Gardening season is creeping up on us whether we are ready or not. When we are getting ready to put in our plants or seeds one of the first things we should make sure of is that the soil has proper fertility. A soil test is the best way to determine if any nutrients are lacking and needs to be added. You will notice three numbers on a bag or bottle of fertilizer. As an example I’ll use 5-10-10. The first number is the percentage of N (nitrogen) in the container. The middle number is the percentage of P (phosphorus) in the container while the last number is the percentage of K (potash) in the container. My example would contain 5% Nitrogen, 10% Phosphorus and 10% Potash. The other 75% of the container would be carrier material and/or some micro-nutrients.
Nitrogen gives the plant its dark green color. It increases the growth of the leaf and stem tissue. It also increases the crispness and quality of leaf crops such as lettuce. Nitrogen also stimulates rapid early growth.
Phosphorus stimulates early formation and growth of roots and tubers such as potatoes, beets and carrots. It also gives the plants a rapid and vigorous start. P is important in the formation of seeds and fruits. It combines with calcium for greater sugar content in cells.
Potash increases the vigor of plants and increases the plant’s resistance to disease and aids in strong, stiff plant stalks. K promotes the production of sugars, starches and oils in the plants. It is necessary in the plants for increasing the plumpness of grains and seeds as well as improving the quality of crop yields.
Keep your fork