When it comes to fertilizing vegetable plants, flowers, containers or hanging baskets, a few simple secrets can create big success!
Of course, growing healthy, vibrant and great looking plants all starts with good soil. But even the best of soils can be depleted over the course of a full growing season. Whether growing vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers, or flowers such as marigolds and petunias, all plants use nutrients in the soil to grow and flourish.
fertilizing vegetable plants and flowers on a regular schedule can keep plants rocking all year long
The more plants grow and mature, the more they begin to use up those nutrients. And that is where providing a little natural boost of nutrients can make all the difference. The key to success is knowing when, what, and how much to apply to create the perfect balance of available nutrients. The best part of fertilizing vegetable plants naturally is that they only serve to build the soil. Both in the short-term, and long-term.
Here are 5 fertilizing secrets to keep your garden and flowerbeds rocking all year-long.
- The 5 Secrets To Fertilizing Vegetable Plants And Flowers
- Compost Teas
- Herbivore Manures
- Fish and Seaweed Emulsions
- Vermicomposting or Worm Poo
- How to Choose the Best Fertiliser for Your Veggie Patch
- 5 Of The World’s Best Homemade Vegetable Garden Fertilizers
- Synthetic Vegetable Garden Fertilizers
- Organic Vegetable Garden Fertilizers
- 1. Simple Tea Fertilizer
- 2. Fish Emulsion Fertilizer
- 3. Seaweed Fertilizer
- 4. The Quick Fix Fertilizer
- 5. Manure Tea Fertilizer
- Small Tips for a Better Garden
- 8 Best Homemade Garden Fertilizers
- Our Pick for the Best Organic Fertilizer
- How to Choose Fertilizer
- Our Best 6 Organic Fertilizer Choices
- 1. Neptune’s Harvest Organic Hydrolized Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer
- 2. Jobe’s 6028 Organic Vegetable Spikes
- 3. Humboldts Secret Golden Tree
- 4. SEA-90 Organic Fertilizer
- 5. Fox Farm FX 14049 Liquid Nutrient Trio Soil Formula
- 6. Unco Industries Soil Builder Earthworm Castings
- Was this article helpful?
- How can we improve it?
- We appreciate your helpul feedback!
- Fertilizer 101
- Vegetable Gardening: Applying Fertilizer
- When to Fertilize
- Types of Fertilizer
- Preventing Pollution
The 5 Secrets To Fertilizing Vegetable Plants And Flowers
#1 Fertilizing The Planting Hole
The best time to start fertilizing vegetable plants and flowers is when they go in the ground! Boosting the soil in the planting hole with additional nutrients sets the stage for a plant’s success. As the transplants begin to grow, they have instant energy that can easily be absorbed by their roots.
We mix every single planting hole with a supply of natural nutrients to provide lasting power for the plant. A healthy dose of compost, mixed in with a few table spoons of worm castings and coffee grounds provide a virtual cornucopia of balanced power to plants. Product Links : Worm Castings – Bagged Compost
#2 Apply A Slow Release Fertilizing Mulch
Getting plants off to the right start with extra nutrients in the planting hole is a big key.
Equally important to secret #1 is mulching with an additional power source. In the garden, flowerbeds, and even on top of hanging baskets and containers, we apply a layer of compost as a mulch around every single plant.
It serves a double purpose. As a true mulch, it helps to regulate soil temperatures and keep competing weeds at a minimum. But it also acts as a long-term, slow release fertilizer. Every single time it rains, or when the garden is watered, nutrients from the compost mulch on top are leached into the soil and the roots below.
#3 Let Your Plants Settle In
When a vegetable or flower transplant is planted, it goes through a small period of shock. It has gone from its little protective container into the great big outside world, and it needs a bit of time to adjust before getting too many powerful nutrients all at once.
One of the biggest mistakes many gardeners make is to apply powerful liquid fertilizers to plants immediately after they go into the ground. The best rule of thumb, allow 10 to 14 days for plants to recover from transplant shock before hitting them with any additional power sources. Give the plants time to adjust and begin to spread their roots into the slow-release fertilizers of compost and worm castings.
#3 Applying Liquid Fertilizers – Double Duty Success
Once plants have had a bit of time to settle in and recover from shock, you can give them a more instant boost to really power them up. Liquid fertilizers, in the form of compost tea, worm casting tea, and even manure tea can work wonders to boost plants.
