Types of Fertilizer - Which Should You Use?

16 Oct '19

blue fertilizer in handThere are so many different types of plant fertilizer available today that it's easy to get confused. 

On one hand, you know that your plants need nutrients to grow.

Yet you may have also heard horror stories about what can go wrong if you over-fertilize or use the wrong kind. 

Landscaping and plant care involve a great deal of science. Factors such as the type of soil you have on your property, combined with the amount of rain the plants get, affect which type of fertilizer you need to use. 

However, you can use this handy primer to get a basic understanding of what you need to consider, before selecting which fertilizer is best.

What the N-P-K Ratio Means

On most fertilizers, you will see a label telling you about the ingredients. 

One of the most important parts of the label is the n-p-k ratio. This ratio lets you know how much nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is contained in the fertilizer.

You want to know this ratio because plants need different amounts of these nutrients at different times. For instance, nitrogen helps plants to grow their leaves and stems. This is normally a good thing. 

But too much nitrogen can result in issues, such as a tomato plant that grows lovely vines but bears no fruit.

Don’t worry if you cannot figure out the best ratio on your own. We carefully assess the plants on your property along with the soil to choose the perfect ratio for optimum growth. 

How Synthetic Vs. Organic Fertilizers Differ

soil and seedling in handSynthetic fertilizers are made using chemicals that are available for you to see on the label. Since these are man-made, they tend to work quickly. 

The downside of using synthetic fertilizers is that they can work too fast. When this happens, you may see the results of over-fertilization such as leaves or grass blades that look burnt.

Organic fertilizers are those made from natural compounds. You have likely seen or used this type if you’ve ever put manure or compost in your garden. These work more slowly, but they have the added benefit of making it easier for you to not make a mistake.

The Differences Between Granules Vs. Liquids

Granules are designed to slowly release nutrients. You will usually need to mix them with the soil or sprinkle them at the base of the plants. 
You can think of granules as being an extended-release type of fertilizer. To make sure the nutrients reach the roots, you need to follow the directions carefully.

Liquids come in concentrated forms that must be mixed with water. They are more easily absorbed into the soil, which makes them fast-acting. 

These provide for a more even application compared to granules. However, you will need to be careful to avoid runoff in areas with sloping ground.

Benefits of Deep Root Fertilization

In some cases, liquid fertilizer can be applied beneath the ground. Deep root fertilization involves using soil injections that go anywhere between 6 to 12 inches below the soil’s surface. 

This has the benefit of making sure that the nutrients reach the tree or plant roots where they have maximum benefits.

Choosing the right type of fertilizer gets complicated. Using the wrong kind of fertilizer can lead to problems such as a citrus tree not bearing fruit. Plants can also experience a failure to thrive due to a lack of nutrients reaching their roots. 

Which Type of Fertilizer Should You Use Video


When in doubt, consult us before trying a new fertilizer. Our soil testing and fertilization treatments are designed to give plants exactly what they need to thrive.

Custom Weed & Pest Control has been in business since 1989, serving the greater Phoenix metro area for both residential and commercial. We have teamed up with Tree Theory, and offer plant and tree care, with customized service to meet your specific needs.

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