How To Fertilize Vegetable Plants

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This article will teach you how to fertilize vegetable plants.
by Brett · All Zones · Fertilizing · 0 Comments · June 14, 2010 · 7,582 views

Proper fertilization is an important aspect in order to achieve success with vegetable gardening. The amount of fertilizer generally depends on the type of soil and particular crops, which are being grown. While vine crops such as tomatoes and beans generally require only small amounts of fertilizer, root crops are favorable to larger amounts of fertilizer. With regards to soil, that which is abundantly rich with organic matter may not require much, if any, fertilizer. Organic matter improves the soil and helps release nitrogen, minerals, and other nutrients plants require.

Evaluate Soil Conditions...

Most types of vegetable plants thrive in a soil with a nuetral pH around 6.8 to 7.2. With this narrow range, it's a good idea to test the soil. If the pH is too high or low your plants won't be able to readily absorb essential nutrients they need for optimal health and growth. Most nursery and garden centers sell soil test kits or you can buy a soil test kit online here. Your Local Extension Service may also provide soil test services. Results from a soil test can tell you what nutrients or products need to be applied to correct soil pH.

Organic Fertlization of a Vegetable Garden

Since you will be eating the vegetables you grow in your garden, organic fertilizers are always the preferred method when it comes to fertilizing gardens. One of the easiest and most widely used forms of organic fertilizers is compost, which promotes greater soil and plant health. Just about any type of plant material can be composted for use in the garden. If you want the compost to be organic (free of chemicals and such) dont use grass clippings from a lawn that has been treated with pesticides, herbicides or fungucides. Materials can include leaves, lawn clippings, straw, and garden or kitchen scraps.

If you wont be growing a Fall/Winter garden, you can plant alfalfa or crimson clover as a cover crop that will be turned into the soil in Spring. Before any blooms appear, simply chop up and work into the soil. These plants will provide natural nitrogen to the garden soil. Since nitrogen is required by most all crops for healthy development and production, this technique is another natural alternative. Wood ashes from the fireplace or burn piles are also good for the soil, provided they are not from any wood that has been previously treated with chemicals, such as treated lumber.

Manure is another natural fertilizer that can be used in the garden. Horse or chicken manures are the most commonly used but other types are also available. Many nursery and garden centers carry chicken manure-based fertilizer, some of which might be organic and in pelletized form for easy spreading. Chicken manure has a higher content of nitrogen than horse manure and is highly preferred for use in the vegetable garden. Before applying fresh horse manure, allow it to dry out first as green manure can cause burning of plant roots. Organic fertilizers can be added to the soil during preparation, and on an as-needed basis throughout the season.

Fertilizing a Vegetable Garden with Commercial Fertilizers

Commercial fertilizers, such as 5-10-15 or 10-10-10, should be applied either a few days before planting or when the crops are planted. Adding fertilizer to the soil during preparation of the garden, however, is ideal since placing any type of fertilizer too near seedlings or young plants can cause the roots to burn. Care should also be given to keep the leaves of plants free of fertilizer as well when reapplying to avoid burning and injury to the crops. Any form of commercial fertilizer should be used sparingly and checked out beforehand to be sure that there are no harmful chemicals present.

Other Tips

  • Whether using organic or commercial fertilizers, always follow instructions on package label for application rates.
  • When using commercial fertilizers in your garden, soil test results can help take a lot of the guess work out of what nutrients are needed, and how much need be applied.
  • Make your own organic compost to use as soil conditioner and fertilizer in your vegetable garden


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