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How to Choose Plant Fertilizer

To grow beautiful flowers and plants in an outdoor garden, you need to feed your soil the right plant food – a fertilizer that will help your plants thrive.


  • Step 1: Test your soil to find out what nutrients it needs. Garden centers often sell do-it-yourself kits, or you can arrange a test through the Cooperative Extension System, a national agricultural network. Find a nearby Extension office on the USDA web site.
  • Step 2: Decide if you want to use organic fertilizer – plant food found in nature, like manure, peat, or compost – or fertilizer that contains synthetically manufactured nutrients. Organic fertilizer usually releases nutrients at a slower rate than synthetic.
  • Step 3: Consider a multipurpose fertilizer, generally the easiest to use. Its time-released nutrients cause plants to grow quickly, and the food can be used for almost all types of plants and bulbs.
  • Step 4: Consider granular plant food, which can be scattered on the surface of the soil and is an economical choice for larger garden beds.
  • TIP: Water the soil after using granular plant food, or the nutrients will not break down.
  • Step 5: Consider water-soluble plant food, which is mixed with water and then poured onto plants, allowing the plant to be fed through its roots. This type of plant fertilizer grows larger flowers and plants, and offers the fastest results.
  • Step 6: Consider slow-release plant food, which is easy to use and feeds slowly and steadily for three months up to a year. Dig a hole, add the fertilizer, and then plant your plant. Nutrients will vary depending on the type of plants you are cultivating.
  • Step 7: Consider fertilizer spikes, which are embedded into the soil and are best for fertilizing trees and shrubs. And now comes the easy part: admiring your beautiful plants!
  • FACT: One typical homemade fertilizer recipe calls for beer, ammonia, and baby shampoo.

You Will Need

  • Soil test
  • Multipurpose plant food
  • Granular plant food
  • Water-soluble plant food
  • Slow-release plant food
  • Fertilizer spikes

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