Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium are the macro nutrients that are essential to plant growth. They are represented by their periodic signs N P K. These letters appear on any type of fertilizer you may come across whether organic or not and they always represent the three macro nutrients in the above order. They are used universally so when you see an NPK of 5%-5%-5% it will mean that 5% of the content in that product is Nitrogen, 5% Phosphorus and 5% Potassium, the rest of the material is acting as filler or a part of the delivery system, water for example.
Now things get tricky, plants can’t just slurp this stuff up, the nutrients must be in a form that plants can chemically bond with. Nitrogen in its natural form is N2, two little N atoms that are absolutely in love with each other, it’s one of the hardest bonds to break in in the chemical kingdom, and it’s a form of Nitrogen that’s useless to plants. Plants use a more complex form of N, most commonly N3 or N4, this allows the N to join with good old H2O making it….soluble. There are only two things in our world strong enough to break the N2 bond, petrochemicals and bacteria, this explains the difference between organic and chemical fertilizer.
Chemical fertilizers come ready made with the N2 bond broken making for a quick nutrient supply. The convenience of this however is hiding a much deeper problem. Chemical fertilizer basically turns your plants into binge drinking addicts. Bacteria on the other hand work continuously to break the bond and as a result slowly release Nitrogen providing a slow release food source. We’re sure you can guess which method is used in vermicomposting, wink, wink.
NPK works in differing amounts and has a distinctive effect on plant growth. The chemicals act on various aspects of growth at different points in development. Foliage and new growth are reliant on Nitrogen whereas Phosphorus is more involved with root development and the timing and health of flowers and seeds. Potassium acts to regulate metabolic development including immune responses to threats. In nature the plant will use organic slow released chemicals at its own pace and if those chemicals are found in abundance the plant thrives.
Worm castings are an example of organic fertilizer in its purest form. Each cast has a balanced NPK content because of the bacterial action the worm uses to digest the composted organic material it feeds on. The castings will slow release the nutrients for months and months plus they will attract and retain soil microorganisms like bacteria to continue the process. The humus in vermicast makes up about 40% of its mass and acts like a tiny sponge that keeps water actively working to deliver the Nitrogen that the plants use. When we call it nature’s perfect plant food we are not in jest.
Over the next few weeks we’ll continue to look into all the fertilizing qualities of castings so make sure to keep posted and as always contact us through our web page or FaceBook with questions, observations and of course, order inquiries, we look forward to hearing from you.