These teas are made simply by steeping water in the substances over the course of a few days to create a powerful, all-purpose liquid fertilizer. It can be used to water plants, absorbing energy both through the foliage and root zones. Teas are a quick and effective boost of energy for plants, especially during their first few months of growth. It can keep your tomato plants growing, and your flowers and hanging baskets blooming!
Worm castings are our number one go-to natural fertilizer
As for how often to apply, a every two to three weeks for the first two months is our rule of thumb. For more on how to make your own, see our article : 4 Liquid Fertilizers That Work Like Magic
#4 Applying Additional Slow Release Fertilizers
After plants have been in place for a few months, we like to add in another 1/4 cup of worm castings to the soil around the top of plants. We simply spread back any mulch, scratch the castings into the soil, and then put the mulch back. It helps to give one final slow-release boost to plants over the rest of summer. This is especially effective for containers and baskets. And yes, we really can’t say enough about worm castings. They are simply the most amazing organic fertilizer we have ever uses. Period!
#5 Avoid Over Feeding
When it comes to fertilizing vegetable plants and flowers, too much of a good thing can ultimately be a bad thing. Plants that are over-fertilized begin to spend the excess nutrients grow only bigger stems and foliage.
When it comes to vegetable plants, feeding every two to three weeks is more than enough. We also stop feeding in mid summer to let the plant put the proper energy into forming produce. As for flowers, especially containers and hanging baskets, we continue to feed every two to three weeks into fall. Plants in contained soil begin to deplete by mid to late summer of their natural nutrients. Keeping a steady feeding schedule for these plants keeps them blooming til seasons end.
Happy Gardening! Jim and Mary. To receive our 3 Home, Garden, Recipe and Simple Life articles each week, sign up below for our free email list. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram. This article may contain affiliate links.
5 Secrets To Fertilizing Vegetable Plants And Flowers – Grow Big Naturally! Tagged on: fertilizing fertilizing flowers fertilizing plants fertilizing vegetable plants vegetable garden tips
As vegetable gardeners, we are always faced with a myriad of questions. There are so many different choices in vegetable varieties, tool options, and much, much more. One of the most common questions many gardeners ask is, “What fertilizers should I use?”. This is a great question because there are so many fertilizer options with many different applications, it can easily send a gardener into a whirlwind of confusion and doubt.
If you are interested in growing organically, which I hope you are, then you should use organic fertilizers. Organic simply means it is related to, or derived from, living organisms and is not manufactured through chemicals. Organic fertilizers provide the best nutrients and minerals for a healthy garden because they are naturally occurring. Man may attempt to replicate what nature provides with chemical “super fertilizers”, but it pales in comparison to the raw power of using what nature already gives us.
So, what are the best organic fertilizers we can use for vegetables? Here are my favorite choices (in no particular order):
Compost is by far the most widely used fertilizer and soil amendment in vegetable gardens today; and rightfully so! Compost is easily made from all types of things from around the home, but mostly from yard refuge and most vegetable peelings from the kitchen. It is generally worked into the soil before planting and added as a side dressing after the plants have become established. Compost adds beneficial microorganisms, greatly improves soil health, and increases earthworm activity in your soil.
Compost teas are made from steeping compost. The liquid left from the steeping process is strained and then used to water plants. Compost tea can offer your vegetable plants a super-charged drink of essential nutrients and minerals.
Manures from animals such as grass fed cows, horses, rabbits and chickens make great fertilizers. Never use manures from animals such as dogs or cats, or manures from humans (eeww). Typically, manures are mixed with hay, straws, or alfalfa and set out to compost before using. You should always let manures compost for a minimum of nine months before applying it to the vegetable garden. Using fresh manures can burn plants and cause quite a stink.
Fish and Seaweed Emulsions
Fish and seaweed (kelp) fertilizers are a great way to easily improve soil nutrients and provide your plants a good feeding. These organic fertilizers come in a liquid form and are mixed with water, then used to water plants where nutrients are taken in through the leaves. Using compost in combination with a fish or seaweed fertilizer is a great way to take on a two-pronged attack of organic fertilization.
Vermicomposting or Worm Poo
The reason earthworms are essential for healthy soil is because they wiggle around the soil helping to aerate it, but the best quality of the earthworm is its poo (or castings). The castings not only provide valuable nutrients to the soil, but the poo also contains beneficial microorganisms from the earthworm’s digestive system. Beneficial microorganisms are vital for breaking down organic matter into a form that plant roots can intake.
Vermicomposting is the farming of worms in order to collect their castings to use as a fertilizer or top dressing. You can also purchase worm castings and earthworm cocoons to place in raised beds or large containers. The cocoons will hatch earthworms introducing these soil soldiers to your vegetable garden.
