The Q&A Archives: Fertilizers

Question: I read that onions grown with sulfate-based fertilizers have a more pungent taste. How do I select the proper type of nitrate-based fertilizer? I'm also growing tomatoes, cucumbers, beens, yellow and zuccini squashes and lettuce. Will any of these be harmed by a nitrate-based fertilizer?

Answer: Nitrate fertilizers are the most commonly used forms of nitrogen. Most plants prefer nitrogen in nitrate form. Plants take up most nitrogen in this form, but can also take up nitrogen in ammonical form. Ammonium nitrogen is typically converted to nitrate nitrogen in the soil by the microbes. This happens typically in warm soil, so it is faster in summer than in spring. Plants which are planted in cool soil will - everything else being the same - grow faster with nitrate nitrogen as this nitrogen can be taken up by the plants easier in cool soil. This really applies to any crop (warm or cool) but is especially pronounced for cool season crops. Also, nitrate nitrogen is known to create more compact plants with stronger stems compared to nitrogen from ammonium; although temperatures and light also play a very important role here; and so does the amount of fertilizer applied. Nitrate leaches fastest from the soil (due to its chemical negative molecular structure) and therefore if you fertilize soil which gets excessive rains it is not recommended to use fertilizers with high percentage of nitrate nitrogen. The bottom line - nitrate nitrogen fertilizers will be just fine for all your veggies.

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