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Lauderdale: Fertilizer and plant health

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Fertilizers provide essential nutrients that help plants grow. Providing the correct amount and type of fertilizer promotes flower production and foliage growth. Some gardeners have the false impression that fertilizing more will result in more and healthier growth. Excess fertilizer application can lead to decline and death of plants.

Trees and shrubs that are not growing well have one or more of the following symptoms: light green or yellow leaves, leaves with dead spots, smaller than normal leaves, fewer leaves and flowers than normal, short twig growth, die back of branches or wilting foliage. Poor growth is not always a sign that fertilizer is needed. Slow growth can be caused by soil compaction, excess moisture, bad weather for plant growth, improper soil pH, nutrient toxicity or deficiencies, insects or diseases.

Before deciding fertilizer is the answer, determine why plants are growing poorly, then correct the factors contributing to poor growth. Fertilization may help, but only after other problems causing poor growth are corrected.

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