Commercial Organic Fertilizers
There are many companies that produce awesome organic fertilizers. Such companies I highly recommend are Gardener’s Supply and Gardens Alive!. Both companies offer all natural fertilizers for broad spectrum or specific applications.
Gardens Alive! features many specific organic fertilizers and are offering a special right now on soil care products. Click the coupon link below to save $20 off a $40 order! So, if you order $40 worth of awesome organic products you are getting them half off!
Save $20 off orders $40 at Gardens Alive!
Start Growing Organically Today!
This story originally appeared on Rodale’s Organic Life in March 2017.
For organic gardeners, creating a living soil rich in humus and nutrients is the key to growing great fruits and vegetables, abundant flowers, and long-lived ornamental trees and shrubs. The overall fertility and viability of the soil, rather than the application of fertilizers as quick fixes, is at the very heart of organic gardening.
But like all gardeners, organic gardeners have to start somewhere. Your soil may be deficient in certain nutrients. It may not have excellent soil structure. Its pH may be too high, or too low. Unless you’ve lucked into the perfect soil, you’re going to have to work to make it ideal for gardening. Here’s how to get started. (If you’re not sure what kind of soil you have, start with these ten easy soil tests.)
Chemical Vs. Organic Fertilizer
Many organic materials serve as both fertilizers and soil conditioners—they feed both soils and plants. This is one of the most important differences between a chemical approach and an organic approach toward soil care and fertilizing. Soluble chemical fertilizers contain mineral salts that plant roots can absorb quickly. However, these salts do not provide a food source for soil microorganisms and earthworms, and they will even repel earthworms because they acidify the soil. Over time, soils treated only with synthetic chemical fertilizers lose organic matter and the all-important living organisms that help to build a quality soil. As soil structure declines and water-holding capacity diminishes, more and more of the chemical fertilizer applied will leach through the soil. In turn, it will take ever-increasing amounts of chemicals to stimulate plant growth. When you use organic fertilizers, you avoid throwing your soil into this kind of crisis condition. (Already ruined your earth? Here are five ways you can improve your soil.)
What’s more, the manufacturing process of most chemical fertilizers depends on nonrenewable resources, such as coal and natural gas. Others are made by treating rock minerals with acids to make them more soluble. Fortunately, there are more and more truly organic fertilizers coming on the market. These products are made from natural plant and animal materials or from mined rock minerals. However, the national standards that define and distinguish organic fertilizers from chemical fertilizers are complicated, so it’s hard to be sure that a commercial fertilizer product labeled “organic” truly contains only safe, natural ingredients. Look for products labeled “natural organic,” “slow release,” and “low analysis.” Be wary of products labeled organic that have an NPK (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) ratio that adds up to more than 15. Ask a reputable garden center owner to recommend fertilizer brands that meet organic standards, or go the DIY route and make your own organic fertilizer.
How To Use Organic Fertilizers
If you’re a gardener who’s making the switch from chemical to organic fertilizers, you may be afraid that using organic materials will be more complicated and less convenient than using premixed chemical fertilizers. Not so! Organic fertilizer blends can be just as convenient and effective as blended synthetic fertilizers. You don’t need to custom feed your plants organically unless it’s an activity you enjoy. So while some experts will spread a little blood meal around their tomatoes at planting, and then some bonemeal just when the blossoms are about to pop, most gardeners will be satisfied to make one or two applications of general-purpose organic fertilizer throughout the garden.
Related: Make Fertilizer Faster With The Ultimate Compost Bin
Convenient products like dehydrated organic cow manure pellets, liquid seaweed, and fish emulsion make it easy to fertilize houseplants and containers, too. (Don’t use fish emulsion indoors, though, because of its strong odor. Save it for your outdoor containers and garden plants.)
If you want to try a plant-specific approach to fertilizing, you can use a variety of specialty organic fertilizers, such as mixes designed for tomatoes, roses, transplants, lawns, heavy bloom production, and even container gardens. You can also make custom mixes to address your plants’ specific needs. For example, you can use bat and bird guano, composted chicken manure, blood meal, chicken feather meal, or fish meal as nitrogen sources. Bonemeal is a good source of phosphorus, and kelp or greensand are organic sources of potassium.
Types Of Organic Fertilizer
Dry Organic Fertilizers
Dry organic fertilizers can consist of a single material, such as rock phosphate or kelp (a type of nutrient-rich seaweed), or they can be a blend of many ingredients. Almost all organic fertilizers provide a broad array of nutrients, but blends are specially formulated to provide balanced amounts of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, as well as micronutrients. There are several commercial blends, but you can make your own general-purpose fertilizer by mixing individual amendments. (Here’s what you need to know about soil nitrogen content.)
