Managing Nutrient Ratio’s for Better Harvests in Backyard Gardens

Thursday, July 30, 2020
Cherry tomatoes flowering at the Mountain Home Community Garden. The Community Garden is maintained by the UI Elmore County Master Gardeners
(photo by Brad Stokes)

Growing a backyard garden is something you can be proud of, something to show off to your neighbor, but the ultimate goal is a bountiful harvest. In the soil there are numerous macro and micro-nutrients that plants need for proper growth and development. Nearly as important as the growth of the plant is the development of the plant, referring to proper flowering and fruit development. Fertilization, when done properly can and will promote proper growth and development of backyard garden plants. Understanding the types of fertilizers, chemical components and proper ratios is important to obtaining success in your backyard garden.

Purchasing fertilizer seems simple, but of course is far more complex. All fertilizers contain nutrients, that are specific chemicals needed for plant growth and development. The three “macro-nutrients” include nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). These are listed on the front of every bag of fertilizer, in that order N-P-K and they are listed as a percentage. Rarely the fourth macro-nutrient, sulfur (S), may also be listed and would be the fourth number on the bag. Since they are listed as a percentage within a bag of fertilizer there is a lot of “other” and/or inert ingredients. For example, a 50-pound bag of 20-20-20 fertilizer only contains 10 pounds of each nutrient, essentially 20 pounds are “other” and/or inert ingredients.

So called “complete” fertilizers, 20-20-20, contain the three main macro-nutrients. Some fertilizers may also contain smaller amounts of the micro-nutrients, e.g. boron, copper, manganese etc. For the full story, pick up a copy of the Mountain Home News or click on this link to subscribe to the newspaper's online edition.

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