Did you know fertilizing your plants is fascinating? Most gardeners don’t.
In fact, most gardeners don’t know how to fertilize their garden properly. I’ll admit it. In my earlier years of gardening, I fertilized when I felt like it or if I felt like it.
Beyond that, my garden was on its own.
However, I’ve since learned that fertilizing is something every garden needs. Your garden soil, the nutrients which fill it, and the proper application of fertilizer can make all of the difference in your harvest.
Which is why I’m going to fill you in.
- What Nutrients Do Plants Need?
- The Different ‘Feeders’
- Types of Fertilizers and Their Uses
- Organic vs. Man-Made Fertilizers
- How to Apply Fertilizer to Your Garden
- A basic guide to water soluble fertilizers.
- 20 Jul A basic guide to water soluble fertilizers.
- Solubility – The Key to Plant Nutrition
- Water Soluble Fertilizers
- Raw Mineral Salt Compounds and Pre-Mixed water soluble fertilizers.
- All Hydroponic Greenhouse Grade Fertilizer compounds from the worlds most innovative manufacturer’s.
- Everris, Haifa Chem, ICL specialty fertilizer, Yara, Peter’s Professional, PQ Corp, SQM, Fert-Organic, American Plant Food Company, Giles Chemicals
- Hydroponic Nutrient Solution Calculators
- Hydroponic Fertilizer Solubility Table
- Fertilizer Compatibility Table
- What Is Natural Houseplant Fertilizer?
- 5 Easy DIY Options To Fertilize Houseplants Naturally
- Commercial Natural Houseplant Fertilizer
- The Benefits Of Using Natural Fertilizers For Houseplants
- The Problems With Using Chemical Fertilizers
- How To Fertilize Houseplants Naturally Using Commercial Products
- Why It’s Important To Fertilize Indoor Houseplants
- Natural Indoor Plant Fertilizer
- Starch Water
- Banana Peels
- Fish Aquarium Water
- Egg Shells
- Green Tea
- More Gardening Hacks
- How To: Make Your Own Plant Food
- How to Make Plant Food
- Homemade Plant Food Tips and Tricks
What Nutrients Do Plants Need?
Plants require specific nutrients from the soil. The issue is when you plant each year, the plants will draw those nutrients out of the soil, and they don’t magically restock themselves.
Therefore, it is important to fertilize your plants, to ensure they are getting the nutrients previous plants could have already taken from your soil.
Also, it is important to fertilize plants while rebuilding your soil. It will allow the plants to be able to naturally pull what they need from the soil without any additives.
Here are the nutrients plants need:
Nitrogen is naturally in short-supply within nature. All plants need it, and over the years, plants have learned to pull as much as they possibly can out of the soil to ensure they have enough to survive.
However, when looking at how vital nitrogen is, you’ll understand why. It helps plants to make protein which helps them create new tissues and keep building and is vital to their survival.
This nutrient is essential to plants because it is what they need to produce reliable root systems. Phosphorous is what encourages their roots to grow.
Also, it helps plants to produce buds, blooms, and flowers to produce fruit. It also helps the plant to create healthy seeds for more offspring.
We’ve heard carbohydrates are bad. For plants, they are not. Plants need carbohydrates to feed themselves.
Well, potassium enables them to make carbohydrates. It also helps the plant to become disease-resistant, which encourages a healthy life.
Plants don’t need much calcium added to the soil, but you will need to make sure there is enough of it in there.
The reason is calcium is what helps bind the soil together. Calcium will improve soil conditions and give the plant an easier chance of survival.
If you’ve made it through any science class, you’ve heard of photosynthesis. It is the process plants use to produce their food.
The source of the food is the sun. Plants need magnesium to process sunlight to feed themselves. Without it, they won’t survive.
Plants need proteins to build and rebuild itself if it becomes damaged. Sulfur is a vital part of proteins.
Without sulfur, a plant could struggle to make proteins which could be the downfall of the plant altogether.
Each of these nutrients can be placed into your soil using different varieties of fertilizer, which we’ll discuss further down.
However, it’s important to know what your plant needs, what it could be lacking, and make sure you either build those nutrients back into your soil or apply them directly to your plant.
If not, you could lose your harvest altogether.
The Different ‘Feeders’
Different varieties of plants require different amounts of fertilizer to be happy producers. The terms are: plants could be a heavy feeder, moderate feeder, or a light feeder.
It is essential to know what type of feeder each of your plants is to make sure you fertilize accordingly.
Heavy feeders are as the name implies. They require a significant amount of nutrients to efficiently produce.
You should apply fertilizer as you plant the crops and again later in the growing season. You could use a fast-acting liquid fertilizer on occasion as well.
The plants which are heavy feeders are:
- Brussel sprouts
Plants which are considered moderate feeders react better to fast-acting liquid fertilizers than any other type.
However, they seem to like mulch being applied to them because it helps the soil to drain better. Mulch allows them to pull nutrients they need from the soil as needed.