The most common way to apply dry fertilizer is to broadcast it and then hoe or rake it into the top 4 to 6 inches of soil. You can add small amounts to planting holes or rows as you plant seeds or transplants. Unlike dry synthetic fertilizers, most organic fertilizers are nonburning and will not harm delicate seedling roots. During the growing season, boost plant growth by side-dressing dry fertilizers in crop rows or around the drip line of trees or shrubs. It’s best to work side-dressings into the top inch of the soil.
Liquid Organic Fertilizers
Plants can absorb liquid fertilizers through both their roots and through leaf pores. Foliar feeding (that’s through the leaves) can supply nutrients when they are lacking or unavailable in the soil, or when roots are stressed. It is especially effective for giving fast-growing plants like vegetables an extra boost during the growing season. Some foliar fertilizers, such as liquid seaweed (kelp), are rich in micronutrients and growth hormones. These foliar sprays also appear to act as catalysts, increasing nutrient uptake by plants. Compost tea and seaweed extract are two common examples of organic foliar fertilizers.
Use liquid fertilizers to give your plants a light nutrient boost or snack every month or even every two weeks during the growing season. With flowering and fruiting plants, foliar sprays are most useful during critical periods (such as after transplanting or during fruit set) or periods of drought or extreme temperatures. For leaf crops, some suppliers recommend biweekly spraying.
When using liquid fertilizers, always follow label instructions for proper dilution and application methods. You can use a surfactant, such as coconut oil or a mild soap (¼ teaspoon per gallon of spray), to ensure better coverage of the leaves. Otherwise, the spray may bead up on the foliage and you won’t get the maximum benefit. Measure the surfactant carefully; if you use too much, it may damage plants. A slightly acid spray mixture is most effective, so check your spray’s pH. Use small amounts of vinegar to lower pH and baking soda to raise it. Aim for a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. (Plus, here’s everything you need to know about understanding your soil’s pH.)
To apply, use any sprayer or mister, from hand-trigger units to knapsack sprayers, set on the finest spray setting (but never use one that has been used to apply herbicides). The best times to spray are early morning and early evening when the liquids will be absorbed most quickly and won’t burn foliage. Choose a day when no rain is forecast and temperatures aren’t extreme. Spray until the liquid drips off the leaves. Concentrate the spray on leaf undersides, where leaf pores are more likely to be open. You can also water in liquid fertilizers around the root zone. A drip irrigation system can carry liquid fertilizers to your plants. Kelp is good product for this use (fish emulsion can clog the irrigation emitters).
Growth enhancers are materials that help plants absorb nutrients more effectively from the soil. The most common growth enhancer is kelp (a type of seaweed), which has been used by farmers for centuries. Kelp is sold as a dried meal or as an extract of the meal in liquid or powdered form. It is totally safe and provides some 60 trace elements that plants need in very small quantities. It also contains growth-promoting hormones and enzymes.
To apply, follow the directions for spraying liquid fertilizers when applying growth enhancers as a foliar spray. You can also apply kelp extract or meal directly to the soil; soil application will stimulate soil bacteria, which in turn increases fertility through humus formation, aeration, and moisture retention. Apply 1 to 2 pounds of kelp meal per 100 square feet of garden each spring once a month for the first 4 to 5 months of the growing season.
Or, if you can get your hands on fresh seaweed, rinse it to remove the sea salt and spread it over the soil surface in your garden as a mulch, or compost it. Seaweed decays readily because it contains little cellulose.
How to Choose the Best Fertiliser for Your Veggie Patch
It’s a well-known fact that gardening is good for your health. There’s something therapeutic about getting out in the sunshine and tending to plants that can’t be ignored. These healing environments offer significant stress relief, a natural mood booster and get your blood moving ideal for reaping exercise and brain health rewards. It’s the perfect antidote to the modern world. The ultimate escape from the daily hustle and a great excuse to eat healthily.
Regardless of whether you have a small veggie patch or an overflowing jungle of lush goodies, the food you grow is the freshest food you can eat. And once you’re in the habit of growing your own fruit and veggies, there’s nothing better than harvesting them from your very own garden, rather than another trip to the supermarket. It’s healthy for you (and your wallet), and tastes so much better. Ready to get your veggie patch growing deliciously fantastic? Here’s how to choose the right fertiliser for the job:
Know What Your Plants Need
To achieve success with your veggie garden, you need to know what your veggies need to thrive well. There’s no use in just picking anything off the shelf. The right ingredients will prepare the soil and ensure your plants find them appetisingly beneficial too. Adding plant fertiliser to your garden will keep the soil healthy and feed your veggies the essential nutrients they need.
