatomaceous earth around plants as preventative pest control, and avoid using tobacco around susceptible plants as it may harbor the virus.

Powdery Mildew

The most common, widespread fungal disease in plants, powdery mildew attacks vegetable plants, ornamental species, and fruit trees. Hot and dry summer weather favors its spread and it can be difficult to control. Powdery mildew is easy to diagnose; it presents itself as patches of white or light-grey, talcum-like powder on plant leaves and stems. Planting mildew resistant plants, giving them plenty of room for air circulation around the base, and watering the root system – avoiding the foliage – early in the day are great preventative methods. If plants fall victim to this plant fungus, quickly remove and discard infected plant tissues, making sure to not spread fungal spores to other garden/yard areas. Some sources recommend spraying infected plants with a combination of neem oil and soap, mixed in water, but the results vary.

Rusts

Common rust is a fungal disease typically found on a variety of mature plants: roses, hollyhocks, lilies, snapdragons, tomatoes, beans and lawns. Rust looks like its name implies – reddish-orange spots made up of masses of fungal spores on older, lower leaves of the plant. If untreated these spots can turn yellow to black, deform the entire leaf, and in worse case scenarios cause leaf drop. Garden areas receiving low light (4-8 hours of low intensity sun) are more susceptible to rust diseases; especially when the climate is warm/hot and humid. Cultural methods are the most effective methods of control/prevention: keeping weeds out of the garden bed, allowing good air circulation around the base of plants, watering early in the morning, removing infected leaves when the disease is spotted. An application of neem oil such as Organic Neem Bliss 100% Pure Cold Pressed Neem Seed Oil – (16 oz) High Azadirachtin Content – OMRI Listed for Organic Use can kill rust spores on the plant and works well if the disease is caught quickly. Copper sprays and sulfate powders also work well if applied early.

Plant diseases can quickly spread and cause major damage if left untreated and allowed to proliferate in a garden area. Often times there are limited chemical options available for treatment of plant diseases, so preventative methods become even more important for plant disease control. A handful of best management practices can help to reduce the risk of infection: purchase resistant varieties of plants if available, keep garden area free of weeds and debris, water the base/roots of plants early in the day while avoiding overwatering, maintain good air movement around the base of plants and promptly remove and dispose of infected vegetative matter to minimize the spread of infection with these plant diseases.

Plant Diseases2020-01-10T23:59:45-05:00

Air Fryer Oven Review

This Air Fryer Oven Review is all about the Breville Convection and Air Fry Smart Oven Air. I think this is hands down the best air fryer on the market. I have used this thing at least every other day since I got it. It does everything you could want a small oven to do.

Air Fryer Oven Review: Why Breville

Before using the Breville Convection and Air Fry Smart Oven Air I had one of those egg shaped round air fryers. I used it for around a year and a half. Eventually the display screen began to flash some weird numbers and it would turn of and on while it was cooking something. I knew this meant it was on it’s way out. I kept using it despite these problems but sure enough eventually it simple died in the middle of cooking food, I had to quickly finish cooking it in a toaster oven.

While I really liked the round egg shaped air fryer, there were somethings I did not like. There is no window in order to watch the food. You have to remove the basket in order to see how the food is cooking. I also dreaded having to clean the air fryer what I was done with it. That was always a chore. I especially did not like that it only lasted a year and a half before it decided to quit on me. Other than these things I really liked it and used it very frequently.

The Breville Convection and Air Fry Smart Oven Air solves these problems. There is a large window so you can keep an eye on your food. There is even a very bright oven light that you can turn on and off using a button. I really like the oven light. Cleaning the Breville air fryer is a breeze. I line the pan with tin foil which means the only cleaning involved is removing the tin foil and putting it in the trash. Done all clean, it really couldn’t be easier to clean. It is also extremely well build and high quality so I fully expect it to last for years unlike the cheap round egg shaped air fryer.

No contest the Breville air fryer is superior in every way to the egg.

Air Fryer Healthy

Is using an air fryer healthy? Frying with Air is much healthier than deep frying in a vat of oil. The food is crispier isn’t soggy or greasy and it has less calories because you are ingesting all of the grease that a traditional deep fryer soaks food in.