Plants which are moderate feeders are:
- Pole beans
- Sweet potatoes
Light feeders don’t require much fertilizing. Instead, add a smaller amount of fertilizer when you are planting the crop.
Beyond that, they take care of themselves. Plants which are light feeders are:
- Bush beans
- Mustard greens
Understanding what type of feeder your plants are, will let you know what they need during planting and how much attention you need to give them during the growing season as far as applying more nutrients.
Types of Fertilizers and Their Uses
There are many different types of fertilizers. There are some which are more common than others, and it is important to know how to utilize the more common options.
However, you need to understand upfront, fertilizing is a balance. If you don’t feed your garden enough, you could end up with weak plants.
But if you fertilize your garden too frequently, you’ll end up with a great deal of foliage on your plants and minimal harvest.
Some common types of fertilizers:
- Liquid fertilizer
- Granular fertilizer
- Powdered fertilizer
1. Dry Fertilizer
When you use a dry fertilizer, you will want to use them on plants which are already established. Dry fertilizer is a good option if you are giving your heavy feeders the second feeding later on in the growing season.
2. Slow-Release Fertilizers
Most slow-release fertilizers are either specialty synthetic fertilizer or organic fertilizers. They are meant to feed your crops over a period. Slow-release fertilizers are a good option for long-term healthy plants, but not for plants under distress.
3. Liquid Fertilizers
These fertilizers are fast acting. They are an excellent option for plants under distress and in need of a boost. If you buy a specialty fertilizer high in potash, it could boost your harvest as well.
When you apply manure to your soil, it helps it to hold moisture. It will also add nutrients to your soil. Manure is an excellent fertilizer to add to your soil in the fall to give it time to break down and build up your soil.
It is also a good thing to add to your soil after planting. You can apply two to three inches of manure around your plants as a type of mulch.
Organic vs. Man-Made Fertilizers
Fertilizers can either be items you find naturally out in nature, or you can purchase chemicals made by man. They each have their pros and cons. It is essential to understand what they are because both fertilizers can be helpful, and both have their downfalls.
Here is what you need to know:
1. Organic Fertilizers
Organic fertilizers are items such as compost, manure, blood meal, bone meal, and cottonseed meal which can be raised or purchased. They can be applied to your crops and give them a natural boost.
However, you need to be aware; organic fertilizers can be useful. Yet, they have their shortcomings too. The pros of using organic fertilizers are:
- Organic fertilizers are not water soluble. Therefore, they are released slowly to the plant.
- Improves the soil structure
- Organic fertilizers can be grown or raised, which could make them inexpensive or free.
- Manure and compost are easy to find in most areas, making organic fertilizers easily accessible.
The cons of organic fertilizer are:
- The items you use to fertilize organically are frequently bulky, making them hard to transport, store, or distribute.
- Because organic fertilizers slow-feed, they could be ineffective when dealing with plants in distress.
- Since organic fertilizers aren’t usually packaged and aren’t manufactured, the components could be different for each batch. This could make it difficult to know how much to apply to your garden.
2. Synthetic Fertilizers
Synthetic fertilizers are human-made chemical-based fertilizers. Because they are manufactured, they are water-soluble which makes them release quickly.
Like organic fertilizers, synthetic fertilizers have their pros and cons. Here are the advantages of using synthetic fertilizers:
- Less expensive
- Easily accessible
- A quick release which makes them work fast
The cons of using synthetic fertilizers are:
- Add nothing to your soil
- Bad for the environment because of production methods and potential of contaminating water supplies
- Could burn your plants because of how quickly they work
How to Apply Fertilizer to Your Garden
Now that you know about the different types of fertilizers, their purposes, pros and cons, and what different plants need from the soil, you are ready to talk about the different methods of applying fertilizer to your garden.
Here is what you need to know to fertilize your garden well:
1. The Numbers Matter
When choosing a fertilizer from a store choose a well-balanced option. You’ll see fertilizer labeled 5-5-5 or 10-10-10.
But what do the numbers mean? The figures not only show the fertilizer is balanced, but they are balanced in key ingredients.
The first number tells you how much nitrogen is in the fertilizer. The second number tells you how much phosphate is in the fertilizer. The final number tells you about the amount of potash.
It is important to know what you are buying and what the numbers mean to purchase what is best for your specific gardening needs.
2. Feed the Roots
You can feed the roots of your plants by applying manure and compost during planting and before the growing season to build up the nutrients in your soil.
Also, when your plants are well established, you can add fertilizer to the base of the plants to add necessary nutrients to the plants.
3. Feed the Foliage
It is essential to make sure you feed the foliage of your plants too. Plants can absorb eight to twenty times more nutrients through their foliage than through the roots. Which is why it is a good idea to apply liquid fertilizer to your plants from time to time.
Also, liquid fertilizer can increase your harvest drastically, if applied at the right times. It is a good idea to spray your plants when transplanting, when they’re blooming, and after the first fruits begin appearing.
However, check the list of what type of feeder the plant is because you may not need to fertilize quite as much for some varieties.
