Fertilizer vs. Plant food | Are They the Same Thing?

One thing that most gardeners know is that they should fertilize the plants. Through that, the plants receive the required amount of nutrients and grow properly. But by giving them fertilizer, are you giving the plant food?

It is a common thing to think that plant foods and fertilizers are the same things. But they are not the same at all. There are plenty of differences between them. And without having a fair idea regarding the topic of fertilizer vs. plant food, you will not be capable of knowing the differences.

However, as you have stumbled upon this article, there is nothing to worry about. We use both regularly and know all about them. And we are going to describe all of that in this article.

Fertilizer vs. Plant food
Fertilizer vs. Plant food

What Is a Fertilizer?

You might know by now that fertilizers are basically a mixture of macronutrients, fillers, and micronutrients. Some of the brands will mix these with phosphorous as well. And phosphorous, micronutrients nitrogen, and potassium are generally referred to as the “Big Three” in the gardening community.

On that note, the big threes are labeled as N-P-K. And they will have these numbers beside the label 10-10-10 or 20-20-20. But what do these numbers mean? They generally suggest the percentage of each of the components. The first number stands for nitrogen, the second one is for phosphorous, and the last is potassium.

Do All of the Fertilizers Contain N-P-K at the Same Ratio?

Not really. Many of the fertilizers will contain one more significant amount of nutrients, while the others will be in a moderate amount. An excellent example of this would be the fertilizers that have a 20-5-5 mixture. In this, the nitrogen is in 20 percent, while the potassium and phosphorous is in 5 percent.

What is the rest of the percentage? Well, the rest is fillers. Different ratios are that some of the plants will require one of the nutrients more than the others. For example, one might need a higher amount of nitrogen and less potassium and phosphorous to grow appropriately. The 20-5-5 is perfect for this plant.

What Else Might Fertilizers Be of?

Apart from the big threes, some of the fertilizer might be of other micronutrients. Those will generally contain a mixture of iron and calcium. Also, some will have copper, boron, chlorine manganese, zinc, and molybdenum.

But these fertilizers will also contain the big threes. To illustrate, a fertilizer for a citrus tree will usually have a 10-10-10 ratio of each of the big threes. That is a total of 30 percent of macronutrients.

An additional 10 to 20 percent will be all micronutrients. That makes a total of 50 percent of macronutrients and micronutrients.

The rest of the 50 percent will be filler. But do not think that the fillers are there just to take up space and increase the overall weight of the package. Instead, they will be the helping hand of the micro and macronutrients.  These will ensure that the two are appropriately distributed, and that the plants absorb all properly.

What Is a Plant Food?

The plants absorb all of the nutrients from the ground. And after that, the rest is up to them. They will concoct their foods using all of the nutrients that are gained from the ground. They will do that by blending the air, sunlight, and water.

The air provides carbon dioxide to the plants. It will then meet the chlorophyll, which will utilize all of the energy from the sun to form chloroplasts. Then, the chloroplasts that are in the chlorophyll will combine with carbon dioxide to make simple sugar. This simple sugar will spread all around the body.

While spreading the sugar around, it will utilize water. When the water travels, it will also distribute all of the minerals everywhere. That is why it is necessary to water the plants properly. If they do not absorb the water in time, the sugar will not spread to the body properly.

That being said, all the things required to make this simple sugar are inside the plant foods.

What Does Plant Nutrient Contain?

Apart from just the essential nutrients, it will also have a blend of crucial things that are needed the air, water, and sunlight. In simple words, it is the complete package that just requires all the magic of chlorophyll and chloroplast.

On that note, it will be full of micronutrients. And these micronutrients are what the plants would need to collect by themselves if not provided through plant foods.

Do Plants Spread Plant Food Without Processing It?

Not really. Even though plant foods contain all of the things that are required to make the food of plants, it is not a complete package. Think of it like this way; you brought a package of noodles. You still have to boil it and make it, right? It’s the same thing.

What Are the Differences Between Plant Food and Fertilizer?

Here, instead of getting all the raw materials by yourself and making the plain noodle by yourself, you are purchasing the half processed food. And you still need to process the noodle a bit further to make it “food.” That is exactly what plant foods are.

They will provide the required micronutrients and nutrients that are needed to make the food. And plants will later process them using the cells and other parts.

What Are the Differences Between Plant Food and Fertilizer?

The main difference is that fertilizer contains the big three, while the other has all of the micronutrients that are missing from fertilizer. Plants will absorb all of the nutrients from the fertilizer and use a blend of air, sunlight, and water to make simple food. But plant food has that blend ready.

On that note, it is possible to make plant foods right at home by following some of the easy-to-follow homemade plant food recipes.

Final Words

Now that you have a good idea regarding the topic of fertilizer vs. plant food, hopefully, you will not mix them up in the future. And we hope that we can point out all of the differences that are between them properly.

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Andrew Flintoff

Andrew Flintoff is here! A well-known gardener and a published author. I have dedicated 17 years of my life to gardening and plantation work. to reveal my expertise, I created an online reading store where plant lovers can shop and read A to Z about gardening for FREE. Stay tuned to know more about me.

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