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How do I choose the right kind of plant fertilizer to buy?

Fertilizer /ˈfəːtɪlʌɪzə/ Learn to pronounce


  1. a chemical or natural substance added to soil or land to increase its fertility. "sewage sludge could be a valuable fertilizer for use in British forests"

  2. a person, insect, etc., that fertilizes an animal or plant: Bees are fertilizers of flowers.


Ok. I'm pretty sure many of us know what fertilizers are and what are they used for (to make the plants healthy, duh!). Many of those that we see in Singapore are packaged in spray bottles, concentrated liquid, granules, animal poo, compost, potting mixes. Sometimes your mother use eggshells or banana skins. Sometimes we think our pee or spit can help to fertilize the grass. Stupid or Smart? Ignorant or Knowledgeable?

Actually, these ideas didn't come out of nowhere. They actually have a background "story". Or rather, a scientific explanation.

Soil fertility refers to the ability of soil to sustain agricultural plant growth (Wiki). It refers to the capacity of a soil to provide crops with essential plant nutrients (Merriam-webster). Which also means that to determine the soil as fertile, it has to contain many many kinds of essential nutrients for your particular crop.

Nutrients come in many different form. To us humans, nutrients come in the form of protein, vitamins, fats, carbohydrates and minerals. In plants, we mostly only talk about nutrients in mineral form. The non-mineral nutrients are elements like hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), & carbon (C), or energy from the sun (source). But for such things, we cannot control the amount that we need. So usually, we play around with the minerals that we call "fertilizers" instead. These minerals come in the form of elements. Yes the ones in your periodic table you learnt in school.

Generally when we say fertilizer, it commonly has to have the 3 basic minerals that a plant require the most in order to thrive: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) & Potassium (K). If your plant needs leaf growth, buy one with more Nitrogen! If your plant needs root growth, buy one with more Phosphorus! If you want your plant to flower faster, buy one with more Potassium! We always say NPK NPK because they run out of these fastest, but that doesn't mean they don't require other minerals. The reason why it is still okkk not to talk about them is because our soil usually have enough of these nutrients. You probably can't see a very significant difference unless you are an expert.

However, when your plant dies despite fertilizing and watering, you are probably lacking one of these mineral that we don't frequently talk about. That's why we always encourage to top up, till, mix or change the soil instead. Because you can never tell 100% what's going on. Micronutrients include Boron (B), Copper (Cu), Iron (Fe), Chloride (Cl), Manganese (Mn), Molybdenum (Mo) and Zinc (Zn) also take part in food production, reproduction, chlorophyll production, plant growth and many more. Before I go too deep into the details, this post will show you some of the common symptoms when lack of certain nutrients.

So, with the above information, i would say that there can be 1 kind of soil for many plants, or 1 plant that fits many kinds of soil. We usually do trial and error and pick the more suitable way for ourselves and then voila, conclusions turn into facts. I mean, if your shit contains good enough nutrient for your plant, apart from the smell, no one can stop you right?? In order not to be confused or sold to, it's best if you are educated yourself!

So Panana, you talk so much, how will you choose the kind of fertilizer to buy?

I use my feeling.


Let's go back to basics.

Do your homework and understand what kind of nutrients does your plant need. It is good to find out what exactly are you planting. You get your answers from experienced people, you get your answers from textbooks and the internet. If there aren't any specific requirements noticed by growers (E.g. XXX is more susceptible to Calcium loss), general potting mixes should be good enough, on top of your usual N, P and K. Just bear in mind to amend your soil once in a while. Don't let your plants go malnutrition for too long. It is often a misunderstanding to add fertilizer which only contain limited kind of minerals e.g. Nitrogen, especially to plants who need more than just those.

Of course don't change your soil too often la, i'm sure you don't like to move house every 2 months too. It's called transplanting shock. And i'm also speaking as if you do know the basics of planting.

Most of the marketed potting mix contain a range of essential minerals and a selection of soil media that helps to retain moisture and encourage healthy drainage at the same time. The understanding and selection of soil media is yet another topic to go through! All these information matter because it helps you to have less maintenance for your grow.

Different breeders have different opinion on what kind of soil mix to have based on their experiences, thus several product suppliers. And you may not know, all of them could be right. You just have to find one that is most suitable for your kind of plants. That's why education is so important. It allows you to decide critically on what you need.

For me, I will choose the kinds of mix that are environmentally friendly and sufficient. In my point of view there's really no need to buy synthetic fertilizers especially if they are costly. Because #1 i don't really plant edibles #2 i'm not trying to grow a jungle, #3 i prefer low maintenance stuff. But if buy already just use lor!

So mafan right? Just want a fertilizer for your plant to grow? Follow me, use your feelings! 😂

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