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Water-Soluble Fertilizers

Find out which ones are best for your plants and for your wallet

Fine Gardening - Issue 164

If you have ever shopped for fertilizer for your plants, then you know the wide variety of options available. Water-soluble fertilizers are popular, often because they seem easy to work with: a scoop or so in the watering can and you’re done. Even within this subcategory, the options seem daunting: Organic? Synthetic? High phosphorus to promote blooms?

To help clear these muddy waters, we tested five water-soluble fertilizers derived from a variety of sources. We applied them to plants grown for their fruit (‘Sun Gold’ tomato), flowers (a dwarf marigold mix), and foliage (‘Purple Ruffles’ basil). And while some of the results might be what you would expect, there were a few surprises.

How we conducted the tests

Our control group of plants was grown with no fertilizer besides what was in the potting mix (Fafard 3B—a professional growing medium similar to many over-the-counter mixes) to see whether adding…

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