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Fertilizer Effects on Plants

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    What Is Fertilizer?

    • Any product designated as fertilizer will have at least 5 percent of one or more of three key nutrients: nitrogen (labeled N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), or NPK. Natural fertilizers are combinations of manure and plant residues, while manufactured fertilizers use natural gas, petroleum and rock phosphate.

    What It Does

    • Knowing that your fertilizer contains NPK is not enough. You need to know what these three nutrients do to choose the fertilizer with the correct percentages to nurture your plants. Nitrogen helps the plants produce new tissue. Phosphorus aids root growth, and sets buds and flowers. Potassium provides the vigor for healthy plants.

    Insufficient Fertilizer

    • If your fertilizer is applied in insufficient amounts, your plants will exhibit chlorosis or yellowing of the leaves. If extreme deficiencies occur, leaves will die and the plant will appear stunted. No side shoots develop and the plant will struggle to survive.

    Excess Fertilizer

    • You may not realize at first that you have overfertilized; the plant will show vigorous growth and deep green foliage. It is only later that leaf tips turn brown or appear burned. Older foliage dries up and falls off prematurely. Fertilizer in its basic form is salt. Overfertilizing means you have oversalted the soil around the plant. The salt residue burns the roots, preventing necessary water uptake. Without sufficient water the plant cannot survive.

    The Correct Amount

    • To determine the correct amount of fertilizer, you will need to know about the plants in question and the soil. All soils are different, as are plant needs. For the most accurate fertilizer decisions, you should test your soil for nutrients and pH, and consult gardening journals or your local garden center about the needs of your specific plants.

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