The 10 most important fertilizers for the garden

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Plants need to live not only water and carbon dioxide, but also nutrients. Although the required amounts of nutrients are very small, you can see quite quickly if they are missing: The leaves are discolored and the plant hardly grows. Quickly create commercially available mineral fertilizers, because the plants can absorb these water-soluble nutrients usually immediately.

Nitrate is washed out quickly

However, the rapid availability of nutrients also has disadvantages and can cause significant environmental problems, especially in nitrogen. Reason: The nitrate, the main constituent of most mineral fertilizers, is a nitrogen compound that can hardly be stored in the soil. It is relocated by the rain relatively quickly into deeper soil layers, where it affects the quality of the groundwater. The nitrate in the mineral fertilizer is produced in an energy-consuming chemical process from atmospheric nitrogen. For this reason, the use of mineral fertilizers is changing the global nitrogen cycle in the long run - with the result that, for example, more and more aquifers are being overfertilized and wild plants, which depend on nutrient-poor soils, are decreasing in their stock.
The other side of the coin: If one were to stop the production of chemical nitrates, the world population would no longer be able to feed and even greater famine would ensue. Mineral fertilizers are therefore of existential importance, despite all the disadvantages.

Fertilize as organically as possible

What does that mean for the hobby gardener? Quite simple: Use organic fertilizers in the garden if possible. In doing so, you will only recycle the nutrients that are already present in the nutrient cycle. Mineral fertilizers should only be used if your plants are suffering from an acute nutrient deficiency.
Another problem is that you quickly lose track of the variety of fertilizers that are offered in the garden trade. For almost every plant group there is at least one special fertilizer. Although this is justified in certain cases, because some plants have special nutritional requirements, but mostly simple profiteering. That's why we're introducing you to ten important garden fertilizers that you usually get along with.


The production of compost is a simple and efficient form of nutrient recycling


Compost is actually not a fertilizer, but rather a nutrient-containing soil additive. The humus improves the soil structure and thus the storage capacity for water and nutrients. In addition, well-soiled composts heat up faster in the spring due to their dark color. On average, mature green compost contains around 0.3 percent nitrogen, 0.1 percent phosphorus and 0.3 percent potassium. Depending on the composted material, the nutrient contents can fluctuate greatly: poultry manure, for example, causes the nitrogen and phosphate content to rise sharply; small animal litter in compost supplies relatively much potassium.

Compost also has a high content of trace elements and slightly raises the pH of the soil - especially when rock powder has been added to accelerate the crop. For this reason, you should not use lime-sensitive plants such as rhododendrons with compost.
Composted garden waste can be used at the earliest after one year. It is best to take out the ripe compost in the spring - depending on the nutrient requirements of the plants about two to five liters per square meter. Using a cultivator, work the compost flat into the soil so that the soil organisms can release the nutrients faster.

lawn fertilizer

lawn fertilizer

Lawn fertilizer can be distributed very evenly with a spreader

Lawn fertilizers are tailored to the needs of the green carpet in terms of their nutrient composition. These are usually so-called slow-release fertilizers: Each nutrient salt bead is surrounded by a resin shell, which must first weather, so that the nutrients can be released. Depending on the product, periods of effect between two and six months are usual, so that one usually only has to fertilize once or twice a season. Many lawn fertilizers also contain a small amount of immediately available nutrient salts to bridge the time to release the coated nutrient pellets.
Depending on the weather, you can often apply lawn fertilizer as early as March following dosing instructions - ideally two to three weeks before scarifying the lawn. Reason: If the green carpet is well supplied with nutrients even before spring care, then it will soon turn green and dense again. Tip: Anyone who is not practiced in the uniform sprinkling by hand, should deploy the fertilizer with a spreader. With good equipment, the spread rate can be very well controlled via a lever mechanism.Make sure, however, that the spreading lanes do not overlap, because at these places it is easy to overfertilize and burn the lawn.

Horn chips

Horn shavings are a nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer

Horn shavings and horn meal

Horn shavings are rasped horns and hooves of slaughter cattle. Since most of the cattle in Germany are dehorned, the horn shavings offered in this country are almost always imported from overseas countries, especially from South America. Finely ground horn is also known as horn meal. It works faster than horn shavings, as the soil organisms can easily decompose it.
Horn shavings and horn meal contain up to 14 percent nitrogen and small amounts of phosphate and sulfate. Horn shavings should be applied as early as possible in the autumn, because it takes about three months until their effect begins. Horn meal, on the other hand, can be sprinkled in early spring. Nitrogen leaching, as with many mineral fertilizers, hardly occurs in horn fertilizers because the nutrient is organically bound. Even over-fertilization is almost impossible because of the slow release of nitrogen.

