Fertilizer Buying Guide
How do you choose the right fertilizer? There are so many available at Lowe's, like lawn fertilizer, plant fertilizer and weed and feed, it can get confusing. Learn which nutrients to look for and what alternatives to consider for a perfect lawn and garden.
Time To Get Really Green?
Reading a Fertilizer LabelThe three numbers (often called NPK) on a fertilizer package tell you the percentage of the primary nutrients' makeup by weight. These percentages in fertilizer compounds are formulated for everything from asparagus to zinnias. The three main components are:
- Nitrogen (symbol N) for leaf development and vivid green colour.
- Phosphorous (symbol P) for root growth.
- Potassium (symbol K) sometimes called potash, for root development and disease resistance.
For example, a bag marked "16-4-8" contains 16 percent nitrogen, 4 percent phosphorous and 8 percent potassium. The other 72 percent is usually inert filler material, such as clay pellets or granular limestone. To know how much of each is in the bag, multiply the percentage by the size (weight) of the bag. (Example: a 50-lb. bag of 10-10-10 contains 5 pounds each of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium). There may also be secondary or minor elements in the formula. Don't feel shortchanged by the presence of the so-called inert material in the fertilizer bag. Its purpose is to help distribute the fertilizer evenly and prevent chemical burn.
Weed & Feed
Weed and Feed is a common term which refers to fertilizer that contains weed killer for broadleaf weeds such as dandelions or grassy weeds like crabgrass. Look on the label for a list of weeds that can be treated with the product. The two types are:
• Pre-emergents, such as those commonly used to prevent crabgrass, are weed killers which must be applied before the weeds germinate. They are ineffective if the weeds are already actively growing. Pre-emergent weed killers are often mixed with fertilizer and are applied early in the season.
• Post-emergents are contact killers. They are effective only if the weeds are already actively growing. They will not kill weeds that have not yet germinated.
The timing of application of pre-and post-emergents is critical for success. Applying these products too early or too late is essentially a waste of time. If sowing grass seed is also in your lawn schedule, make sure that there is the proper time interval between applying weed and feed and sowing. Read the package carefully before selecting to be sure which product fits your needs.
Starter fertilizers and winterizers provide extra phosphorus for root growth. Starter fertilizers are applied to provide a boost to newly seeded lawns. Winterizers are used as a last fall feeding to promote off-season root growth.
Non-synthetic organic fertilizers, soil conditioners and soil additives are also widely used. Because they lack some added ingredients to slow the nutrient release, these products may have to be applied more frequently. As with synthetic products, apply properly and with caution. Some of the most commonly used are:
• Green sand — from sedimentary marine deposits. Contains potassium and iron.
• Blood meal — a byproduct of the meat packing industry. Steamed and dried, it is high in phosphorous.
• Compost — one of the best all around garden materials for soil improvement.
• Cottonseed meal — a byproduct from cotton processing. This is a good source of nitrogen.
• Fish emulsion — a fish processing byproduct. Mild, nontoxic, and organic, fish emulsion is good for use with tender plants that may suffer fertilizer burn. Yes, it does smell like fish.
• Super phosphate — rock phosphate combined with sulfuric acid to produce phosphorus in a form easy for plants to uptake.
• Manure — for soil conditioning. "Hot" manures such as horse, pig and poultry are high in nitrogen and need composting to prevent burning plants. "Cold" manures like cow, sheep, or rabbit can be added directly to the soil.
Maximizing Your Fertilizer Use
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