Let’s examine the number configuration (10-10-6) on the package of fertilizer.
The first of the three numbers refers to
(N). This element is absolutely crucial. Plants use nitrogen to
form proteins, chlorophyll and enzymes to reproduce living cells; in
other words, growth.
The next number refers to
(P), which produces early growth, roots and bloom.
The last number refers to
(K), which helps to move sugar and starches throughout the plant. As a result, the plant grows roots and resists diseases.
There are different forms of fertilizers.
(1) Water soluble
Fertilizers- the solution is applied directly onto the soil or container, or on the foliage, as nutrients are quickly absorbed and utilized by the plant.
(2) Dry granular fertilizers - applied directly around the drip-line of the plant and watered in. The granules dissolve slowly and last for several months.
(3) Controlled-release fertilizer - perpetually nourishes plants from 1 to “X” number of months - ideally suited for containerized plants.
Plants may not need to be fertilized except to amend an unfavorable pH. However, newly planted shrubs should have fertilizer before bloom and after bloom. We begin to fertilize here when the soil temperature is about 60º F., which normally occurs in late March or early April. Another application is given in mid-May and the final one in mid-to late June. Very little fertilizer is applied past July 4th. Plants need to harden off. Shorter days and cooler nights naturally activate this process.
If you are not sure what fertilizers to use, have your soil tested. Contact your local County Cooperative Extension Service for labs that will provide soil-testing services.