Soil analyzes show again and again that most garden soils are rather over-supplied with phosphate and potassium. Therefore, horn fertilizers for almost all cultures in ornamental garden and kitchen for a certain time are completely sufficient. Depending on the nutrient requirement 60 to 120 grams per square meter (one to two heaped hands full) are recommended, but an exact dosage is not required.
Especially important is fertilization with horn shavings, if you bring nutrient-poor bark mulch or wood chaff, as it can come through the decomposition processes otherwise to bottlenecks in the nitrogen supply. Work the horn fertilizer flat in the ground so that it decomposes faster. Tip: If you are planting new trees, shrubs or roses, then you should immediately sprinkle a handful of horn chips in the root area and easy to incorporate.


Fertilize with calcium cyanamide

Lime nitrogen is well suited as a basic fertilizer for seedbeds. Bring the fertilizer out about two weeks before sowing

Calcium cyanide splits the garden community - for some it is indispensable, for the others a red cloth. Admittedly, lime nitrogen - commercially available mostly under the name Perlka - in its effect quite "chemical". However, the fact that poisonous cyanide gas is produced during the implementation is a common misconception. The starting material with the chemical formula CaCN2 is first split into slaked lime and the water-soluble cyanamide under the influence of soil moisture. Cyanamide is converted further into urea, then ammonium, and finally nitrate, which can be used directly by the plants. In this conversion process no polluting residues remain.
The lime content in the calcium cyanamide ensures that the pH value of the soil remains stable, as it counteracts natural soil acidification. To an oversupply with lime it comes due to the relatively weak dosages usually not.

The special feature of the lime nitrogen are its phytosanitary properties, because the cyanamide kills germinating weed seeds and also pests in the soil. For this reason, lime nitrogen is popular as a basic fertilizer for seedbeds and also as a nutrient additive for green compost. Since cyanamide has been fully converted to urea within 14 days of application at the latest, you should fertilize the ready-prepared seed bed with lime nitrogen two weeks before sowing and work the fertilizer flat with a rake. Due to the complex transformation process, nitrate leaching usually does not take place. The nitrate is only available when the seedlings are already germinated.
Important: Conventional calcium cyanamide is not harmless to use, since the lime content on skin contact has a strong corrosive effect and the cyanamide is very toxic. The commercial Perlka is largely dust-free due to a special after-treatment, but you should still wear gloves when applying.

Cow calf

Cattle: The dung of cattle and horses was already used by the Germanic tribes for soil improvement

cow dung

Granted: cow dung is not for sensitive noses. Nevertheless, it is an excellent organic fertilizer with a relatively low but balanced nutritional content. It also improves the soil structure in the long term, because the straw and other fibers are converted into humus. It is important that the manure has a certain maturity - it should be at least a few months deposited. The best quality has the dark, caused by microbial decomposition Rottemist, which is usually found down in the dung heap.

The nutrient levels in cow dung vary greatly. Rottemist contains about 0.4 to 0.6 percent nitrogen, 0.3 to 0.4 percent phosphate and 0.6 to 0.8 percent potassium and various trace elements. Incidentally, pig manure is only of limited use for the garden because its phosphate content is much higher.

Rottemist is very well suited as a basic fertilizer for the vegetable garden and for new perennials and woody plantings.Even sensitive plants, such as rhododendrons, will grow well if the soil is padded with cow dung before planting the bed. Over-fertilization is virtually eliminated, yet the amount applied should not exceed two to four kilograms per square meter. Take cow dung about every three years in the fall and dig it flat with the spade. The reason for the long period of time is that only about a third of the nitrogen contained is released each year.
Tip: If you live in the countryside, you can have the cow dung supplied to you by a farmer in your area with a manure spreader. This has the advantage that the fibrous material is equally shredded during unloading and can then be distributed more easily. Who can not get a manure, achieved with dried cattle dung pellets from the garden retailer a similar effect, but they are considerably more expensive.

Organic whole fertilizer

Fertofit garden fertilizer

Fertofit is an organic complete fertilizer with microorganisms for soil improvement

Organic whole fertilizers such as Fertofit or Animalin consist exclusively of natural raw materials such as corn, feather and bone meal, fermentation residues and beet pulp from sugar processing. Some products also contain special microorganisms that revive the soil.
Organic whole fertilizers have a long-term and lasting effect, because the nutrients in the soil first have to be mineralized and thus made available to the plants. In addition, the soil is enriched by the high fiber content with humus. Depending on the culture, a dosage of 75 to 150 grams per square meter is recommended, but even larger amounts do not lead to overfertilization so quickly.

