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How Do I Choose the Best Granular Fertilizer?

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  • Written By: Anna B. Smith
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2016
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To choose the best granular fertilizer, gardeners should choose a blend that provides nutrients specific to the needs of their lawn and garden. Gardeners should consider the type of plants they are feeding, and how quickly they require growth from those plants. They can use this information to help them choose a blend of nutrients that will feed and nourish their plants in a timely manner, without starving or overfeeding them.

A granular fertilizer is a product which provides the three essential nutrients vital to plant growth in a small, pellet form. The three essential nutrients include nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, and most bags of fertilizer will list the amount of each nutrient present in a three number combination printed on the outside of the packaging. These pellets can be dispersed over the lawn using a variety of different types of broadcast spreaders which sprinkle them evenly over the ground, or they can be mixed into garden soil by hand. The higher the numbers shown on the labeling, the more concentrated the fertilizer will be.

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Nitrogen is essential for leaf growth in plants, and is often recommended for use on new lawns. A granular fertilizer that has a high concentration of nitrogen should typically be applied during the early spring months, when grass and plants are beginning their growing period. Newly seeded lawns, or lawns that were seeded the previous fall and are ready to sprout, will use this nutrient to produce tall, deeply green leaf sprouts in a short amount of time. Nitrogen rich fertilizers should not be applied during late fall months when grass and shrubs are heading into the dormant phases of their growth cycles.

Phosphorus and potassium aid lawns and plants in forming deep root structures. These nutrients encourage roots to growth thick and dig down deep into the earth to find additional nutrient and water supplies. Fertilizers rich in these chemicals can be applied during early spring or late fall to create a healthy and strong base for plants, that will allow them to grow with minimal care from the gardener. These blends are excellent for use when seeding a new lawn or overgrowing a lawn during the fall, and should also be sprinkled in the garden to renew nutrients there for the use of perennial blooming plants and flowering shrubs.

Regular maintenance can be performed using an evenly blended granular fertilizer. The most commonly used type of even blend is known as 10-10-10. This mixture contains an even amount of all three essential nutrients in a concentration that is neither too high, nor diluted. All plants, over time, tend to strip the soil in which they are planted of all essential nutrients, and must be fed regularly to maintain growth. A 10-10-10 blend can be used on lawns, vegetables, fruits, trees, flowers, and shrubs, to renew the amount of nutrients present in the soil.

Certain types of granular fertilizer are designed to be slow-release formulas. The pellets have been constructed in such a way that their exterior shell casing is made to break down slowly over a long period of time. With exposure to the elements, the nutrients seep into the soil gradually, rather than all at once, and provide a more continuous and long lasting growth for plants. This type of fertilizer is beneficial for individuals who are tending to a lawn or garden long term, such as permanent homeowners. It is not recommended for those who require a fast amount of growth in a short amount of time, such as new construction builders attempting to generate a quick green lawn, or horticulturalists preparing cut and show flowers to be ready in specific time frames.

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