by Ruby Bayan
Like all other living creatures on earth, plants, including the seemingly catatonic cactus, need food. In the wild, plants rely on leaf litter, animal droppings, and rain water for "food". With the absence of these natural elements in a typical office scenario, cubicle gardens will need a little assistance in satisfying their need for fertilizers.
Chemical and organic plant food are commercially available, manufactured and packaged with convenience of application in mind. With fertilizers distributed in powder (dry), liquid, and just-stick-it-into-the-soil form, gardeners can now choose which manner of plant feeding is most appropriate for their greenery and lifestyle.
Also, most fertilizer packages are labeled with "Ideal for Plants X, Y, and Z" complete with detailed instructions on manner, quantity, and frequency of application. Brand name fertilizers ideal for orchids, African violets, annuals, vegetables, roses, etc., are specifically marked as such. Therefore, choosing and administering fertilizers, even for the novice gardener who is just starting to grasp the meaning of NPK 6-12-6, has become as easy as 1-2-3.
So, what are those numbers and what is NPK? The standard "complete" fertilizer is composed of nitrogen (N), phosphate (P), and potash (K), combined in various percentages (6-12-6 means 6% N, 12% P, and 6% K) for different plant needs. Some plants need more or less of one or the other element, so conscientious plant keepers make it a point to study the unique requirements of the plants under their care.
Visiting the library's gardening books section, reading the fine print in fertilizer packages, and listening to an officemate's experience on plant food will also help cubicle gardeners ensure that their living workplace enhancements get the right amount of food at the right time.
The only important thing to remember when fertilizing is: do not over-feed. Follow fertilizer package instructions closely because in feeding plants, less is better than more.
[First published by Windowbox.com.]