Air Fryer Oven Review: What Else Does It Do

Not only does it do a magnificent job of air frying it does so much more.

The Breville Smart Oven Air Has 13 programmed settings:

  • Toast
  • Bagel
  • Broil
  • Bake
  • Roast
  • Warm
  • Pizza
  • Proof
  • Airfry
  • Reheat
  • Cookies
  • Slow Cook
  • Dehydrate

All of these settings can be adjusted any way you like. You can also adjust the settings while the oven is running. You can find many easy air fryer recipes online to make great use of all of these settings.

How Does An Air Fryer Work

In a traditional deep fryer there is a reservoir filled with oil. Food is placed into a basket and lowered into this pool of grease. After it is done cooking the food is lifted out of the nasty grease, drained and the food is dumped onto a plate.

Of course the food tastes good but it is extremely unhealthy and you have to drain the grease from the fryer, put it into a container if you plan on using it again or you have to get rid of it the grease. Oil can also be expensive, peanut oil is very expensive stuff. Not to mention grease stains on clothes and getting burned with hot oil.

An air fryer removes all of these problems. An air fryer works by using a large powerful fan in a small oven space. The oven heats up and the fan moves at a high rate of speed. This powerful fan causes the heated air to circulate rapidly around the food allowing it to cook perfectly and taste just like traditionally deep fried food.

Before using an air fryer I was skeptical that it would be as good as it claimed. I was pleasantly surprised because it really is as good as a deep fryer, but much easier to use and healthier for you.

Air Fryer Oven Review: Air Fryer Uses

Here are some great foods that I have air fried. Of course they don’t have to be air fried. They can be cooked many different ways using the abundant amount of settings on the smart oven.

  • Air fryer fried chicken
  • Wings
  • Chicken tenders
  • Chicken patties
  • Bacon
  • Steak
  • Salmon
  • Frozen french fries

How to Use An Air Fryer

Using the Breville air fryer is simple. In fact using any air fryer is simple. You simply place your food on the rack or in the basket, Air fryers use either no oil or very little oil it’s entirely up to you. Using a little oil helps the food cook better, I always spray some oil directly onto the food.

breville smart oven air plug

breville smart oven air plug

You spray the food with your favorite oil.

A great sprayer that I use is the Evo Oil Sprayer Bottle, Non-Aerosol for Olive Oil and Cooking Oils, 18-ounce Capacity each squeeze of the trigger sprays one quarter of a teaspoon of oil so you always know exactly how much oil you are using.

That’s it turn the air fryer on and it starts cooking. If you are using the egg shaped air fryer it’s a good idea to shake the food halfway through cooking to ensure that it is cooking evenly.

When I am done using the air fryer I unplug it. The Breville has a great plug design as well, it has a ring you can stick your finger in making it super easy to unplug. A small but very nice touch.

How to Clean an Air Fryer

Cleaning the egg shaped air fryers can be annoying. I know I hate to clean them. Generally there are two baskets, one basket holds the food and the other basket catches the grease or crumbs or any other debris. Cleaning the the crumb basket is pretty straightforward. The food basket is the really pain.

To promote air flow these baskets have slots and holes in them, this makes it more difficult to clean because grease and food gets into these slots so you have to clean each slot individually, it is very tedious.

After a while cleaning failed to remove all of the grease stains and I could never get the fryer perfectly clean no matter how much I tried.

The Breville air fryer like any other toaster oven air fryer is much simpler to clean. I air fry using the included pan and I put tin foil on the pan so when it is done cooking I simply remove the tin foil and throw it away and that’s it.

Occasionally I will rinse off the pan but usually it never even needs to be cleaned. Cleaning is as simple as it can get.

The Breville Convection and Air Fry Smart Oven Air is a great choice if you want a great air fryer that can do so much more.

Also be sure to take a look at our Best Weed Eater and Best Pole Saw reviews as well.

Air Fryer Oven Review2020-01-14T15:08:47-05:00

Tools Used For Gardening

Tools used for gardening come in many varieties. Any homeowner knows that the key to successfully completing a project is having the correct tools to use. This is as important with gardening as it is when doing plumbing work, carpentry, painting, etc.

