Plants need food too!

Fertilizer and compost are the essentials in growing healthy happy plants.

We tend to think watering may be all the plant needs and sure you can get away with only watering to keep the plant happy, but to ensure your plants are growing to their full potential and are staying healthy, fertilizers need to be added to the picture.

Fertilizers can be found either as organic or inorganic. Organic fertilizers consist of manure and other animal or plant product, are easy to make at home (compost) and works at a slower rate and over a long-term to feed your plants. The only down side is that there are no measured amounts of specific nutrients, which is especially needed if your garden or plants require more of one specific nutrient.

Inorganic fertilizers are made of chemical composites that contain the necessary nutrients at measured amounts. This will help with nutrient specific plants and works as a quick boost or short-term feed.

The Big 3

To understand and to use fertilizers correctly, we need to understand what the fertilizer consists of.

The big 3 are the three primary nutrients a plant needs to survive and thrive. They are Nitrogen, Phosphate and Potassium, each with their own specific benefits for the plants.

  • NITROGEN (the leaf maker), is a key nutrient for all plants, as it encourages growth and new leaves to form, and gives the plant its green colour.
  • PHOSPHATE (the root maker), is needed continuously for a plant, it helps strengthen the root and stem system, and helps with the storing and use of energy, as well as photosynthesis.
  • POTASSIUM (the flower & fruit maker), helps the plant grow deeper, stronger roots, and helps protect the plant from nutrient deprivation. This nutrient is also vital for photosynthesis and can slow down diseases that may infect the garden.

There are micronutrients that a plant will need as well, however ensuring that your plants have these 3 key nutrients or macronutrients will improve your plants health and growth.

Inorganic fertilizers are widely available and are generally sold either in liquid, powder or granular form. The cost of these can differ, depending on quality and feeding schedules that are included. You might find a 6 week feeding schedule would be cheaper than a 4 month feed schedule, however in the long run, a 4 month feed will work out more cost effective, so always budget for what you are prepared to pay.


When purchasing fertilizers, you will notice the packaging has numbers and letters on it, and each fertilizer varies with numbers, so what do they mean?

These numbers that you see are the percentage ratios of each macronutrient within the fertilizer. 

For example in the photo on the left, you can see 5:1:5 (16). Macronutrients are ratio as Nitrogen:Phosphate:Potassium (N:P:K), which means there is 5% Nitorgen, 1%Phosphate and 5% Potassium. The 16 found in brackets would represent the total percentage of combined elements in the bag.

Each fertilizer will vary on the percentage of nutrients, dependent on what the fertilizer is being used for. For example a fertilizer made specifically for vegetables and herbs will have a ratio of 6:3:4 (16), which would mean there is 6% Nitrogen, 3% Phosphate and 4% Potassium.

If the ratio reads  3:2:3 (16) SR, the SR would stand for slow release or sustained release.


Compost, used by most and made by many. Compost is a organic fertilizer that can even be made at home at no cost. 

Compost is a mixture of decomposing plants, food waste and recycled organic materials. The compost mixture is used to fertilize and improve the condition of the soil, with its enriched plant nutrients and beneficial organisms such as worms and fungal mycelium.

Using or making compost reduces the need for expensive chemical fertilizers, helps the environment and encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi which break down the organic matter.

When it comes to buying compost, the pricing and quality will differ in products. Buying cheap compost will save you money, however there are chances of shrinkage due to a high percentage of composites not being fully decomposed. Buying a more expensive compost will lessen the chances of shrinkage and lessen the chance of weeds and pathogens being present.



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