What to Feed Your Garden Plants


For a plant, the idea of a great meal is not a burger, fries and soft drink. For them it's more like a complete balanced mix of three main nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. These are sold as fertilizers.

Almost all gardens need to have fertilizer added to them. It helps to replace the nutrients that plants use and keeps your soil in good shape for future crops.

Close-up of black soil in outstretched arms in the rays of the sun. In the garden, a woman clutches fertile soil in her hands for the future harvest. Agriculture. Land in the hands of the garden..
What Do the Numbers Mean?

When you shop for fertilizer you will see three numbers on the box or bag. The first number is nitrogen, the second is phosphorous, and the third is potassium. The numbers tell you the percentage of that nutrient in the bag. So, quiz time! If you have a 5-10-5 bag of fertilizer that weighs 10 pounds then 5% or one-half pound of it is nitrogen. You can now figure the amount of phosphorous and potassium.

For your garden, fertilizer like 5-10-5, 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 or something close is good to use.

  • Use about 1 1/2 pounds of fertilizer for every 100 square feet of garden space. An easy way to measure 1 1/2 pounds is to fill a one pound coffee can with fertilizer. You end up with 1 1/2 pounds of fertilizer. Spread this out and mix it into your soil when you are getting everything ready in the spring or just before planting.
What Are Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium?

How do these nutrients help plants? Well, let's take a look.


  • Nitrogen is used by plants for lots of leaf growth and good green color.
  • Phosphorous is used by plants to help form new roots, make seeds, fruit and flowers. It's also used by plants to help fight disease.
  • Potassium helps plants make strong stems and keep growing fast. It's also used to help fight disease.
  • Fertilizer is one of the many garden "tools" that is used in making good gardens great gardens.