Knowing when to compost isn't easy...
Soil Nutritional Basics....
There are six basic nutrients that plants require. The first three-- carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen-- a plant can get from air and water. The other three-- nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium-- need to be added by us.
Nitrogen: Helps plants to make the proteins they need to produce new tissues. Because nitrogen is in short supply in nature, plants have evolved to absorb as much nitrogen as possible, even if it means not taking up other necessary elements. Therefore, it's somewhat of a double edged sword. If too much nitrogen is present foliage may be abundant, but there will be little flowers or fruit.
Phosphorus: This lovely element helps to stimulate root growth, set buds and flowers, and improves vitality and seed size. To help facilitate the absorption of phosphorus most plants need a soil pH of 6.5-6.8. Organic matter and having healthy soil organisms moving about helps the availability of phosphorus.
Potassium: Helps to regulate metabolic activity; kind of like a human thyroid. It helps the plant to make carbohydrates and provides disease resistance.
So those are the big six. If you want to get to the nitty gritty of it, plants also require small amounts of Calcium to help grow and neutralize toxic materials. Also Magnesium, which is a component of chlorophyl, helps the plant to process sunlight. Additionally a component of many proteins, Sulfur, is another needed element.
If your soil is a bit tired and used up, not unlike myself, you may need to add some micronutrients such as boron, copper and iron. I just take my probiotics and hope for the best.
Okay the chemistry class is officially over.
Organic vs Synthetic Fertilizer
For this reason, organic fertilizers are best applied in the fall so nutrients have a chance to hang out and show up in the spring when needed most. Organic fertilizers stimulate beneficial soil microorganisms and improve the structure of the soil.
So what have we learnt....