Because the nutrients are intensively stripped from the soil as they grow, they need something to replace what has been lost to reach their peak. This is where the right fertiliser comes into play.
Tip: If you really want to pump up your veggie yield, the fastest way to get a deep layer of organically rich soil is by building up. Besides nutrients, this a vital ingredient for your veggies to perform well. Opt for raised garden beds to get extra-lush and extra-productive growth. This will make your regular harvests more efficient and cut down on watering and work too.
Understanding Fertiliser Nutrients
Although fertiliser requirements differ between growing seasons and soil type, veggies need three main nutrients to flourish; N-P-K. Nitrogen (N) is the key nutrient for encouraging healthy vegetable growth and will load your veggies with protein. Too much nitrogen can suppress the production of fruit, so be careful not to overdo it and check the N-P-K ratings on the back of fertilisers. The biggest nitrogen feeders are cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes and spinach. Here’s part of the tomato harvest I got from my veggie garden last year!
Phosphorus (P) is vital for strong root growth, fruit, stem and seed development, and is best added prior to planting fruit and veggies. Potassium (K) promotes lush growth and keeps your veggies hardy for winter, especially great for leafy veggies like spinach and kale. This nutrient is also important for fighting off pests and bugs (yes, your veggies and plants can help combat those nasty terrors on their own!). The best-growing veggie gardens will have a balanced mix of these ingredients, plus secondary nutrients like calcium and micronutrients like copper, which can be found in most fertilisers.
Nutrient Deficiencies to Look out for
Get to know what your plants are lacking by looking out for deficiency clues. These are sure signs your veggie garden is in desperate need of fertiliser and will help in choosing which one is right for your plants.
Lack of Nitrogen: Veggie growth will be poor, slow maturing of fruit, yellowing stems. pale leaves and wilting. Diseases are also more likely to attack.
Excessive Nitrogen: Little to no fruit and lush, dark green leaf growth. Whilst this growth sounds good, the excess leaves take away from a good veggie harvest.
Lack of Phosphorus: Red or purple tint on leaves. Deficiency signs are slow and not so distinctive, but if they manifest stems will be thin, leaves will eventually bronze and veggie growth will be slow.
Lack of Potassium: Undersize veggies and fruits, weak or deformed stems/plat foliage and dramatic yellowing of leaves. The edges of the leaves will appear brown as they yellow in the middle, appearing to be sunburnt and fruit will drop prior to ripening.
Excess Potassium: Similar to excess nitrogen, plants will have an additional growth of leaves instead of veggies/fruit. This emphasis on leaves instead of fruit will make them more attractive to pests too, so expect an influx of them.
Lack of Calcium: Cavities in tomatoes, stunted growth, weak stems and damaged plant tips. Leaves can also appear scorched. Potatoes and beets will be small.
Don’t Just Focus on Veggies
Even if your focus is only on growing veggies, planting herbs your garden can benefit veggie patch growth. Choose organic herbs and flowers that attract beneficial insects, which will help in lowering unwanted pests that love your veggies just as much as you do. Thyme, basil, rosemary, coriander and mint are fantastic herbs to start with (and make a delicious addition to many meals). Adding cornflowers near tomatoes will help ward off pests, sunflowers near peppers and beans or hardy perennials, dill, lavender, lemongrass and dandelions.
Choosing the right fertiliser isn’t just crucial for the growth and success of your veggie garden, but also for what you’re putting into your body too. This is why many gardeners will prefer to use organic fertilisers over synthetic or chemical. Organic fertilisers add essential organic matter to your veggie garden’s soil, which helps contribute to the amount of micronutrients and keeps everything hydrated by retaining water.
The great thing about starting a veggie garden is you don’t need a big backyard or a green thumb to benefit from it. Start out with a raised bed or two and a few tasty herbs. Growing your own produce won’t just save you a ton of money, but it’s the best way to introduce more veggies to your diet, get outdoors and do your bit for the environment.
5 Of The World’s Best Homemade Vegetable Garden Fertilizers
The basics of growing a healthy garden require you to keep your soil properly fertilized with good quality vegetable garden fertilizer so you grow healthy crops.
