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How to Fertilize Garden the Right Way

Applying fertilizer to your garden is a convenient and efficient way to provide nutrients to your plant. However, the process is not as simple as unloading a whole package onto your garden. In order to ensure that no fertilizer is wasted, you must learn how to fertilize garden the right way.

You can properly fertilize your garden if you are well-informed. Apart from knowing what the essential chemical elements in fertilizers do to your plants, you must also read the package label. Likewise, you must know the pros and cons of the fertilizer and application method you prefer.

Understand the Chemical Elements

We know that fertilizer enables optimal plant growth, but why so? Whether your fertilizer is made of organic material like manure and cottonseed or manmade, they all work because of three essential chemical elements. Namely, these elements are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

The first element, nitrogen, is used to encourage robust leaf growth. In particular, nitrogen helps your plants to produce chlorophyll, which is what your plants need for photosynthesis. Likewise, this highly soluble element is the primary ingredient found in spring lawn fertilizers.

Secondly, phosphorus is a vital chemical element for the growth of root systems, flowers, fruits, and stems. In other words, newly planted seedlings need a fertilizer with a good dose of phosphorus to accelerate establish their roots in the soil. Thankfully, the garden soil will typically have enough of this element.

The third element, potassium, is to stimulate the flowering and fruiting processes of plants.

applying fertilizer

Source: Amazon

Identify the Proportions

The primary chemical elements found in fertilizers, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, can be respectively labeled as N, P, and K. For example, a 20-20-20 fertilizer means that each of these chemical elements comprises 20 percent of the total weight, with the remaining weight made up of trace elements and other substances.

The fertilizer package you will get depends on what you want to achieve in your lawn. If you want to have healthy tomatoes to harvest, you can get a fertilizer with a good portion of potassium. In fact, there are fertilizers that are specifically made for specific flowering plants and vegetables, among others. Consequently, a 15-30-15 fertilizer mix would be good to promote flower production due to the high phosphorus content.

On the other hand, you can just use a 25-6-4 fertilizer mix if you want to improve the appearance of your lawn. This fertilizer package is high in nitrogen and it should make lawn lush with green and healthy grass.

Here is a video talking about the proportions:

Read the Label

Fertilizer packages will have instruction on the label indicating how much fertilizer you need to apply to your lawn. However, this recommended application rate shouldn’t be followed, at least initially. This is one of the most common mistakes made by homeowners. Because, manufacturers want to speed up the sales of their products, they suggest the higher rate.

In truth, you are better off using just half or even less of the recommended application rate. In fertilizer application, it’s a better option to provide an insufficient amount instead of giving too much. During the first application, you should apply half the recommended amount in one direction. After this, you can adjust both the application rate and the coverage pattern.

Choose the Type and Application Method

Apart from knowing the elements, proportions, and the application rate, you must also choose the type of fertilizer you want. Similarly, you need to pick how you apply this fertilizer to your lawn. Regardless of which you prefer, however, you must avoid applying the fertilizer when there is rain or strong winds to avoid having displaced and ineffective fertilizers.

#1 Dry Fertilizers

Otherwise known as granular or powdered fertilizers (source), this type is good for providing nutrients for a long time. However, this longevity is balanced with the slow provision of the food required by your plants. The water first needs to break down the granular fertilizer before the plants benefit from them. This slow-release characteristic makes them less likely than liquid fertilizers to immediately leach out of the soil.

When you apply this fertilizer, you need to wear a pair of gloves for safety and to read the instructions properly. Granular fertilizers are good if you don’t have enough time to regularly apply fertilizer – the gradual provision of food to the plants means you only have to apply it once every several months. Also, you should use this if you want to improve soil fertility or adequately feed the plants in a raised garden bed or border.

As for the application method, you can try either broadcast application or top-dress application. The first method is ideal for the application of dry or granular fertilizers on large areas. You can conduct broadcast application using either a drop spreader of a hand-rotary spreader.

In contrast, the top-dress application of dry fertilizers is for coverage of individual plants or specific areas in your garden. Thus, top-dress application is conducted by hand. You just have to apply the granular fertilizer to the plant base all the way to the drip line.

#2 Liquid Fertilizers

Also known as water-soluble fertilizers, these fertilizers feed your plants faster than dry fertilizers. The downside, however, is that their application frequency is higher due to their fast-acting characteristic. Like with granular fertilizers, you can choose between two application methods: base application and foliar application.

First, the base application method is for container plants or vegetables in your garden. All you have to do is to follow the instructions on the package about mixing water with the water-soluble fertilizer. Then, you can use a watering can or a hose. Using this method, you can water and apply fertilizer to your plants at the same time. Just remember to apply the fertilizer to the base of the plant.

Second, the foliar application is done if your plants need nutrients immediately. Instead of targeting the soil around the plant base, you have to apply liquid fertilizer mixed with water to the leaves. Using this method, your plants will rapidly receive the trace elements.


In conclusion, you can properly fertilize your garden if you are well-informed. Apart from knowing what the essential chemical elements in fertilizers do to your plants, you must also read the package label. Likewise, you must know the pros and cons of the fertilizer and application method you prefer.

We hope that this guide will help you have a healthy garden in the most efficient way. If you have any queries, feel free to give us comment.

About the Author Ann Katelyn

I'm Ann Katelyn, Creator and Chief Author of Sumo Gardener. Since I was a child I've always been fascinated with plants and gardens, and as an adult this has developed into my most loved hobby. I have dedicated most of my life to gardening and started Sumo Gardener as a way to express my knowledge about gardening with the hope of helping other people's gardens thrive.

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