In this post we'll review the basics needed to understand how fertilizers work with plants.
On the front of a bag of fertilizer, you'll see three numbers, for example 8-5-2. These are a rough analysis of the major nutrient content of the fertilizers. (N-P-K)
What are the major nutrients?
N-P-K stands for the three major nutrients used by plants to grow.
N = Nitrogen
Nitrogen is important for promoting new growth of shoots, stalks, leaves and other vegetation made by the plant. As a rule of thumb, more nitrogen will cause plants to grow taller, however this can be overdone and result in "burning" of foliage. Nitrogen is a gas element, and can be found in the air. Nitrogen is released from material in gaseous form.
P = Phosphorus
Phosphorus is a building block of amino acids, crucial in the energy absorption process by plants we call "photosynthesis". Photosynthesis is how plants absorb nutrients from the sun or other lighting sources and phosphorus helps to create the enzymes needed to flow though the plant as energy.
K = Potassium
Potassium is a major element, especially when it comes to flowers and buds. Potassium triggers the flowering process, and has it's place strengthening cell walls of the plant.
What are minor and micronutrients?
On the back of the fertilizer label, you may find the guaranteed analysis. This will contain the amount of minor an micronutrients, as well as the specific types of N-P-K used in the formulation. Minor and micronutrients are also needed by plants to grow, however they are used in much smaller quantities and are present in most soils. However, cultivating plants in sterile grow mediums may need to have these nutrients supplied in order to produce fair yields and healthy growth.
Read the label to find the manufacturer's recommended dosage for various plant sizes and application rates. Here's a helpful guide to bud and bloom fertilizers. You may want to test your soil beforehand to get a better idea of any nutrients present in your plant soil already. Refer to the instructions for reapplication frequency.