Getting the proper soil is not so easily accomplished; it requires a good deal of effort on your part. As even beginners can tell you, the secret to a perfect garden is an enriched soil, but to make that happen you will need to fertilize your soil first.
Never underestimate the benefits of a good quality vegetable garden fertilizer. For healthy growth, plants require nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.
Vegetable Garden Fertilizers have everything your crops need to thrive, promoting crop yields and pest resistance. It also refines soil texture, insinuates healthy bacteria and helps recycles nitrogen. In this article, I will show you the best DIY Vegetable Garden Fertilizer recipes and tricks that every backyard gardener should know.
Fertilizers basically fall into two broad categories:
- Synthetic Chemical Fertilizers
- Organic Natural Fertilizers like Jobes Organic Vegetable Garden Fertilizer
Synthetic Vegetable Garden Fertilizers
These fertilizers are essentially made from petroleum, rock and other chemical sources.
The required plant nutrients can be added to synthetic fertilizers and it’s true that they do work faster than organic fertilizers, but that benefit comes with a side effect. They can slowly drain all the other nutrients from the soil and in the end, might actually start to decrease the growth of the plants.
Synthetic fertilizers do nothing to sustain soil health since they do not replenish any trace elements that are depleted from continuous cropping of the garden beds. Although you could use Azomite Rock Dust to get these trace minerals, there are more reasons not to use chemical fertilizers. Such as the danger of over fertilization due to the excessive availability of nutrients in chemical fertilizers.
Most importantly, repeated application of such fertilizers can cause a build up of toxic substances such as cadmium or arsenic that are harmful to human health. Long-term use of chemical fertilizers increases the release of greenhouse gases, upsets the beneficial microbes needed by the plant, and acidifies the soil.
Organic Vegetable Garden Fertilizers
Organic fertilizers enrich the soil with a wide array of nutrients over a long period of time. This method might be time-consuming but it greatly reduces the chances of having bad soil.
Organic fertilizers are minimally processed or made from products that are derived from natural sources. The nutrients in these types of fertilizers are not refined or extracted; rather they remain bound in their natural forms.
As the name suggests, most of these fertilizers are made from animal or plant waste. Organic fertilizers can hold water and nutrients and also improve the quality of your soil. Moreover, they are biodegradable, renewable and environmentally friendly. Since it is a slow release fertilizer, there is no risk of over-fertilizing or build up of toxic salts.
Organic fertilizers can be quite expensive (like this organic manure and compost blend) if you buy them in small bags at the store. However, you can also easily make many of these fertilizers on your own at home. Here are some homemade organic fertilizer recipes that you can make from ingredients easily found in your home.
For more organic gardening tips and advice read Weird Vegetable Gardening Tips That Actually Work
1. Simple Tea Fertilizer
This is one of the simplest and most widely used homemade fertilizers. It has been tested by many gardeners who have all given positive reviews. Using simple household items it is also very cheap.
What You Will Need
- 5-gallon bucket
- ¼ cup of Epsom salts
- 2 cups of urine(disgusting but helpful)
- 2 cups of wood ash
- Grass clippings
- Pruned green leaves or weeds
Note: Make sure the wood ash does not contain charcoal or lighter fluids.
Mix the Epsom salts, urine and wood ash in the 5-gallon bucket. Next, fill the bucket about halfway with the grass, leaves or weeds, whichever one you have. Fill the rest of the bucket with water and then let it steep for 3 days until all the nutrients are absorbed into the water.
After the 3 days are over, strain the tea off into another container. DON’T let it steep for more than 3 days as after that, fermentation starts which can change the pH level rapidly.
Before using your tea fertilizer, make sure to dilute it by 50% using half water and half tea. Then simply pour it onto your garden plants using a watering can and wait a few days for the result.
Tip: Epsom salts are a great provider of magnesium and sulfur, so you can add 1 tablespoon of Epsom salts and 1 gallon of water in a sprayer and apply once a month directly to the greenery as well. This will keep your crops leaves deep green an ensure they can photosynthesize at full capacity (magnesium is used in photosynthesis).
2. Fish Emulsion Fertilizer
The Fish Emulsion fertilizer is basically using fish waste to fertilize your garden and although that does not sound appealing, and trust no part of it is nice, it is very beneficial for the soil.
What You Need
- 55-gallon drum
- A lot of water
- Fish guts, bones and heads
Fill the drum to about 18 gallons with 2/3 water and 1/3 fish waste. Then leave the mixture to steep for 1 day. After a day, fill the rest of the empty drum with water. Then loosely cover the drum, leave it to ferment for approximately 3 weeks.
