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Difference Between Fertilizer and a Soil Conditioner

Updated: 7 days ago

Soil conditioner and fertilizer are both used to improve the performance and health of plants in your landscape. While both products can enhance the appearance of your landscape, it is essential to realize the differences and that they are not the same. Fertilizers add nutrients to the soil to produce healthier plant growth, while soil conditioners enhance the physical properties of the soil. In other words, the conditioner is for the soil, and the fertilizer is for the plants. When evaluating the condition of your soil and plants, these tips will help you determine if you need to fertilize your plants or condition your soil … or both!


Do I need Fertilizer?


Your soil supplies some of the nutrients that your plants need, but most soils are not able to provide all of the needed nutrients throughout the growing season. Fertilizers and humates add the right amount of nutrients that plants need to grow and remain healthy. The key nutrients in fertilizer are Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. Most plants require these three nutrients, often referred to as NPK, however, different landscapes have different needs depending on the types of plants, trees and shrubs. While fertilizers are safe to use, using more than recommended amounts can kill your plants and have a harmful effect on the soil for future plants.


Choosing the Right Fertilizer


You should choose a fertilizer that is formulated specifically for each type of plant, tree or shrub in your landscape. It is highly recommended that you test your soil before you apply any fertilizer. Tri-C Organics provides free soil analysis test kits; contact us. The test results will tell you the nutrient levels of NPK, as well as the pH of your soil. Trees, shrubs, and your lawn need less fertilizer than your garden vegetables and flowers. The best plan is to get your soil tested to determine what the nutrient levels are and decide what fertilizer you should use to achieve the growth you’re looking for.


Soil Conditioners Improve the Soil


Soil conditioners, also known as soil amendments, help improve soil structure by increasing nutrients, water retention, and aeration. In short, soil conditioners enhance the physical properties of the soil.


Why Use Soil Conditioners?


There are several benefits from using soil conditioners, especially if your soil is unhealthy:

  1. It improves water retention, which is particularly helpful in drought conditions.

  2. It does not add nutrients but makes it possible to increase the number of nutrients the plant takes in.

  3. The health of the soil is improved for a longer period of time.

  4. The structure of the soil improves as it allows the roots to grow and take in more nutrients and water.

Which One Should I Use?


Soil conditioner or fertilizer? The answer is it depends on what your landscape needs, and it might be both. Do you need to provide nutrients to your plants, or is the problem with your soil structure? Testing the soil is the first step to determining the specific needs of your plants and soil.

For more information or questions on the difference between fertilizers and soil conditioner and to request soil analysis kits, reach out to Tri-C Organics.


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