Blue-grain fertilizer

Blaukorn Entec is the standard fertilizer in professional horticulture

Blue Grain Entec

The classic blue-grain fertilizer is available with different recipes. The original product, blue-grain Nitrophoska (a word from the main nutrients, nitrate, phosphate and potassium), quickly provides the plants with all the nutrients they need. Disadvantage: A large part of the rapidly soluble nitrate can not be absorbed by the plants at all. It seeps into the ground and pollutes the groundwater.
A few years ago, a new blue fertilizer called Blaukorn Entec was developed because of this problem. More than half of its nitrogen content consists of non-leachable ammonium. A special nitrification inhibitor ensures that the ammonium content in the soil is only slowly converted into nitrate. This prolongs the duration of action and improves the environmental compatibility. Another advantage is that the phosphate content has been reduced. Phosphate is often bound in the soil for years and many soils are therefore over-supplied with this nutrient anyway.
In professional horticulture Blaukorn Entec is the most commonly used fertilizer. It is suitable for all useful and ornamental plants in the field and in the pot. In the hobby area, this fertilizer is offered under the name Blaukorn Novatec. You should use it because of its rapid effect whenever you have an acute nutrient deficiency. The risk of overdose is not as great as with the blue-seeded Nitrophoska, but for safety's sake you should dose the fertilizer slightly lower than indicated on the package.

liquid fertilizer

As a precaution, always dosed liquid fertilizer slightly less than indicated on the package

liquid fertilizer

Liquid fertilizer concentrates are used primarily for fertilizing potted plants. Depending on the type of plant, there are a whole range of special products - from nitrogen-rich green plant fertilizers to low-dose orchid fertilizers to phosphate-rich liquid fertilizers for balcony flowers. Definitely buy a branded product, because several tests show again and again that cheap products have significant quality defects. Often the nutrient contents differ significantly from the information on the packaging and also the chloride content is in many cases too high.

Most liquid fertilizers are not sustainable and are quickly washed out by regular watering. Nursery-needy balcony flowers and potted plants are fertilized during the growing season about every two weeks according to the package instructions. To prevent overfertilization, you should dose the fertilizer but slightly lower than indicated. Tip: For optimal mixing, first fill the watering can half full with water, then add the fertilizer and finally add the remaining water.



Patent potassium: The nutrient potassium makes the plants more resistant to frost, disease and dryness

Patent potassium is a so-called one-nutrient fertilizer, since it contains only one main nutrient with potassium. In addition, he also supplies the plants with the nutrients magnesium and sulfur. In contrast to the classical potassium fertilizer, which is used in agriculture on grassland and in grain cultivation, Patentkali is low in chloride and is therefore also suitable for vegetables, fruit trees, ornamental shrubs and perennials.
Potassium-requiring plants such as tomatoes, potatoes and root vegetables can be fertilized with patent potassium in May or June. In all other plants, including the lawn, a potash fertilizer in September makes sense, because potassium brings the shoot growth to completion and ensures that the young twigs in time for the onset of winter. The nutrient is stored in the cell sap of the leaf and shoot cells and lowers - similar to Steusalz - the freezing point. This makes especially the lawn and the evergreen trees more resistant to frost damage.

Applied in early spring, potassium stimulates root growth and helps garden plants survive periods of drought. Since a good potassium supply strengthens the cell walls, the nutrient also increases the resistance to fungal diseases.
Potassium-rich special fertilizers with similar effects are turf autumn fertilizers. In contrast to the patent kali, they usually also contain a small amount of nitrogen.


Especially coniferous trees occasionally suffer from magnesium deficiency

Epsom salt

Epsom salt carries the chemical name magnesium sulfate. It contains 16 percent magnesium and should only be used for acute deficiency symptoms. The magnesium is an important component of the leaf green, therefore, a deficiency is usually noticeable by leaf discoloration. Above all, coniferous trees such as spruces and firs occasionally suffer from magnesium deficiency on light sandy soils. First, their needles turn yellow, later brown and finally fall off. If these symptoms occur in your garden, you should first check whether it is possibly a pest infestation (for example Sitka spruce louse) or a fungal disease (in this case, the symptoms often occur only partially).

If there is clearly a lack of nutrients, you can use Epsom salt as foliar fertilizer and thus achieve a particularly fast effect. To do this, dissolve five grams of Epsom salt per liter of water in a backpack sprayer and spray the entire plant thoroughly with it. The magnesium is absorbed directly by the leaves and the symptoms usually disappear within a few days.
For a sustainable supply of magnesium in such cases additionally fertilization with magnesium-containing carbonate of lime is recommended. You should also fertilize lime sensitive plants like Rhododendron in the root area with Epsom salt.

Video Board: Top 6 Worst and 6 Best Garden Fertilizers.

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