Choosing the best fertilizer and pesticide for your garden is critical to the success of your crops. Especially in the case of vegetables and fruits, it’s important to select a fertilizer and pesticide that will benefit your plants without the risk of harsh chemicals harming your harvest.
Homeowners should keep in mind that healthy soil is a key ingredient to any successful garden. Fertilizer is meant to enhance the natural qualities and nutrients of your planting soil. Although many gardeners do not use fertilizer and achieve some type of growth, their gardens often do not grow to their greatest potential and may even experience an increased risk of disease and bug infestation.
It can be tricky to find a fertilizer that provides nourishment to your flowering plants without depleting the soil of its nutrients in the future growing seasons. Especially in the case of nitrogen, a necessary element for plant growth and flowering found in soil, but in sometimes scarce supply. Plants are naturally adapted to take in as much nitrogen as possible, which can be unhealthy for the plant and deplete the soil of a critical nutrient. Over time, multiple crops will drain the soil and make it impossible for new plants to flourish. Therefore, fertilizer is necessary to replenish these nutrients. Fertilizers provide care for your garden so that it continues to be happy, well-fed, and flourishing.
When you are choosing a fertilizer or pesticide for your spring blooms, here are a few considerations to keep in mind.
Choosing a Fertilizer: Synthetic vs. Organic
The first choice that gardeners must make in selecting a fertilizer is whether to use synthetic or organic material. Organic, or natural fertilizers, are derived from living things or the nutrients of the Earth. This may include substances like mushroom manure, bone meal, blood meal, banana peels, crushed eggshells, kelp meal, seaweed, fish emulsion, cottonseed meal, poultry or horse manure, and compost. Synthetic, or chemical fertilizers, are made of synthesized chemicals to deliver a stronger impact in a shorter period of time. These may include amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
In general, synthetic fertilizers deliver a stronger dose with higher amounts of nutrients immediately, thus delivering quicker results. Natural fertilizers often have lesser amounts of nutrients, so they must be administered routinely over time to replenish the soil. While they take longer to feed the soil, organic fertilizers are often preferable for gardeners due to their long-term benefits.
Chemical fertilizers should be used carefully and in smaller amounts compared to natural fertilizers. Otherwise, they can cause damage to the fertility of the soil and pose a risk of burning the roots of the plant, potentially killing the plant if the influx of chemicals is too high. Natural fertilizers work to build up healthy nutrients over time while enhancing the soil’s texture. This creates more airflow around the plant roots and decreases the chances of root rot and other diseases.
If the soil pH is outside of an acceptable range, nutrients present in the soil cannot be absorbed by the plant. Certain conditions must be met, including a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Gardeners may want to have the soil tested prior to a growing season to determine if the flower bed needs attention or a layer of fresh topsoil. The addition of compost to the soil material is often a good way to regulate the pH, but drastic swings are unhealthy for the soil. If you need to raise or lower the pH by a few points or more, the process typically takes a year or two.
Every fertilizer will have an N-P-K ratio printed on the packaging. These three numbers represent the available nutrients’ percentage by weight contained in the fertilizer. The first number represents nitrogen (N), the second is phosphorus (P), and the third is potassium (K). So, for a 100-lb. supply with an NPK ratio of 3-5-2, there is 3 percent of nitrate, 5 percent of phosphorus, and 2 percent of potassium with 90 pounds of additive filler. Most often, an all-purpose 5-5-5 fertilizer will do the trick, but some gardeners may want to tweak the ratio just a bit to fit a specific need or deficiency in their soil.
There are different types of fertilizer, each with its own benefits. Water-soluble is often the most frequently chosen for its immediate benefits.
Many fertilizers are water-soluble, meaning they can liquify from a concentrated source. This is most often a liquid or powder concentrate. Because they can be easily absorbed, water-soluble compounds are often fast-acting and therefore preferable to slow-release methods. However, due to their soluble nature, they also tend not to last as long and therefore must be reapplied often.
As implied by the name, slow-release granules are typically small pellets that add nutrients to the soil at a slower pace over time. They are usually applied less often than water-soluble concentrates. Nutritional benefits are not immediately available to the plant but instead, offer a long-term solution.
A very popular organic fertilizer option is worm castings. This is composed of the matter left behind by earthworms. In other words, this is worm poop. This material has the same look and feel as loose, soft dirt but is packed with nutrients and has relatively no odor.
Specialty Plant Food
If you have an issue with imbalanced nutrients in your soil or simply want to grow a crop that needs a specific nutritional boost, it is an option to choose a specialty synthetic formula plant food that is tailored to the needs of the plant. This method will typically lead to the best possible produce and blooms in your garden-growing species.
Best Practices When Choosing a Pesticide
Picking out a pesticide is sometimes equally, if not more challenging, than choosing a fertilizer. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you shop for the best pesticide for your garden.
Effectiveness in Eliminating Your Target Pest
First, you must identify the pest that you are trying to eliminate. Insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and rodenticides are just a few of the many different types, and each fights a specific type of invasive species. Misidentifying your pests can slow down the process of finding the right way to eliminate them from your garden. Do a little research to determine which products are most effective for your pest issue.
Assurance Not to Affect Non-target Organisms
Next, make sure the pesticide only eliminates the identified pest and has no effect on non-target organisms. If you find a strong pesticide, but its runoff is too risky for surrounding plants when the insecticide mixes with water streams, then it may do more harm than good.
Solubility and Volatility
Solubility refers to the material’s ability to liquify while volatility means its ability to change form into a gaseous state. Notably, solubility can be problematic if the runoff by-product mixes with the surrounding water supply and contaminates it for other plants and people. Volatility is often preferable, as it releases chemicals into the air and away from nearby plants. However, these should be carefully used and administered while wearing protective gear, as they can be breathed in by garden workers after application. This type of pesticide is also very short-lived, and the product must be reapplied frequently.
Degradation into Non-toxic Material in a Relatively Short Time Frame
Perhaps most critical, the solution’s ability to degrade into a non-toxic material within a small amount of time is crucial to the success and effectiveness of the pesticide. Whether it turns into a liquid or a gas, degradation should not harm or even affect nearby organisms.
Prevention of Resistance Development
Finally, the best home garden pesticides should prevent resistance among pests. If a pesticide was effective for a short stint of time until the pests gained a natural resistance, then gardeners will spend more money on another intervention for eliminating pests, thus creating an unproductive cycle.
Protect Your Plants
Depending on your garden’s individual needs, there is a wide variety of fertilizers and pesticides that can help it bloom to its greatest potential. Take some time to research your garden plants and consult local experts for more support in finding the best supplement for specific plants in your area. With the right combination of fertilizer and pesticide, your fruits, vegetables, and flowers will grow to be full and thriving year after year.
Melanie Theriault is a writer, counselor, and lifelong learner. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Southwestern University, where she discovered her passion for fostering human connection through storytelling.