What Is Fertilizer?

When it rains in April, there is a hope that it will bring one thing: flowers in May! If there’s one thing that most people look forward to in spring, it’s the revival of nature in the form of growing plants and blooming flowers.

Do you enjoy planting flowers or your very own vegetable garden? It can be very satisfying to observe flowers blooming in your yard or eating vegetables from your personal garden. Observing nature produce food and beautiful plants is like witnessing science in action!

If you plan to start a garden, there are a few things you will need. Along with a piece of land or a large flower pot, you will need seeds. By using gardening tools, you can break up the soil and plant the seeds. After adding some water, the Sun and nature will take care of the rest, right?

Not so fast! Although soil often contains enough nutrients to sprout those seeds, you will want to add something else if you truly want your plants to flourish. What are we referring to? Fertilizer, of course!

Plants require six essential nutrients to survive and thrive: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The first three — carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen — can be obtained from the air and water.

Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, however, typically come from the soil. However, not all soil is rich in these nutrients. If your plants are going to grow as you desire, then you will probably need to provide those nutrients by adding fertilizer.

Fertilizers come in two main types: organic and synthetic. Organic fertilizers are made from natural, organic (living) materials, such as peat moss, bone, seaweed, composted plant materials, and animal manure. Synthetic or inorganic fertilizers are chemically manufactured or produced from rocks and minerals.

Organic and synthetic fertilizers differ in more ways than just their composition. Synthetic fertilizers dissolve in water and can be used by plants immediately. They help plants to get off to a quick start, but they don’t usually do much to improve overall soil health in the long run.

On the other hand, organic fertilizers don’t break down quickly. Since it can take months to release nutrients, organic fertilizers are often applied in the fall so that nutrients will be available by spring. Although it takes them longer to provide nutrients, organic fertilizers tend to improve soil structure and provide benefits that can last for multiple growing seasons.

Many farmers and gardeners choose to use a combination of organic and synthetic fertilizers throughout a typical growing season. Farmers, in particular, often have a lot of one type of fertilizer on hand: animal manure!

Manure from cows and horses make excellent fertilizer, as long as it is allowed to age and is mixed with compost. As manure breaks down, it adds nutrients that plants can use. It also conditions and enriches the soil, helping it to retain moisture and reduce runoff.

Try It Out

Are you ready to get your hands dirty? Find a friend or family member to help you dig into the following activities:

Looking to go on a field trip? Ask an adult friend or family member to take you to a local gardening center. Explore the different types of organic and chemical fertilizers available. How do they compare? What are their differences? Seek recommendations from the experts at the center. If you plan on gardening soon, consider purchasing some fertilizer to use at home.

Did you know you can create your own fertilizer at home? It’s true! Go online and read about 10 Natural Fertilizer Recipes. Which items from the list do you already have at home? Experiment with different ideas to see how they work in your backyard.

If you’re up for a challenge, try the experiment “Growing, Growing, Gone! An Experiment on Nitrogen Fertilizers.” You can find all the details online. You’ll need some basic supplies, a couple of weeks, and assistance from an adult friend or family member. Have fun testing the effectiveness of fertilizer yourself!

Sources of Wonder:

– http://www.gardeners.com/how-to/fertilizer-basics/5161.html

– http://garden.lovetoknow.com/wiki/What_is_Fertilizer_Made_Of

– http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/composting/manures/the-benefits-of-manure-in-your-garden.htm

– http://homeguides.sfgate.com/use-cow-manure-fertilizer-43702.html


1. What is fertilizer?

Fertilizer is a substance or a mixture of substances that is applied to soil or plants to provide essential nutrients. It is used to enhance the growth and productivity of plants by replenishing the nutrients that are naturally present in the soil or are lost through harvesting.

2. Why is fertilizer important?

Fertilizer is important because it helps to replenish the nutrients that are essential for plant growth. These nutrients include nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as other micronutrients. By providing these nutrients to the plants, fertilizer ensures that they have everything they need to grow, develop, and produce a healthy yield.

3. How does fertilizer work?

Fertilizer works by supplying plants with the essential nutrients they need to grow. When fertilizer is applied to the soil or directly to plants, the nutrients are dissolved in water and absorbed by the plant’s roots. These nutrients are then used by the plant to carry out various biological processes, such as photosynthesis and cell division, which are crucial for growth.

4. What are the types of fertilizers?

There are different types of fertilizers, including organic and inorganic fertilizers. Organic fertilizers are derived from natural sources, such as animal manure, compost, or plant materials. Inorganic fertilizers, on the other hand, are synthesized chemically and contain specific ratios of nutrients.

5. How should fertilizer be applied?

The application of fertilizer depends on the type of fertilizer and the specific needs of the plants. Generally, fertilizers can be applied by broadcasting them over the soil surface, incorporating them into the soil before planting, or side-dressing them along the plant rows during the growing season. It is important to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer to ensure proper application and prevent over-fertilization.

6. Are there any risks or drawbacks of using fertilizer?

While fertilizer is beneficial for plant growth, there are some risks and drawbacks associated with its use. Over-fertilization can lead to nutrient runoff, which can contaminate water bodies and cause environmental damage. Additionally, excessive use of synthetic fertilizers can harm soil health and reduce its natural fertility over time. It is important to use fertilizers judiciously and consider alternative practices, such as organic fertilizers or crop rotation, to minimize these risks.

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