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Fertilizer Explained in 3 Easy Steps

Just like we like to be fed and watered, so do our plants.  With the wide variety of fertilisers available, it can be a bit overwhelming in choosing the right one to help your plant thrive.  We’ve put together a summary of the different types of fertilizers to clear up any confusion so you can feed your garden with the right diet. Here is fertilizer explained in 3 easy steps.

Soil Conditioners

Soil conditioners are just that, you add them to the soil to keep the soil in good condition.  

They improve the structure of the soil quality for

  • water-holding capacity,
  • air content and 
  • alter pH. 

This is great news for your plants!

You can buy soil conditioners with the organic or non-organic matter.  Examples of soil conditioners with organic matter are bone meal, coffee grounds and straw. Moreover, an example of an inorganic soil conditioner is vermiculite (a mineral substance). 

Manure and compost may be regarded as soil conditioners.  It does contain significant amounts of plant nutrients that act as fertiliser when slowly released into the soil. Compost has much less nutrient content but is excellent at improving soil structure.  Additionally, compost varies according to what has been used to make it.


Fertilisers provide essential nutrients to the plants, it’s basically food for the plants.  We have available a wide range of fertilisers, different brands and forms.  There are two main types of fertilisers:  

  • Organic or natural fertilisers have been manufactured from one or a combination of organic ingredients.  Organic fertilisers usually have a lower concentration of ingredients than inorganic.  They are slow releasing and less likely to harm the plant if you apply too much. 
  • Inorganic or artificial fertilisers have been synthesised through a human manufacturing process.  The inorganic fertilisers are concentrated forms of often naturally occurring minerals.  The benefit is they deliver precise concentrations of nutrients to the plant.  These fertilizers are often tailored to a specific group of plants, such as citrus or roses.

Liquid vs Solid

All fertilisers contain nutrients that make for healthy plant growth.  Some are complete plant foods that supply all sixteen essential nutrients a plant needs, while others target specific needs or deficiencies. Some are designed to be applied as solids while others are applied as liquids.

  • Liquid fertilisers are absorbed straight away through the plants’ roots or leaves.  This quickly addresses any nutrient deficiencies or gives the plant a little boost through the growing season.
  • Solid fertilisers slowly feed the plant over a whole season and are suitable for a mature tree or pot plant.  Use these fertilizers if you are time-poor as they only need to be applied once a year.

Choosing the right fertiliser can feel like you need a degree in Chemistry!  Once you understand the different types available, it can make life a lot easier.  For more information on fertilizers, go to our blog How to Choose the Best Fertiliser for your Garden  

fertilizer explained - soil, fertilizers, liquid and solid