Compost and fertilizer tips for your garden

Fertilizer and compost are two key components of landscaping. Knowing what you can about fertilizer options will take you a long way when it comes time to purchase and use them.

Compost and fertilizer tips for your garden

While you're sure to get an armload of advice about compost, there are a couple of things other gardeners may not think to tell you. Consider these tips for an overall healthier garden and yard.

Learn your NPKs

  • Those numbers on bags of fertilizer hold a wealth of information.
  • "N" stands for nitrogen, which stimulates leafy growth.
  • "P" is for phosphorus, which promotes flowering.
  • Finally, "K" represents the potassium content; plants need potassium for a host of functions, including root formation.
  • Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are called the plant macronutrients because plants need these three in large quantities.
  • They also need so-called micronutrients, such as iron, but in smaller amounts.
  • A bag of 10-10-10 fertilizer contains 10 per cent each of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium by weight.
  • The higher the numbers, the more "potent" the fertilizer, but buy only what you need because overfertilizing is as bad as underfertilizing.
  • Your local garden centre can advise you on what and how much to fertilize.

Never compost diseased plant cuttings

  • One way to keep your garden healthy and long-lived is to remove diseased plant parts as soon as you detect a problem.
  • While it's a wonderful idea to compost any healthy vegetative material you remove from the garden — you'll save money making your own compost instead of buying it, and your garden will thank you — home compost piles are unlikely to produce the high heat necessary to kill disease-causing organisms.
  • So take those mildew-covered phlox leaves and throw them in the trash, not the compost.

Let autumn leaves lie

  • If there isn't a good reason to remove fallen leaves, don't.
  • Leaves compost by themselves, providing beneficial humus for trees over time.
  • Think of it as the trees feeding and mulching themselves.
  • So unless the leaves are smothering something planted underneath the trees, this is definitely one legitimate way to minimize maintenance — you can't ask for less work than no work! — while actually promoting plant health.
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