4. Check Your Soil and pH
Finally, you need to check your soil and find if there are any deficiencies. If there are, you’ll need to add a balanced fertilizer and whatever nutrients the soil is deficient in.
Also, check the pH of the soil because if the soil is not balanced, the plant won’t be able to absorb nutrients.
Most plants prefer a pH balance of 6.0-7.0.
Well, you are now fully in the know about fertilizing your plants. If you feed your plants at key times, you should be fine.
However, if your plants begin to look weepy it might be a sign they are in need of nutrients. Plants have a way of letting you know when they are in need.
But I’d like to hear from you. What is your favorite type of fertilizer? What’s your preferred method of application? Do you have any secrets to ‘keeping the balance’ of fertilization in your garden?
We’d love to hear from you. Leave us your thoughts in the comment section below.
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A basic guide to water soluble fertilizers.
20 Jul A basic guide to water soluble fertilizers.
Posted at 21:48h in General Information by grassdmin8
This article published on Essortment.
A basic guide to water soluble fertilizers. Including information pertaining to it’s contents and usages, as well as, how what’s on the label can differ from what’s inside.
Water soluble fertilizers are fertilizers that can be dissolved in water and added or leached out of the soil easily. With water soluble fertilizers it is easy to control the precise amount of nutrients available to your plants(the control is more exact with soilless mixes).
Soluble fertilizers usually have N-P-K numbers listed on their label. The numbers listed are not always the exact percentages, they are an indication of the smallest percentage that the fertilizer contains of the listed element. The reason for this is that companies do not want their competitors to know the exact amount of nutrients they have in their product, so they list the lowest levels their product might contain to thwart any copying of their secret growing compounds. The N is for nitrogen, the P is for phosphorus and the K is for potassium or potash. Of the 16(12 of which are contained in water soluble fertlizers) known elements necessary for plant life, N-P-K, are the three that are of the most importance and always listed on water soluble fertilizers, in that order(except Eco-Grow, which lists N-K-P). Following N-P-K, calcium(Ca) and magnesium(Mg) are the two, second most important nutrients listed on the label. The rest, iron(Fe), sulfur(S), manganese(Mn), boron(B), molybdenum(Mb), zinc(Zn) and copper(Cu) are trace elements or micro-nutrients.
Nitrogen is the most important of the nutrients. It controls the processes used to make proteins vital to new protoplasm in the cells. Nitrogen is essential to the production of chlorophyll and is responsible for leaf growth, as well as, overall size and vigor.
Phosphorus is necessary for photosynthesis and provides a mechanism for energy transfer within the plant. Phosphorus is associated with overall vigor and is used at it’s highest levels during germination, seedling and the fruiting or flowering stages of growth.
Potassium, or potash, provides the manufacturing and movement of sugars and starches, as well as, growth by cell division. It also increases chlorophyll levels in the foliage and helps regulate the stomata openings so plants make better use of light and air. Potassium is important in all stages of plant growth.
Magnesium is the central atom in every chlorophyll molecule and is essential to the absorbtion of light. It aids in the utilization of nutrients and also neutralizes soil acids and toxic compounds produced by the plant. Adding dolomite lime before planting(found at most retail garden supply stores;follow directions for usage on the label) helps stabilize pH and adds magnesium and calcium to the soil. The other secondary nutrient, calcium, is for the manufacturing of cells and overall growth.
Trace elements are vital to chlorophyll formation and must be present in minute amounts. Little is known about the exact amounts needed. They function mainly as a catalyst to plant’s processes and the utilization of other elements.
The ultimate goal of fertilizing is to supply your plant with the right amount of nutrients, yet, at the same time not toxifying the soil via over-fertilization. Once a plant is placed into a container, with new potting soil, the plant will have enough nutrients to last about a month and will then need to be fertilized for continued growth. Fertilizers are in mass abundance and it should be no trouble locating one in a retail garden center that fits your plant type. The directions for usage, given on the products label, should be followed accordingly to acheive maximum results with your plants.
With a regular watering/fertilization system your plants can reach amazing results and in some instances can almost double the growth of a slow, sickly growing plant. Using water soluble fertilizers is the easiest way to keep your plants (household, garden, or container) constantly recieving the most nutrients that they are able to absorb, thereby, increasing the amount of growth. It is also the easiest fertilizer to apply for the beginning or the professional gardener and is, therefore, the most widely used. So try it with your plants and see what amazing results you too can yield with the proper usage of water soluble fertilizers.
For more research studies go to Research
For product information go to Products
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Solubility – The Key to Plant Nutrition
September 14, 2018
One of the most important concepts in fertilizer chemistry and plant nutrition is “solubility.” In the plant sciences, solubility is defined as how readily nutrients are dissolved in water and can be taken up by plants. There are many factors that can affect the solubility of a nutrient, including but not limited to chemical structure, ion charge, temperature, and pressure. pH can also have a profound impact on the solubility of nutrients; this is because different types of nutrients in a solution/soil colloid will tend to attract or repel each other based on their chemical properties. Sometimes it is beneficial to fertilize plants with highly soluble nutrients; sometimes it’s detrimental. In this feature, well examine the topic of solubility in greater detail so that you have a better grasp as to how the nutrients you choose to fertilizer with will 1.) react with the environment and 2.) affect plant health.
