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plant food vs fertilizer

Plant Food vs. Fertilizer: Clearing Up Misconceptions

Gardening enthusiasts know it takes more than a green thumb to grow healthy plants. Along with adequate sunshine and water, plants need food to thrive. However, this often sparks the debate of plant food vs. fertilizer. 

Despite what many people believe, plant food and fertilizer are not the same. If you want to grow beautiful and healthy plants, it is essential to know the differences.

The team at A Garden Patch knows a lot goes into proper gardening. We also know that various misconceptions surround the gardening community. Below, we tackle the misinformation about plant food and fertilizer by defining each.

What Is Plant Food?

Before discussing what makes plant food different from fertilizer, we must determine what it is. 

Plant food promotes healthy growth by delivering key nutrients to the roots. These nutrients occur naturally in soil, and plants make them from water, sunlight, and air. Essentially, plant food is a byproduct of natural processes. 

As you may have learned in elementary school, plants use photosynthesis to convert nutrients from oxygen, sunlight, and water into food. They do this by absorbing the nutrients through their roots and delivering them to the other parts of the plants.

Photosynthesis converts carbon dioxide, minerals, and water into essential sugars. It then releases oxygen back into the surrounding air and uses the sugars as an energy source. Plants use this energy to develop leaves and grow.

What Is Fertilizer?

Fertilizer contains three vital macronutrients: nitrogen (N), potassium (K), and phosphorous (P). Plants rely on these macronutrients to develop healthy roots and grow properly. 

Gardeners add plant fertilizer to the soil to boost growth. While some fertilizers are chemical, others are natural. For instance, Jobe’s Organic Fertilizer delivers natural nutrients to plants for faster and better growth.

Gardeners may choose solid, powdered, or liquid fertilizer, depending on the plants.

Gardeners often use fertilizer for nutrient-deficient plants. However, you can also use fertilizer for perfectly healthy plants to boost growth. Adding fertilizer to the soil of young plants can help ensure proper root development. 

All fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, though not always in the same amounts. For example, when a fertilizer bag has “N-P-K 10-10-10” on it, it indicates that the fertilizer has equal proportions of all three macronutrients. 

Meanwhile, others contain more or less of each nutrient to target specific soil conditions and plants. For instance, “20-5-5” means the fertilizer has more nitrogen than potassium or phosphorus. 

In addition to nutrient proportions, you should consider the type of fertilizer. Whereas organic fertilizers consist of natural nutrients with no fillers, synthetic fertilizers include various chemicals. 

Synthetic fertilizers also contain ballast or fillers. While these two substances help make the bag fuller, they have no nutritional value.

What Makes Them Different?

The primary difference between plant food and fertilizer is their creation. 

Plant food is the result of a naturally occurring process. Rather than using external resources, plants make their food from sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. 

Conversely, fertilizer is a manufactured product. It may consist of chemical or organic nutrients, depending on the product. You add fertilizer to the soil to boost growth, making it an additional part of the plant growth process rather than a natural occurrence. 

Regarding plant food vs. fertilizer, there is one main difference: You can buy fertilizer but not plant food.

Why Do We Confuse the Two?

When you know the difference between plant food and fertilizer, it can make you wonder how others confuse them. 

One of the reasons for the confusion is how companies label plant fertilizer. Many manufacturers claim their products are plant food when they are merely bags of fertilizer. This practice is especially common for organic fertilizers. 

How Important Are Macronutrients?

Though many plants can survive without fertilizer, they all rely on nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. 

Plants love nitrogen because it helps promote germination, photosynthesis, foliage development, and chlorophyll formation.

Phosphorous, on the other hand, protects plant health by strengthening roots. By fortifying the roots and making them more disease-resistant, the plant can better grow fruits and flowers.

Meanwhile, potassium promotes better water absorption and sugar synthesis, making it another helpful nutrient for protection against plant diseases.

As you can see, these three nutrients are highly beneficial to plant health. Finding a high-quality organic fertilizer and giving your plants the proper space to grow ensures they receive enough macronutrients. If you struggle to give your plant enough space or nutrients, try the Garden Patch GrowBox.

What About Micronutrients?

While the three macronutrients mentioned above are key players in plant development, they are not the only ones. Plants also rely on calcium, hydrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and magnesium. 

When scoping out fertilizers, you should look for micronutrients like iron, zinc, cobalt, sodium, and manganese. Finding fertilizers with the right amount of macro- and micronutrients can help your plants achieve optimum health and stunning foliage.

How to Give Your Plants the Proper Nutrients

New and seasoned planters know the challenges of ensuring plants receive adequate nutrients, especially since not all plants require the same growing conditions. Whether you have outdoor or indoor plants, it is important to do your research and see how much water and how many macronutrients they need.

Giving your plants high-end fertilizer is not always enough to ensure proper growth. They also need sufficient space and proper sunlight. Unfortunately, finding the time to care for your plants properly can be challenging. 

The good news is that rookie and seasoned gardeners have several resources to help them grow plants, even with a busy schedule. The Garden Patch GrowBox solves all major gardening issues by ensuring plants have enough space, and the premeasured nutrient packs take all the guesswork out of proper portioning. With the automatic fertilization feature, you can put in less effort while still reaping the benefits of beautiful plants. 

For more gardening tips or information about plant food vs. fertilizer, call (800) 519-1955 or read the blog to learn the differences between the GrowBox and the EarthBox.

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