If you are a new gardener then you may need a stroll through the fertilizer pathway. It may be confusing to know what the numbers mean on your fertilizers. When you purchase a fertilizer, you will see ratio of three macronutrients – nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). The numbers on the container of fertilizers show the combination of N, P, K in percentage in the fertilizer.  It is important to learn about them because not all fertilizers are equal and also if you don’t feed your plants with the right fertilizer then you will not have a successful crop.

Requirements of plants

Out of 118 elements and 3800 minerals on earth, plants just need around 20. With right exposure to sunlight, sufficient amount of water, only 17 elements enter through their roots. You can divide these 17 into macronutrients and micronutrients. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are needed in high doses and hence are a part of macronutrients while iron, manganese, boron, zinc, copper, sodium, chlorine are needed in small quantities and hence are a part of micronutrients.

Chemical fertilizers versus organic nitrogen fertilizers:

Well, plants don’t differentiate between chemical and organic fertilizers. You can use high concentration of nutrients using synthetic fertilizers, but it shouldn’t be the only determining aspect while picking a fertilizer. The production and ingredients used to make a fertilizer are also important.

Organic fertilizers

Organic fertilizers are created using organic matter or compost. They are made from crop residue, seaweed, animal resources, cow manure and other resources. You can use it by side dressing or putting it directly in the soil. The organic nitrogen fertilizers contribute all macronutrients and micronutrients along with trace elements to the soil. They lead to a healthy and supportive environment for plant growth. They breakdown slowly and are great for a healthy macrobiotic system.

Chemical fertilizers

Chemical fertilizers are chemical substances synthesized from a natural source. They are made from the petroleum industry byproducts and are usually acidic. They offer macronutrients and micronutrients required by a plant for complete growth. However, they have a downside id they are harmful to healthy microbes and may create an unsuitable environment for them.

Timing and application

Plant needs different food at different time interval during their life. In the start, when leaves are growing, they need nitrogen and elements for effective cell division. During the blooming time, they need potassium and trace elements. During dormancy they need phosphorus for a strong root system.

If you are using organic nitrogen fertilizers, choose applications as pre-emptive- as per the future needs of your crop. During the time of seeding, liquid application helps the plant to get instant access to ingredients to develop roots but should be done along with granular fertilizers which make sure constant availability of the fertilizers as the plant develops.


Organic fertilizers do not offer a quick fix like chemical fertilizers but they provide a long term nutrition source which needs less effort. It leads to a healthier environment for the soil and the plant.