If you are a beginner home gardener, you may start wondering, “Why do I even have to apply Fertilizers?”. And sometimes you may avoid fertilizers because you do not want chemicals in your food. But, fertilizers are crucial to healthy root system, vigorous plant growth and better yields. And, they always do not have to be added in chemical form. So, here is a guide from us on fertilizers to keep your home crop healthy and vibrant.
Why do plants need Fertilizers?
Just like humans needs carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals to survive, plants need some vital nutrients like Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium (NPK). If a plant does not receive appropriate nutrients, it’s growth and yields will be inhibited. While it is true that most of the nutrients plants need are present in soil and air, there are multiple factors influencing nutrient absorption by the roots. For example, rate of nutrition absorption varies depending on acidity of soil, type of soil, moisture in the soil etc. Moreover, plants may not be able to use those nutrients in the form it is available. So, fertilizers act as a catalyst to plant growth by enhancing nutrient availability. In laymen terms fertilizers are nothing but nutrients required for plants. They may not necessarily be in chemical form. There many types of organic fertilizers you can make at home.
What nutrients do plants need?
Nutrients required by plants are broadly classified into 3 categories based on the quantity required.
Vital Nutrients: Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium. Commonly this combination is known as NPK and these three nutrients are vital for plant growth, seed production, root health and disease resistance. Plants need these in large quantities than other nutrients and may not survive without these.
Supplementary Nutrients: Calcium, Magnesium and Sulphur. These are important for plant growth too but are not required in large quantities.
Micro-nutrients: Iron, Zinc, Molybdenum, Sodium, Silicone, Boron and Copper. These micro nutrients are required in very small quantities and enhance plant growth.
What Fertilizers can provide these nutrients?
Nutrients can be provided to plants in either chemical form or organic form. If you practice organic gardening at home, there are many organic fertilizers that provide as much nutrition as synthetic fertilizers. Some of the organic fertilizers like compost can be made at home.
Commonly used synthetic fertilizers in home gardens are Urea, Sodium Nitrate and Ammonium Nitrate. Most important thing to check when buying a chemical fertilizer is the NPK ratio such as 10-10-10. Having a balance NPK ratio is crucial for plants. Chemical fertilizers come in many forms such as water soluble, granular etc.
Organic fertilizers on the other hand such as compost and manure are already well known. These are nutrient rich and unlike synthetic fertilizers enable slow release of nutrients over a period of time. Vermicompost, bone meal, poultry litter, egg shells, wood ash, coco peat, coffee grounds etc are commonly used organic fertilizers.
Other aspects of using Fertilizers
We all know the age old saying that anything in excess is not good. Same thing goes for fertilizers. If added in excess quantities, instead of enhancing plant growth they may kill the plant. And this is not only true for chemical fertilizers but also true for organic fertilizers. Using them in the right quantity, time and applying them the right way is crucial for healthy plants.
In the following posts we ll cover organic fertilizers, how to make them at home, how to apply them and when to apply them. Stay tuned with us Home Croppers.