This fertilizer is very strong and should be applied with care. Use no more than 3 gallons for every 100 square foot of soil once a month.
If making your own seems too hard then you could always use this high quality Neptunes Fish Emulsion instead.
Fish guts work really well for growing tomatoes. For more tomato growing tips visit Do These 9 Things To Grow The Best Tomatoes Ever
3. Seaweed Fertilizer
Seaweed is considered to be a great fertilizer due to the fact that they contain manitol which increases the plants ability to absorb nutrients. However, make sure that the seaweed is washed thoroughly so the salt on it doesn’t get into your garden soil.
- 5-gallon bucket
- 8 cups of chopped seaweed or use this seaweed powder
Put the 8 cups of chopped seaweed in a bucket and fill the bucket halfway with water. Let it steep for about 3 weeks, then strain the seaweed and transfer the liquid to another container to store for an additional 3 weeks.
Before using, fill half the watering can with water and the other half with the seaweed solution then apply to your crops. Seaweed contains many trace elements and will ensure your crops grow big and strong.
4. The Quick Fix Fertilizer
If you are the kind of person that doesn’t like to wait long, then it’s best that you try this vegetable garden fertilizer. Though it has a long list of ingredients and a complicated process, it does not require you to wait a long time before the fertilizer is ready for use. Plus most of these ingredients can easily be found around your home.
What You’ll Need
- 1-gallon jug
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ammonia
- 3 teaspoons instant iced tea (for tannic acid)
- 3 teaspoons of blackstrap molasses
- 3 tablespoons of 3% hydrogen peroxide
- ¼ cup of crushed bone scraps or bonemeal
- 1 crushed eggshell or ½ dried banana peel
Like I said, it’s quite a long list.
Mix all of the above-mentioned ingredients in the 1-gallon jar and fill the remaining space with water. Put the cap on and let the jar sit in the sun for about an hour so the ingredients have time to extract nutrients from each other, then water your plants and reap your reward.
Tips: It’s best to use rainwater rather than tap, as some tap water has too much chlorine which will chemically react with the ammonia and hydrogen peroxide. If your water tastes like chlorine then boil it and let it cool before you use it.
This quick fix fertilize is great for container grown crops. If you want to grow more food in containers then read 8 Best Berries to Grow In Containers For Incredible Flavor
5. Manure Tea Fertilizer
As it has been known for thousands of years, manure is one of the best fertilizers out there. When mixed with water, all the nutrients of the manure can easily be absorbed in the liquid. This can then be used to give your crops a nutrient rich bath and improve their growth and health. Just make sure that the tea is diluted first or you’ll burn the leaves on your plants.
- 5-gallon bucket
- 1 sack of ‘aged’ manure (anything that comes in a bag is aged, if using fresh then let it sit for 2 weeks before using it)
Place the cured manure (I use Black Kow Composted Cow Manure) in a burlap sack and then place it in the bucket. Make sure the manure is cured because otherwise, it is too strong for the plants to handle and you will end up burning their leaves.
Fill the bucket with water and then leave this concoction to steep for about 2 weeks. After that, hang the manure sack above the bucket so that all the water is returned to the bucket as the manure dries.
Before using, dilute your manure tea with 50% water. The old manure can be spread over your garden beds as a mulch.
Small Tips for a Better Garden
As many people can tell you, fertilizers can also be found in your trash can, your home and even in the things you eat and drink. The reason why these fertilizers were not mentioned above is that they are relatively weak in terms of fertilizing and will probably not show as great a result.
Aquarium water is one such example, especially if it contained a lot of fish at some point.
Powdered milk can also make a good vegetable garden fertilizer considering the fact that it is almost pure calcium. Mix the powder in the soil prior to planting.
Surprisingly, your hair can also be used as a fertilizer. In fact, not only your hair but animal hair also has the same effect. All hairs have a good amount of nitrogen which is great for the soil.
Used matches, although unusual, is a good source of magnesium for the soil. Simply place the whole match beside the plant. You can also try soaking them in water first which will dissolve magnesium. Then soak the soil with this water. This is a faster method to provide magnesium to the soil as the match heads are full of magnesium.
Chemical fertilizers may give you a garden full of blooming flowers and rapidly growing plants, but in the long term, they are more harmful than beneficial. It’s not just about what’s happening on the ground in front of your eyes. Think about the damage that these chemicals are doing on the soil below your feet.
A wise gardener will want to live in harmony with nature. Make a conscious choice to use organic fertilizers if you desire lasting improvements in your patch of earth and want to enjoy the fruits of your labor for generations to come.
