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8 Best Fertilizers for Your Garden

Keep your flowers blooming, your plants green and lush, and your fruit and vegetable harvest plentiful with these best fertilizers for your garden.

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Garden Fertilizeregiss/Getty Images

Why Use Fertilizer in the Garden?

When the plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables growing in your garden are healthy and flourishing, that means they’re absorbing enough nutrients from the soil they’re planted in. But that’s just the thing — they’re absorbing nutrients. Most plants need a mix of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to thrive and, over time, those nutrients in the soil are depleted. And as soil quality goes, so goes your garden. That’s why many home gardeners choose to add fertilizer to boost the soil’s nutrient content and keep their garden plants looking healthy, year after year.

However, not every fertilizer is right for every plant or climate. Read on for our picks for the best fertilizers for your garden.

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Safest Garden Fertilizer Around Children and Pets

If little kids or curious pets are likely to play in your garden, then you want to keep fertilizer pellets and spikes out of their hands and mouths. Most organic fertilizers are probably safe if a child or pet ingests a little bit, but organic fertilizers are a temptation for pets. They’re often made of manure, bone meal or blood meal, all of which might smell and taste appealing to your pets. A liquid organic fertilizer, like AgroThrive Organic, provides child- and pet-safe nutrients to all your garden plants, without leaving behind any tasty pellets (we know, yuck) for your pets to eat.

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Best Garden Fertilizer for Roses

Roses reward a little TLC with glorious, often fragrant blooms and healthy green foliage. Rose experts say that of the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium combination, known as NPK in industry lingo, phosphorus is the most important mineral to stimulate blooms. Fertilizers list their NPK ratios on the bag or packaging, so look for one with a higher P, or phosphorus content. We like Down to Earth Organic Rose & Flower Fertilizer for its 4-8-4 NPK ratio, but be forewarned — dogs may like the blood and bone meal, and seagull poop that make up part of the ingredients!

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Best Garden Fertilizer for Rainy Season/Climates

If you live in a year-round rainy climate or an area with a heavy rainy season, watering your garden probably won’t be a challenge. But all that rainy can wash nutrients from your soil, especially nitrogen, and it can also wash away any fertilizers you apply. Skip the liquid fertilizer, which will wind up in the storm drain, and instead use a continuous release granular fertilizer that you mix into the soil. We like Proven Winners for its high nitrogen ratio and its long-lasting efficacy of up to six months.

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pitch fork in compost pilesylv1rob1/Shutterstock

Best Homemade Garden Fertilizer

There are so many homemade fertilizers your garden plants will love — it’s hard to know where to start! Actually, your compost bin is a great place to start, as virtually every garden plant will revel in the organic compost you feed it. If you want to really get your hands dirty (and wet), you can make a compost tea. To do so, put one part of compost in a cheesecloth or burlap sack, and suspend it in a bucket of water — the compost to water ratio should be 1 : 5. Let it soak for a few weeks, squeezing and stirring the bag occasionally. Then discard the bag and compost, and apply the “compost tea” as liquid fertilizer.

The same method can be used to make a manure tea from cured manure. Note that different types of animal manure need different amounts of time to cure, so check with your garden center before you start brewing this smelly “tea.”

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Best Garden Fertilizer for Vegetables

Vegetable gardens do well with a general-purpose fertilizer, typically applied in the spring, before the plants begin to produce a harvest. A general-purpose fertilizer will have equal or similar NPK ratios. A lot of gardeners feel better using organic fertilizers on their food crops, because ultimately, they and their families will be eating what comes out of the ground. Dr. Earth makes a blend formulated for herbs and vegetables, and there is a vegan option if you don’t want any animal byproducts on your plants.

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Best Fertilizer for Hostas and Ferns

Those lush, shade-loving hostas and ferns might not look like they need to be fertilized, but a dose of a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 NPK, will keep them healthy and thriving. Use a slow-release granular fertilizer, like Southern Ag All Purpose, instead of a liquid fertilizer, which could burn leaves it comes in contact with.

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Best Fertilizer for Fruit Trees and Plants

Your fruit trees also need that magic combination of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK). But if you want to increase fruit size, up the potassium (K) ratio. Potassium increases cell division, meaning it helps fruit, especially citrus, grow bigger. EarthPods Fertilizer Spikes are an organic option with a 2-2-4 NPK ratio. The spikes are actually small capsules that you press into the ground every 14 to 21 days while the tree or bush is in its growing season.

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Best Fertilizer for Tomatoes

Your tomatoes will benefit from a good all-purpose fertilizer soon after they’re planted in the ground. But when they start to produce flowers, you’ll want to switch to a fertilizer that’s higher in phosphorus and lower in nitrogen, which will help them yield a lot more of that precious fruit. Jobe’s Organic is a good choice, and your peppers, eggplant and other nightshades will love it too.

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