Tools Used For Gardening

Having some basic tools used for gardening will help make things easier and more productive in the long run.

With every project, there are tools that you absolutely need to have and then the list of tools that are nice to have since they make your job much easier.

This breakdown will help to give you a better understanding of what tools you need, what ones you might want to acquire as your budget allows, and what you should look for when buying them.

Don’t forget about power tools for jobs around the house such as weed eaters, pole saws and lawn mowers.

Tools Used For Gardening – Must Haves

Hand Trowel

A hand trowel such as the Fiskars Ergo Garden Tool Set is probably the single most important tool you need for gardening. They make quicker work of planting garden flowers and bulbs, as well as weeding and digging small holes.

A garden trowel has a pointed, scoop-shaped metal blade with a short wooden, plastic or metal handle. Look for brightly colored trowels that can be easily seen when laid down in the garden or paint wooden handles with bright paint to make them more visible.

Shovels

Shovels like the Spear Head Spade – Reinforced Fiberglass Gardening Shovel with Cushioned D Grip – Award Winning Shovel are important to have on hand when you need to dig big holes for transplanting shrubs/bushes/trees, turning over the soil, or moving bulk items like compost or rock.

Look for a shovel with a steel scoop as opposed to aluminum for durability. Scoops are slightly curved with upturned edges to hold materials; they come in either a pointed or flat tip.

Pointed tip shovels are typically used for digging and planting in softer ground that has been tilled. Flat tip shovels are more useful in hard packed ground that needs added force to penetrate the soil surface.

Garden Rakes

Garden rakes like the Bully Tools 12-Gauge 16-Inch Bow Rake are stronger than leaf rakes, and play an important role in gardening. They can be used for turning over soil, spreading ground cover, removing weeds, gathering garden debris and tamping soil.

Look for a rake that is appropriately sized for your height; ideally the handle rake should reach the bridge of your nose from the floor. Choose a soft grip handle if your hands tire easily or you are prone to blisters.

Pruners

Pruners such as Fiskars Steel Bypass Pruning Shears are an essential tool to have for the garden to handle a variety of cutting jobs. Look for a pair that has a safety catch to hold the blades closed together when not in use, and bypass or crossover blades.

Bypass blades cut with a motion similar to scissors where two sharpened blades slice together. Often times one of these blades is curved to allow you to get into tight spaces.

Tools Used For Gardening – Nice to Have Tools:

Loppers

Loppers like the Fiskars Bypass Lopper are larger than pruners and will help to prune branches and suckers that are too big for basic pruners. Long handled varieties will reach higher branches with ease.

Wheelbarrows

Wheelbarrows like the Gorilla Carts Poly Garden Dump Cart make moving heavy items in the garden much easier. They are a back saver when moving rock, mulch, or compost to the garden and hauling garden debris away.

When choosing a wheelbarrow first determine your needs; wheelbarrows come in capacities ranging from 2 square feet to 6 square feet. Steel wheelbarrows are heavier to move and can rust but they can carry more weight.

They are more suited for moving rocks, or large plants. Plastic wheelbarrows are lighter and typically less expensive to purchase. However they can crack from temperature fluctuations, improper handling, or being loaded with too much weight.

Tiller or Cultivator

A tiller or cultivator like the Earthwise 12.5-Amp 16-Inch Corded Tiller/Cultivator, Green will come in handy if you have a larger garden space, saving you time when you need to work the soil.

A cultivator is a smaller piece of equipment and works well for loosening the soil in an existing garden, weeding between rows, and mixing compost into the soil. The smaller stature makes them easier to maneuver and have a cheaper price tag.

Tillers are more powerful, and have heavy duty tines to work the soil. They will cost more but have a wider stance and can work ground more quickly.

Best Tools For Gardening

Gardening work will go much more smoothly when you equip yourself with the best tools used in gardening for the job. Having a good quality hand trowel, shovel, garden rake and set of pruners gives you a great basis to your tool collection.

Then if money allows, and you’d like to expand you can add items such as a wheelbarrow, a set of loppers and a good garden tiller based on your garden size.

Tools Used For Gardening2020-01-07T14:03:39-05:00

Hydrangea Plant

Hydrangea Plant (Hydrangea sp.)

