Wednesday, 29 June 2011


Plants require nutrients within the soil to develop into healthy plants. However, plants use these nutrients in large supply  whilst growing and so the soil fertility will decline over time. As a gardener you will have to improve the soil conditions from time to time in order to get the best from your plants and crops. 

The main three nutrient's that you can add to the soil are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K).  Nitrogen is required for leaf development and formation of stems and branches, Phosphorus is required for root development and seed germination and Potassium is required for fruit and flower production and disease resistance.

Nutrients can be added into the soil either in the form of adding organic matter or by applying a fertiliser. Adding a organic matter to the soil helps to improve the soil structure and nutrients in order to support a vigorous, healthy crop. Adding fertiliser will not improve the soil but will provide the plants with sufficient nutrients to grow.

Organic matter
Organic matter can include manure such as well rotted farmyard manure, leaf mould or mushroom compost. Incorporating these into your soil improves soil structure and unlocks nutrients.

Compound fertilisers contain Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK).  The quantity of each nutrient can vary and is stated in the NPK ratio on the package. Fertilisers can come in liquid, granular or powder form which can be applied with appropriate applicator.

Prior to planting or sowing a base dressing of fertiliser such as Growmore can be beneficial.  A top dressing is required for crops that take some time to mature and should be applied during the growing season. A liquid fertiliser diluted in water and applied by watering can or hose-end dilutor can be very effective. Alternatively, a slow release fertiliser can release nutrients into the soil for up to 6 months.

For related articles click onto:
Feeding plants
Grass maintenance - laying turf
Grass maintenance - sowing a lawn from seed

Green manure: Broad beans
Herbaceous borders
How to build a cold frame
History of the lawn
How to make compost
How to propagate from seed
Lawn care
Laying concrete

Watering plants

What is a potager?
Preparing a seed bed
Rose pest and diseases
Soil structure
Tree size

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