Before we learn more about the solubility of common fertilizer chemistries, let’s take a moment to review basic plant physiology. As we will see, if nutrients were not capable of being dissolved in water, plant life would not be possible.
Phloem, Xylem and Evapotranspiration – The Plant’s Nutrient Transport System
All higher plants (including grasses, vegetables, and trees) have a vascular system which is analogous to an animal’s circulatory system. The plant vascular system consists of two primary types of tissues that are typically bundled together: xylem and phloem. Phloemtubules carry sugar, other organic compounds and minerals around the plant. Typically, sugar is transported down to plant roots as an energy source for root growth. Xylemtubules transport water and are responsible for keeping the plant hydrated. Water is drawn from the ground into the roots where it is pulled upward through the stem, all the way to the leaf or blade, where it eventually exists through stomata. (Stomata are tiny pores on leaf blades that open and close to control the rates of water loss and gas exchange). The entire process of water being drawn through the plant is called evapotranspiration. Because water has cohesive and adhesive properties (meaning water likes to “stick” to surfaces, as well as itself), when water evaporates out through a stomate, another water molecule gets pulled into the stomate to take its place. Essentially, xylem tubes facilitate an unbroken chain of water molecules that are constantly being pulled upward through the plant. This is critical because this is how nutrients from the ground are transported to all parts of the plant; they are dissolved in the water located inside xylem tissues. In other words, nutrients that are not soluble cannot be used by plants.
State of solubility at delivery – Which fertilizers perform better: granular or liquid products?
Much study has gone in to determining if granular or liquid fertilizers are more effective at delivering nutrients to the plant. As it turns out, as long as the nutrient source, environmental conditions and application rate are the same, both are equally effective. When nutrients are already dissolved in water, they are immediately absorbed into the ground. In the case of granular fertilizers, if the ground is sufficiently saturated due to heavy irrigation or adequate rainfall, the same nutrients will readily dissolve at disperse into the soil in the same manner as if they were delivered in liquid form. In the case of turf, two benefits that come from liquid fertilizer applications are the immediate penetration of nutrients into the soil, as well as a more even distribution of nutrients across the soil surface. But remember, given adequate ground saturation, nutrients delivered from granules will disperse just as easily given enough time.
Solubility Properties of Common Nutrients
As referenced earlier in this feature, solubility of nutrients can vary significantly by nutrient source, as well as temperature. Take a look at the chart below which reports the solubility of some of the more common nutrient sources in the industry. Note that in every case, as temperature increases, so does solubility.
Solubility of Nitrogen
Most plants need more nitrogen than any other primary or secondary nutrient. Nitrogen comes in numerous forms, including but not limited to: urea (all sub-forms), ammonium (all salt forms), nitrate (all salt forms) and numerous organic sources (such as biosolids and composts). Each of these N-sources has a different degree of solubility. For example, urea is extremely soluble, which means if you drop urea granules into a beaker of water, the urea will readily dissolve. The extreme solubility of urea is beneficial because an abundant supply of nitrogen is easily delivered to plant roots in the presence of water. Unfortunately, urea’s extreme solubility can also be detrimental in situations where nitrogen is accidently over applied (which leads to burning). It is important to note that the release rate of urea (or other forms of controlled release nitrogen) in granular form can be altered by coating it with polymer, sulfur or both, HOWEVER this is a physical method of slowing down the release of nitrogen. The solubility of the urea nitrogen contained within the polymer/sulfur coating remains unchanged.
Some fertilizer labels contain a section called: “WIN” or “Water Insoluble Nitrogen.” This refers to any nitrogen in a compound that is not readily dissolvable in water and immediately available to a plant. Over time, this nitrogen slowly becomes available raw ingredient the compound breaks down.
Solubility of Humic Substances
Humic Substances are highly valuable soil amendments because they chelate micronutrients, retain soil moisture, and create an ideal living environment for beneficial soil microbes. It is important to note that not all humic substances are alike. Humic substances range from highly soluble fulvic acids and moderately soluble humic acids, all the way down to completely insoluble humin substances. Humins are dark and tar-like in appearance and have no beneficial properties in plant-soil systems. Make sure that if you add humic substances to your soil, you are adding mostly fulvic and humic acids. For those applying liquid products through traditional spraying and fertigation, make sure your humic substances consist of mostly fulvics and lower molecular weight humic acids. Other humic substances may not dissolve in water, which could clog spray systems.