The Hydrangea Plant is a shrub that is known for it’s affinity for acidic soils, and it’s stunningly large flowerheads, the hydrangea plant is a popular perennial ornamental flower in many gardens.

They are easy to cultivate and grow in a range of conditions making them a great choice for landscapes. With blooms lasting into the fall it also means they add color to a landscape when most other plants have finished blooming for the season.

Hydrangea Colors

The Hydrangea plant comes in a variety of colors. Hydrangea colors include:

  • Blue Hydrangea
  • Green Hydrangea
  • Purple Hydrangea
  • White Hydrangea
  • Pink Hydrangea
  • Red Hydrangea

Hydrangea Plant Info

Closeup of Blue Hydrangea Plant

Closeup of Blue Hydrangea Plant

  • Scientific Name:  Hydrangea sp.
  • Life cycle:  Perennial
  • Soil pH:  Acidic to neutral
  • Plant hardiness:  USDA zones 3-9
  • Light requirements:  Full sun/part sun
  • Water requirements:  Moderate
  • Fertilizer demand:  Low to moderate
  • Planting date:  Spring or fall
  • Flowering season:  Early summer to fall
  • Height:  3-6’
  • Colors:  blue, green, purple, white, pink, red
  • Pests:  Aphids, Slugs, powdery mildew, rust
  • Propagation:  Cuttings, ground layering

Hydrangea Plant Care

The adaptability of hydrangea plants suits them for many hardiness zones. Plants overwinter well even in the colder climates though they will benefit from an 18” covering of mulch or straw to help protect them through the cold.

The hydrangea flower prefer spots that receive full sun earlier in the day and some mottled shade during the heat of the afternoon.  This helps to prevent the large flowerheads from losing too much water to evaporation in the hottest part of the day.

Hydrangeas are typically sold to homeowners as premium container plants. Bare root options can be found at times, but keep in mind the planting window for bare root plants is much narrower and can be easily missed.

Plant new hydrangea plant specimens in spring after the danger of frost has passed or in fall, about a month before the first hard frost. When preparing the planting site dig a hole 2-3 times the size of the root ball to give the plant ample space for roots to grow.

Also keep in mind the importance of proper plant when planting; make sure that full grown plants will not touch neighboring plants to allow for good air movement.

Purple Hydrangea Flower

Purple Hydrangea Flower

Hydrangea Plants will do well when fertilized in the spring, just as new growth begins, with a fertilizer higher in phosphorus and then again every 8 weeks during their active growing season. Phosphorus will help encourage beautiful blooms; avoid fertilizers high in nitrogen as they promote vegetative growth over flowering.

Water plants frequently after planting to help encourage establishment in their new location. As the temperatures begin to climb, make sure soil surrounding hydrangea plants is kept moist but not overwatered as this will hinder blooms.

One of the most unique characteristics of the hydrangea plant is the ability to change the flower color on a plant by adjusting the soil pH. This isn’t something that happens instantaneously but is a gradual process that can take weeks or months. The change in flower color is related to the amount of aluminum available for plant uptake, which is directly related to soil pH.

The soil needs to be lowered to a more acidic level to get blue hydrangea flowers. Adding sulfur or peat moss to the soil can help accomplish this. To get red hydrangea or pink hydrangea flowers, apply ground limestone to the soil around the plant raising the soil pH. It is easier to change flower color from blue hydrangea to pink hydrangea (changing the soil from acidic to more neutral or slightly alkaline) than vice versa, and the soil pH should be monitored closely with a home testing kit to ensure the change isn’t too drastic, too quickly.

Pink Hydrangea Flower

Pink Hydrangea Flower

To avoid harming the plant, make sure it is at least two years old before trying to change the flower color. This gives it time to completely recover from the initial shock of planting.

Hydrangea Plant Pests

Hydrangeas are typically pest and disease free, but like so many other plants, they can be susceptible if the conditions are right. Some common garden pests to infest hydrangeas are:

  • Aphids
    • Water plants with a heavy spray of water to rinse insects from the infected plants. Apply neem oil or other insecticide if absolutely necessary.
  • Slugs/Snails
    • The most productive method of control is hand picking slugs from the soil and plants about two hours after sunset. If the infestation is severe, trapping may be a more convenient solution; an easy trapping method is sinking shallow pans of stale beer into the ground – the yeast acts as an attractant, and the slugs fall into the liquid and drown.
  • Hydrangea scale
    • If possible, remove as much of the scale insects and their egg masses as possible by scraping them into a container. Then spray infected plants with a systemic insecticide.

