Why 12-12-12 fertilizer could be giving your plants a nervous breakdown or (Fertilizers made simple)
Each one of these numbers trigger a specific reaction in your plants.
The first number is Nitrogen and it makes your plants grow up and get foliage.
The second number is Phosphorus. It makes the plant grow roots and help make flowers and fruit.
The third number is Potassium which in combination with Phosphorous makes the overall plant healthy and strong that creates great flowers and fruit.
So why would you confuse the plant with 12-12-12? You are telling your plant to grow up, down and all around at the same time!
When seedlings are planted, you want them to first develop a strong root system which will give them a great foundation. That is why seed starter has such a high second number. If you give it a lot of nitrogen now your plants could grow up before it has a good foundation which could lead to an overall unhealthy plant.
Once the plant gets a strong foundation then you need give it nitrogen to grow up.
When the plant gets big and it is time to flower or fruit, just give it a strong third number (potassium) which in combination with the second number, phosphorous, encourages the plant to make fruit or flowers. This is not the time to give it a lot of Nitrogen. Ever wonder why your plant didn’t make much fruit or flowers? Now you know.
So when you put 12-12-12 on lettuce it really gets confused. The nitrogen and phosphorus gives it a great root system and nice foliage but the third number, potassium is telling the plant to make flowers which encourages the plant to bolt which is the last thing you want unless you are trying to make it produce seeds. (Lettuce likes and needs nitrogen and less of the other two numbers).
N-P-K = Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium or up, down and all around.
So remember, these three numbers which are only the first three major nutrients. There are seven other critical micro-nutrients which you can get easily with compost, composted manure and compost tea. But that’s a whole other story.
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