Solubility of Iron Substances
Iron is an important micronutrient commonly used to give turf a dark, lush green appearance. Iron typically comes in two forms in the earth’s crust: Fe+2 (ferrous iron) and Fe+3(ferric iron). Plants prefer the ferrous form for uptake, however the ferric form is more abundant in the soil. Have you ever tried to dissolve iron oxide (rust) in water? Nothing happens- that’s because iron oxide is completely insoluble in water. Ferrous iron is quite soluble in water (hence its ability to be transported in xylem tissue), however ferrous iron is easily oxidized into the ferric form. For these reasons, iron sulfate and iron sucrate are popular forms of iron in granular fertilizer mixes. When iron is bound to a sulfate or sucrate, it becomes harder for the environment to convert it into an oxide. In order to maximize the solubility of iron in liquid fertilizers, iron-chelates are used. Chelates are extremely soluble in water; they surround the metal ion and protect it from the oxidative environment of pure water. The most common forms of chelated iron are Fe-EDTA, Fe-EDDHA, and Fe-DTPA. If you’ve ever used a liquid iron nutrient product, it more than likely contained one of the three aforementioned chelated iron complexes.
Solubility of Lime
Lime is primarily used to balance the pH of acidic soils. Compared to the solubility of most nutrients, lime’s solubility is relatively low. Interestingly, as opposed to most nutrients, the solubility of lime decreases as temperature increases. Solubility is also affected by particle size; the finer the particle, the more soluble lime becomes. Lime typically comes in two forms: CaC03 (calcium hydroxide lime) and Ca(OH)2·Mg(OH)2 (dolomitic lime). It is important to note that in the fertilizer industry, when we say “lime,” we are actually referring to ground-up “limestone.” Pure “lime” has the chemical formulas CaO or Ca(OH)2; both of which are purified in thermolytic reactions. Pure lime is extremely soluble, hence it forms the basis of concrete products. Before applying lime to your soil, perform a pH test first. When applying lime, make sure to water it thoroughly into the soil, as again, limestone is not very soluble.
Tank Mixing, Broadcast Spraying, & Fertigation: What You Should Know About Nutrient Cross-Reactions
For those who prefer liquid fertilizers and soil amendments, it is important to note that regardless of the relative solubility of the ingredients you use, some ingredients simply don’t mix well with others (this is chemistry 101). When ionic compounds dissolve in water, the ions disassociate. For example, when table salt (NaCl) dissolves in water, the Na+ and Cl- ions split apart from each other. In nature, pure sodium is highly reactive, and pure chlorine gas is deadly, however when dissolved in water, they are quite safe. When two different kinds of salts are dissolved in water, it is possible for the ions to perform a double replacement reaction, meaning two entirely new compounds are created. Sometimes these new compounds are insoluble, and they immediately precipitate in solution.
Many liquid products will instruct the user to perform a small scale “jar test” when mixing with other liquid products. This is to ensure that precipitates do not form, but also to ensure there are no dangerous cross-reactions. The chart below compares the combability of different combinations of chemistries in solution. While most chemistries are compatible, there are three distinct patterns become apparent:
- Most nitrates are not compatible with elemental sulfur
- Calcium nitrate is only moderately soluble with most compounds
- Straight urea doesn’t mix well with some nitrates
Whether mixing nutrients, soil amendments, or pesticides, ALWAYSread and understand the label ANDperform a small-scale jar test with new combinations of ingredients before large scale tank mixing. If you have any questions or concerns, contact the product’s manufacturer before proceeding.
Solubility & Compatibility – master these two concepts and your fertilizer programs is sure to give you fantastic results whether your growing turf, ornamentals, trees, or vegetables!
Water Soluble Fertilizers
Raw Mineral Salt Compounds and Pre-Mixed water soluble fertilizers.
Commercial Growers and Hobby Gardeners, all our fertilizers are offered in containers to suit any size grow.
One, four, twenty and forty pound reclosable plastic containers. Fifty pound bags and full pallets.
All Hydroponic Greenhouse Grade Fertilizer compounds from the worlds most innovative manufacturer’s.
Everris, Haifa Chem, ICL specialty fertilizer, Yara, Peter’s Professional, PQ Corp, SQM, Fert-Organic, American Plant Food Company, Giles Chemicals
Calcium Nitrate, Calcium EDTA chelate, Calcium Chloride, Calcium Sulfate, Magnesium Nitrate, Magnesium Sulfate, Mono Potassium Phosphate, Mono Ammonium Phosphate, PeKacid, Potassium Hydroxide, Potassium Nitrate, Potassium Silicate, Potassium Sulfate.
Use these dry fertilizer salts to mix a Custom Nutrient Formula for your plants. With a Source Water Test you’ll know what needs to be added to the solution to feed the best ratio of nutrients to your plants.After you have formulated your solution, it is a good idea to get it tested to confirm your calculations and mixing process produced the desired target profile. Nutrient Solution Test.
Caution: Mineral fertilizers are inorganic salts or mixtures of salts. By their nature, fertilizer salts may be irritating to the skin and eyes. Precautions should be taken to prevent eye contact and minimize skin contact. Fertilizer dusts are considered nuisance-type dusts. Inhalation of nuisance dusts may induce or aggravate respiratory discomfort. Approved dust respirators should be used when fertilizer dust is present. When handling fertilizers in enclosed areas, adequate ventilation should be employed to move dust.