Rusts and mildew are common to many garden plants, with hydrangeas being no exception. Cultural methods are the most effective methods of control/prevention of rusts and mildew: keeping garden bed weed free, allowing good air circulation around the base of plants, watering early in the morning, removing infected leaves when the disease is spotted.

An application of neem oil can kill rust spores on the plant and works well if the disease is caught quickly. Plants infected with mildew should be removed from the garden and destroyed to prevent spread.

With stunningly beautiful, showy flowerheads in blues and pinks, the hydrangea plant makes a gorgeous addition to gardenscapes. Their easy to care for nature makes them well loved by many gardeners.

Hydrangea Plant2019-07-01T17:31:17-04:00

Best Fertilizer For Gardens

The best fertilizer for gardens make flowers and vegetables grow healthy and strong. There are many types of fertilizers so picking the right one is an important first step.

For a new gardener it’s easy to think that after you’ve planted some veggies in the garden, making sure they get plenty of sunlight, and are watering them regularly, that should be all it takes to grow great plants and reap a successful harvest, right?

In theory it would be nice if growing a garden was that simple but it’s not.

best fertilizer for gardens

Nutrients Essential for Garden Plants

Plants are constantly feeding on nutrients found in the soil. Over time, they can deplete even the most fertile soil, making it necessary to add plant “food” to grow strong, healthy plants. Thankfully there is a variety of fertilizers available on the market to meet the needs of all garden plants and “restock” soil reservoirs.

Certain nutrients are essential for all plant growth:

  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Sulfur
  • Magnesium
  • Sodium
  • Boron
  • Chlorine
  • Manganese
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Molybdenum
  • Nickel

Three Most Important Plant Nutrients

These nutrients aid in the basic functions in the plant, without them, plants can’t grow. Fertilizers add these nutrients to the soil and are classified based on the three main elements that are needed in much higher amounts than the others

  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium

Nitrogen is listed first on the label since it is considered the most key nutrient needed for plant growth. It’s main responsibility in the plant is regulating vegetative growth. Nitrogen is assimilated in the plant into amino acids, the building blocks of protein; it is also a major component of chlorophyll and helps to keep foliage green; and nitrogen is necessary for many of the plant’s enzymatic reactions.

Phosphorus is a structural component in DNA and RNA (the genetic building blocks within plant cells) and is needed for root growth and flowering.

Potassium works more indirectly in plants than nitrogen and phosphorus. While it isn’t a component of any plant parts, it functions by activating the enzymatic reactions that occur, making it imperative for the overall health of the plant.

What Do the 3 Numbers Mean on Fertilizer

The 3 numbers on the fertilizer label are known as the N-P-K ratio (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium); this ratio tells the percentage, by weight, of the three main nutrients in the bag. The ingredients are always listed in the same order. First is Nitrogen then Phosphorus and last is Potassium (N-P-K).

For Example – In a 10-10-10 formula the bag mixture is

  • N – 10% Nitrogen 
  • P – 10% Phosphorus
  • K – 10% Potassium

In other words a 10 pound bag of fertilizer would contain 1 pound of nitrogen, 1 pound of phosphorus (in the form of P2O5), and 1 pound of potassium (in the form of K2O). The other 7 pounds is just filler, typically crushed limestone or sand.

The N-P-K ratio of organic fertilizers is typically lower than inorganic products. By law the ratio can only include the nutrients that are immediately available for uptake.

Test Your Garden Soil

Before you start adding garden fertilizers it is always a good idea to test the soil first. You don’t want to inadvertently add too many nutrients to the soil. Testing will tell you the PH level of the soil whether it’s alkaline or acidic.

The test will also give you good information on soil nutrient levels. With this information you will know exactly what types of fertilizer will be best for your plants. You can easily buy a soil test kit and do it yourself.

The other option is finding a laboratory that performs soil testing. Lab tests typically will provide more information than a do it yourself test kit.

