Plant Food vs. Soil Food
Soil is a key aspect of lawn care. In order for plants to properly grow, the soil needs to receive a steady supply of nutrients. Since plants are dependent on soil, nutrient-deficient soil may cause plants to miss out on essential nutrients. When selecting fertilizers to build and improve soil, choose complex, organic or natural fertilizers, instead of synthetic ones that only deliver a few select nutrients.
Difference between Plant Food and Soil Food
Plants are most commonly fed synthetic fertilizers that contain primary nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Since plant food is made specifically for plants to take up and use, these fertilizers don't have many other functions. These fertilizers are available in slow release form or gradual release form, but the result of feeding with these fertilizers is that you're only providing the soil with one type of nutrient. If the soil is unable to hold on to the nutrient, or the plant doesn't absorb the nutrient, you'll have an unsuccessful feeding. As a result, your lawn may weaken.
Soil food consists of either fertilizer or organic ingredients (like compost or chopped leaves) that not only possesses necessary plant nutrients, but also enhances soil structure, or provides food for the microorganisms that reside in the soil.
Examples of soil food include grass clippings, compost, fish emulsion, bone meal, blood meal, mulch, plant "tones", eggshells, and wood ash. These items are good for the soil because earthworms, beneficial bacteria, and soil fungi will consume the soil food and break it down, helping the plants use the nutrients found in the food. In addition to being used as soil food, these items can also improve the soil structure. This will enhance the soil's water holding and water draining capacities. Since soil organisms are useful to plants, it's important to feed them on a regular basis.
What is Soil Conditioner?
Any organic materials can be labeled soil conditioners. Using a soil conditioner will provide temporary relief to an unhealthy soil by increasing its moisture retention. These soil conditions will most likely contain humic acid, which is the most broken down form of organic matter. Although humic acid is a vital ingredient, lawn care experts are still unsure as to what it is, or how it works. However, plants with humic acid perform better than those without the nutrient.
In addition to containing humic acid, soil conditioners also possess some variety of blood meals, wood pieces, compost, and other organic matter. There aren't any regulations as to what ingredients a "soil conditioner" has to contain; however, the bag should have the ingredients listed somewhere. Soil conditioners can be helpful; however, for cost-effective garden and lawn care, you should use soil conditioners with organic materials.
There are complex relationships between plants, other living organisms, the atmosphere, and the soil. Although lab-made synthetic fertilizers can be beneficial, they cannot entirely replicate natural relationships. Therefore, to encourage plant growth, it's important to first improve the quality of the soil.