Some, if not most of these salts will absorb moisture out of the air if they are left exposed. We sell one pound,four pound 20 pound and 40 pound quantities in re-close-able plastic wide mouth containers (jars or buckets), not ziplock bags. Always replace the lid. You can still use the salts if they do clump/cake together, but it affects their weights and maximum solubility.
Hydroponic Nutrient Solution Calculators
Formulate a custom nutrient profile using Salt Smarts an online, hosted fertilizer calculator with all our fertilizer compounds available. Other options include our downloadable CustomHydroNutrients2.4.xls , it is an Excell based liquid fertilizer calculator with all our dry nutrient salts entered. Use it to work out your custom formula. Or check out the Online Custom Hydroponic Nutrient Calculator, another excellent calculator is HydroBuddy from Daniel Fernandez.
Hydroponic Fertilizer Solubility Table
Fertilizer Compatibility Table
Indoor plants need to be fertilized to help them grow to their full potential and look stunning all year round. Natural houseplant fertilizers are a great option as they are safe, effective and provide a steady release of nutrients into the soil. In addition, they are eco-friendly and will even improve the quality of the potting soil over time.
How do you fertilize houseplants naturally? Natural organic material can be used to provide nutrients to fertilize your houseplants naturally. Household waste such as coffee grounds, egg shells, banana peels and green tea are suitable, or commercial natural houseplant fertilizer can be used.
In this article, we will explain what natural houseplant fertilizer is and explore some of the different ways you can fertilize your potted plants using safe, environmentally friendly nutrient sources ranging from kitchen waste to commercial natural fertilizers. We will also look at the reasons for choosing natural over chemical fertilizers. Read on for some great tips to fertilize your houseplants naturally.
What Is Natural Houseplant Fertilizer?
Natural fertilizers are materials containing nutrients that are minimally processed, so the nutrients remain in their natural forms.
In most cases, these nutrients are organic in form and are not immediately available for uptake by plant roots, as plants can only use nutrients that have been decomposed and converted into mineral form by microorganisms in the soil.
When applied, these natural fertilizers release nutrients to plants more slowly than chemical fertilizers do. Think of it this way: Natural fertilizers feed the soil rather than directly feeding the plant.
The terms “natural” and “organic” are often used interchangeably to refer to any type of naturally occurring fertilizer.
However, some people will insist that organic fertilizers can only contain organic materials that are derived from biological matter, whereas natural fertilizers can contain both organic and mineral components.
While there are natural fertilizers that are used in the same way as the familiar commercial chemical fertilizers that you can find in any gardening supply center, the term also applies to soil conditioners (also called “improvements” or “amendments”), which need to be worked into the soil before potting your plants.
The list of natural fertilizers used in agriculture is long, but among the best are kelp, cow manure, alfalfa meal, limestone, and chicken manure fertilizers along with compost, worm castings, and teas.
However, many natural fertilizers that are great for farms and gardens are impractical for use on indoor houseplants because of the smell.
But there are many commercial natural houseplant fertilizers, as well as DIY options made by recycling food waste that can save you money while nourishing your indoor plants. The next section discusses some of the best options for fertilize houseplants naturally.
5 Easy DIY Options To Fertilize Houseplants Naturally
Fertilizing your houseplants naturally can be as simple as using kitchen and household waste to feed your plants. Whilst you can purchase excellent natural fertilizers, they tend to be more expensive than synthetic fertilizers.
Household waste doesn’t have to cost a thing and it’s a great feeling being able to put your household waste to good use growing wonderful houseplants. Here are my top 5 natural houseplants fertilizers.
Eggshells provide the essential plant micronutrient calcium and also help lower the acidity level of soils as a substitute for agricultural limestone.
With cleaned, crushed eggshells, you can pulverize them and mix them into the potting soil when you are potting your plants, or make a fertilizer tea that you pour into the soil by steeping them in boiled water overnight.
Banana peels contain high levels of potassium, as well as small amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and magnesium and make a great slow release natural houseplant fertilizer.
You can either lay strips of banana peel directly on the soil, cut them up into small pieces and mix with the potting soil, or puree them with water and pour onto the houseplant soil. The banana peel will decompose slowly, releasing the vital nutrients into the soil for your plants to use.
Used coffee grounds can be mixed with potting soil, used for compost, or you can make liquid coffee fertilizer by soaking them in water for a week. Coffee grounds are high in nitrogen, but relatively lower in potassium and phosphorus, so will be better for foliage plants.
See more about using coffee grounds to fertilize indoor plants in this article, which discusses the pros and cons and the best ways to use them.
If you have a freshwater aquarium at home, you have a supply of houseplant fertilizer ready and waiting. The waste water is rich in natural nutrients from the decomposing fish food and fish waste.
When changing the aquarium water, you can apply this directly to the soil for your houseplants to use.