Best Fertilizer for Gardens

Much of the nutrients in organic fertilizers are considered slow release, and need to be made available by soil microorganisms before the plant can take them in through the roots.

A quick look in any garden center, or a fast internet search, will provide you with a plethora of fertilizers to choose from. This may seem overwhelming but can be navigated by thinking about a few main concepts:

  • Do you want conventional or organic products?
  • A general purpose fertilizer or plant specific food?
  • A granule product or a liquid fertilizer?

You can then narrow down the selection based upon these personal preferences.

Conventional Inorganic Fertilizers

Fertilizers are made completely, or sometimes partially, from synthetic, man-made materials. These inorganic fertilizers contain nutrients in a specific blend that are quickly available for the plants.

Quickly available nutrients mean plant deficiencies are fixed more rapidly, minimizing long term damage to the vegetable, tomato plant etc… Inorganic fertilizers are cheaper to buy, and readily available for purchase.

One of the drawbacks to conventional fertilizers though is these quickly available nutrients have a greater chance of leaching out of the soil and causing contamination of water sources.

Organic Fertilizers

Made from natural ingredients, they consist of the broken down remains of organisms, or are a byproduct (i.e. waste) of the organisms themselves.

After organic fertilizers are applied to the soil, microorganisms and bacteria in the soil ecosystem break these materials down, making the nutrients they contain available for plant uptake.

Due to this natural composition, organic fertilizers have benefits over traditional conventional fertilizer products. The application of an organic fertilizer adds organic matter to the soil which in turn:

  • Increases water retention
  • Improves soil structure and better for the garden soil
  • Promotes microbial activity

The downsides to organic fertilizers are:

  • Higher price tag
  • Nutrients are more slowly available for plant uptake after application

General Purpose Fertilizers

Usually a complete fertilizer, meaning they contain all three of the key nutrients (N, P and K) and are balanced (the ratios of each nutrient is equal). A complete fertilizer is probably the best fertilizer for gardens.

They are formulated to meet the needs of most plants during a typical growing season, and work well in most gardens. Plant specific formulas are available for some plants and are formulated to meet the specific needs of that plant (or plants).

This is beneficial when plants have certain micro-nutrient needs that might not be met by just a general purpose plant food.

Granular vs Liquid Garden Fertilizer

Choosing to use a granular or a liquid fertilizer is entirely up to you.

Granules

These can be sprinkled on the soil around the base of plants. Keep the granules away from the plant stems and leaves. The granules can be worked into the ground surrounding the plants, or watered to make them dissolve into the soil faster.

Liquid Fertilizers

Need to be diluted in water and then applied when the plants are watered. Special hose attachments are available to dilute the product for you, as the hose is on and running.

Composting For Fertilizer

Composting using organic material is a great way to fertilize your garden bed. Grass clippings, dead leaves, table scraps make good compost. Just make sure they are fully decomposed, dark, dry and fall apart easily before using them. As compost continues to break down in your garden it will add nutrients to the soil, compost also helps soil to drain better and retain nutrients.

If you don’t have any compost materials or don’t feel like making them you can always buy compost which can be much more convenient.

Container Gardening Fertilizer

When planting in containers it’s a good idea to use a fertilizer. Nutrients are quickly lost in containers either because the plant uses them up or they are washed away from watering. A small amount of liquid fertilizer works well in containers.

Wrapping Up Best Fertilizer For Gardens

After you decide what the best garden fertilizer is for your plants you might ask yourself how do I apply a garden fertilizer? The best advice is to simply look at the detailed instructions on the fertilizer package regarding how often to feed garden plants, and the rate at which to apply fertilizer. These rates will vary according to the fertilizer used and it’s N-P-K ratio.

As plants consume nutrients in the soil, it becomes necessary to replenish the soil reserves to grow strong, healthy plants. Commercially available fertilizers are intended to do just that.

A gardening market flooded with fertilizer products gives you the ability to tailor a fertilizer schedule/program to fit specific growing needs and philosophies. Knowing these basics about the best fertilizer for gardens will hopefully help make this choice less daunting.

Best Fertilizer For Gardens2019-06-30T23:47:13-04:00