We don't FEED plants. We provide nutrients so that the plants can make their own food in a process called photosynthesis. This is the key thing that separates plants from animals.

Plants need 17 nutrients (elements) in order to grow properly. They need ten of them at high levels (macro-nutrients or primary elements). Some are provided in mineral form including Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), Potassium (K), Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg) and Sulfur (S). The remaining three are provided by the air and water and include Hydrogen (H), Oxygen (O) and Carbon (C).

The other 7 are still vital but are only needed in small amounts (micro-nutrients, minor elements, trace nutrients or trace elements). This group includes Boron (B), Copper (Cu), Chlorine (Cl), Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), Molybdenum (Mo), and Zinc (Zn).

So, we know the nutrients that plants need and there are several ways to provide them. For most of us, the soil in our landscape is the place where the nutrients reside waiting for the plant roots to absorb them. Therefore, the structure and make up of the soil is important to you. Soil testing will help you know what is going on down there out of sight.

At times, we need to supplement the amount of one or more elements in our soil. Most commonly, this is done by application of a fertilizer which comes in many forms including granular and liquid.

Finally, compost i.e. Brown Gold, is an extremely important part of home gardening. This soil amendment does not add many nutrients but it adds to the structure of the soil and encourages organisms such as earthworms and beneficial micro-organisms to thrive and multiply.

Listed below are some topic pages on these important elements and fertilizers used in the home landscape garden:

Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.

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