Using aquarium water to fertilize your houseplants actually mimics the natural nitrogen cycle. In nature, plants in and around a pond will process and make use of nitrogen waste produced by fish, helping the plants grow and filtering and cleansing the water for the plants.
This is even used in a type of agriculture called aquaponics, where fish and plants are grown in the same system, creating a mutually beneficial environment for all. Learn more about aquaponics here.
Green tea grounds are a great option for fertilizing acid loving houseplants such as Begonias and African Violets.
Tannic acid within the tea leaves lowers the pH and the high nutrient concentrations ensure your houseplants will grow strong and healthy.
Twice brewed green tea can be used directly on your houseplants after it has cooled or you can keep and compost the green tea leaves and grounds to use later.
Commercial Natural Houseplant Fertilizer
There are many great natural houseplant fertilizers that you can purchase as either slowly releasing dry formulations or faster-acting liquids.
Natural dry fertilizers made for houseplants may be in the form of loose granular fertilizer that you sprinkle onto the potting soil or compressed spikes that you insert into the soil. They often contain bone meal, blood meal, rock phosphate, limestone, or dehydrated worm castings.
Common ingredients of natural liquid fertilizers include liquid kelp, fish emulsion, worm tea, compost tea, and plant extracts.
Because natural matter is complex and variable, you won’t find N-P-K ratios listed on the labels of these products. But if you need a certain one of the three main macronutrients, here are the natural fertilizers containing good amounts of eachto look for:
- Nitrogen: Fish emulsion, cottonseed meal, alfalfa meal
- Phosphorous: Rock phosphate, bone meal
- Potassium: Kelp meal, granite meal
The Benefits Of Using Natural Fertilizers For Houseplants
There are many advantages to using natural rather than chemical fertilizers for your indoor houseplants:
- Gentle And Safe: Since natural fertilizers are not overly concentrated and take time to break down, the risk of burning your plants is greatly reduced, and there’s no toxic salt buildup in the soil or leaching into the groundwater
- Soil Building: Natural fertilizers with organic material improve the structure of the potting soil, increasing aeration, enhancing its ability to hold moisture and nutrients, and promoting the microbial ecosystem
- Environmentally Sustainable: Natural fertilizers are much more environmentally friendly, with organics being both renewable and biodegradable
- Affordable Options: Although commercial natural fertilizers are typically more pricey than chemical blends, you can save money by using common household items to make simple homemade fertilizers
The Problems With Using Chemical Fertilizers
As opposed to natural fertilizers, chemical fertilizers consist of highly concentrated nutrients that are extracted and refined through industrial processes.
These may also be referred to as “synthetic,” “manufactured,” or “inorganic” fertilizers. They usually contain nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium in ratios that are listed on the packages as N-P-K values.
Chemical fertilizers are popular for use with houseplants because they are easily available, relatively inexpensive, and provide mineral nutrients that are immediately available to plants. Also, they are precisely formulated, so you know exactly what nutrients you’re feeding your plants.
But these fertilizers have some pretty big downsides involving risk of harm to plants,along with their negative impact on the environment:
- Overuse: Since the nutrients in chemical fertilizers are highly concentrated and are immediately available to plants, it’s very easy to over-fertilize, which can cause chemical burns to sensitive plant tissues
- Toxic Salts: The excess mineral salts from chemical fertilizers can build up to toxic levels in the potting soil, which will damage the roots and weaken the plant
- Soil Depletion: While they deliver nutrients to plants, chemical fertilizers do nothing to build the soil, so the potting mixture will eventually lose its organic matter as well as its microbial ecosystem, becoming compacted, lifeless, and unable to hold water or nutrients
- Environmental Damage: Chemical fertilizers are primarily derived from nonrenewable sources such as petroleum; their mining and refinement consume fossil fuels; and leached excess nutrients from chemical fertilizers are wreaking havoc on the environment
How To Fertilize Houseplants Naturally Using Commercial Products
The principles of fertilizing with natural products are the same as those you would follow using chemical fertilizers.
- Fertilize with caution. Although natural fertilizers are much safer, too much can still harm your plants. Follow the instructions for use on the product labels carefully. And remember that fertilizing when a plant doesn’t need it is worse than not feeding it when it’s lacking nutrients.
- Fertilize only when your houseplants are actively growing or flowering.
- Know your plants. Do your research and learn whether each plant is a heavy or light feeder, choose the right type of fertilizer, and dilute it when in doubt. Generally speaking, plants in lower light conditions won’t require as much fertilizer as plants that require brighter lighting.
- Dry fertilizers are typically applied less frequently than liquid fertilizers.
Why It’s Important To Fertilize Indoor Houseplants
Most plants absorb the majority of their nutrients through their root systems from the soil. In places where plants thrive, the nutrients that plants use are constantly being replaced by the decomposition of chemical compounds in organic matter and other processes.
When a plant is growing indoors in a container, however, those natural processes are missing. And as the plant uses nutrients in the potting soil, they are not being naturally replaced.
Additionally, some nutrients are leached out of the soil each time you water the plant. So unless you provide the nutrients the plant needs, the soil will become depleted and the plant will suffer.
Many thanks for reading this article on natural houseplant fertilizers. If you want more tips to keep your houseplants healthy and thriving, check out the and my other houseplant articles.
Natural Indoor Plant Fertilizer
Plants benefit from natural fertilizers. There are many different household items that you can use as a natural plant fertilizer. It’s best not to try these recipes for homemade plant food all at one time, try one the first month and another the next month, and compare your results to see which fertilizer your plants respond to best.
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It is a little known fact that indoor plants love starch water that is left over after cooking potatoes or pasta. Just let the starch water cool, then water your houseplant with it.
Banana peels make a great fertilizer for your plants. Chop up the peels and soak them in hot water. Remove the peels from the water and pour the cooled liquid on your plants. Bananas add needed potassium to your houseplants.
Fish Aquarium Water
If you have a fish tank, when you clean the tank save some of the water that you remove from the tank and feed it to your houseplants. Fish water contains many nutrients such as nitrogen and potassium, which are very beneficial to your plants.
Dried egg shells add nitrogen, phosphorus, and calcium to your soil. Dry the shells thoroughly and grind them to a powder with an old coffee grinder. Sprinkle the dried egg shells around your plants.
Green tea is a very beneficial fertilizer for your houseplants. Use one tea bag to two gallons of water. Apply the solution to your houseplants monthly.
Molasses is a great natural fertilizer for indoor plants. Just mix 2 tablespoons of molasses with 1 gallon on water. This fertilizer can be applied to your houseplants monthly.
More Gardening Hacks
- How to Fertilize Hanging Flower Baskets
- Home Remedy for Gnats
- Using Epsom Salt to Fertilize Houseplants
- Best Natural Fertilizer for Tomatoes
- Homemade African Violet Fertilizer
- Using Epsom Salt as a Natural Fertilizer in the Garden
- How to Get Rid of Gnats with Vinegar
- How to Fertilize Blueberry Bushes
- African Violet Care
- Lucky Bamboo Care
- How to Get Rid of Gnats in Houseplants
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How To: Make Your Own Plant Food
If you want lush healthy houseplants and garden growth but aren’t thrilled about paying for costly commercial foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce, you’re in luck! You can easily make your own plant food at home for a fraction of the price and—as a bonus—know exactly what goes into it.
All it takes to keep your favorite plant species robust and beautiful are three common ingredients that you’ll find at any supermarket for around $5 total (if you don’t already have them on hand). Because this recipe requires such small amounts and the ingredients last for months, your cost will literally be pennies per batch!
You may be surprised to learn that the following products possess the properties and nutrients plants need to thrive:
• Epsom salt contains magnesium and sulfur, both of which are beneficial for plant growth. Sulfur helps plants absorb nutrients from the soil while magnesium increases the plant’s ability to produce chlorophyll, which is responsible for maintaining healthy green foliage.
• Baking soda stimulates blooms in flowering plants and also reduces the risk of fungal disease. This is especially beneficial for potted houseplants, which are prone to mildew as a result of overwatering and limited air circulation.
• Household ammonia contains nitrogen, a component that promotes healthy root growth. For plant food, be sure to use plain ammonia, free of other ingredients such as scent or cleaning additives. And remember, ammonia is toxic to people and pets, so be sure to label and store your homemade plant food accordingly.
How to Make Plant Food
MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
– Clean gallon jug
– Epsom salt
– Baking soda
– Household ammonia
Measure 1 ½ tablespoons of Epsom salt into a clean gallon jug. A rinsed-out plastic milk jug with its lid makes a great container for this homemade plant food.
Add 1 ½ teaspoons of baking soda to the jug.
Measure a scant ½ teaspoon of household ammonia into the jug. Scant means slightly less than the full ½ teaspoon. Don’t overdo it with the ammonia; a little goes a long way!
Fill the rest of the jug with plain tap water, screw the lid on tightly, and swish well to combine.
Let sit for at least 30 minutes to allow the Epsom salt to completely dissolve. Label the container and store it in a cool dry spot where kids and pets can’t get into it.
Homemade Plant Food Tips and Tricks
- No need to dilute your homemade plant food. It’s ready to go!
- Feed potted houseplants once every three to five weeks. During winter, when plants grow more slowly, once every five weeks is sufficient. When plants show renewed growth in spring, increase feedings to once every three weeks.
- Use the same amount of homemade liquid plant food as you would normally water indoor plants. For example, if you typically give your potted fern one cup of water, substitute one cup of homemade plant food, which will provide sufficient water and nutrients.
- Pour homemade plant food around the base of the plant, rather than on its foliage. This is the best way for the roots to absorb all the nutrients.
- You can use this homemade plant food as an all-purpose fertilizer in an outdoor flowerbed or garden. After regular watering, while the ground is still damp, pour two to three cups around the base of each plant once every three weeks during the growing season. Stop feeding outdoor plants in late fall, before they go dormant.