8 Best Homemade Garden Fertilizers
Organic gardening is as popular as ever, and the methods we use plays a critical role in our health and the health of the planet.
There are many different all-natural fertilizers that you can use in your garden or with potting soil. Some of these fertilizers can be made or collected at home using common items from your pantry or your backyard. Here are 8 of our favorite DIY fertilizers for a variety of needs.
- Grass clippings. If you have an organic lawn, make sure to collect your grass clippings to use on your gardens. Half an inch to an inch of grass clippings makes a great weed-blocking mulch, and it is also rich in nitrogen, which is an essential nutrient for most plants.
- Weeds. Just like grass clippings, many of the weeds that you’ll find in your gardens are very high in nitrogen and will make an excellent fertilizer. The problem is, once you’ve pulled the weeds, you certainly won’t want to put them back in the garden because any seeds will sprout and make new weeds. The solution? Make weed tea. To do this, fill a five-gallon bucket no more than 1/4 full with weeds that you’ve pulled. Then fill the bucket the rest of the way with water, and let the weeds soak for a week or two. Once the water turns nice and brown (like tea), pour this weed tea on your gardens.
- Kitchen Scraps. Put your kitchen and garden waste to work by making your own compost. Compost releases nutrients slowly, which means a well-composted garden can go a year or two without requiring reapplication of fertilizer. Compost also helps the soil retain moisture, which is essential for vegetable gardens to thrive during hot, dry summers.
- Manure. Manure comes from a variety of sources — cows, horses, chickens, and even bats. Each type of manure is high in nitrogen and other nutrients, but you’ll need to use it carefully. Raw manure is highly acidic and may actually have more nutrients than your plants need, so too much can burn your plants. It’s best to use composted manure. Since it is less nutrient-dense and acidic, you can use more of it to improve your soil’s water retention without risking your plants. You won’t have to wait long—manure quickly turns to a perfect odor-free soil amendment.
- Tree Leaves. Rather than bagging up the fall leaves and putting them out on your curb, collect them for your gardens instead. Leaves are rich with trace minerals, they attract earthworms, they retain moisture, and they’ll help make heavy soils lighter. You can use leaves in two ways: Either till them into your soil (or mix crushed leaves into potting soil), or use them as a mulch to both fertilize your plants and keep weeds down.
- Coffee Grounds. Coffee grounds come with a lot of uses, but one of their best is as a fertilizer. Lots of plants, such as blueberries, rhododendron, roses, and tomatoes, thrive best in acidic soil. Recycle your coffee grounds to help acidify your soil. There are a couple of ways to do this— you can either top dress by sprinkling the used grounds over the surface of the soil, or you can make “coffee” to pour on your gardens. Soak up to six cups of used coffee grounds for up to a week to make garden coffee, then use it to water your acid-loving plants.
- Eggshells. If you’ve ever used lime on your garden, then you know it comes with lots of benefits — chiefly, it helps lower the acidity of your soil for plants that don’t like acid, and it provides plants with lots of calcium, which is an essential nutrient. Lime itself is an all-natural fertilizer that you can buy at the garden center, but if you’d rather save some money, there is a cheaper way to get the same benefits. Simply wash out the eggshells from your kitchen, save them, and crush them to use in your garden. It turns out that eggshells are 93% calcium carbonate, which is the scientific name for lime. See what else you can do with eggshells here!
- Banana Peels. We eat bananas for their potassium, and roses love potassium too. Simply bury peels in a hole alongside the rose bush so they can compost naturally. As the rose grows, bury the peels into the soil’s top layer. Both of these approaches will provide much-needed potassium for the plant’s proper growth.
No matter what you’re growing, one or more of these fertilizers will make your gardens thrive!
If you’re new to gardening, it may come as a surprise that just putting a seed or plant in soil and having it grow beautifully is not exactly how it works. Plants require complex nutrients that are sometimes found in the soil, but it’s rare that you have the perfect combination in your backyard.
Most likely, the soil you are working with is missing some key things that your plants need to do their best. One way to supply these is to add fertilizer, preferably organic.
|Neptune’s Harvest Organic Hydrolized Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer||$$||A|
|Jobe’s 6028 Organic Vegetable Spikes||$||B|
|Humboldts Secret Golden Tree||$$||A+|
|SEA-90 Organic Fertilizer||$$$||B|
|Fox Farm FX 14049 Liquid Nutrient Trio Soil Formula||$$$$||A|
|Unco Industries Soil Builder Earthworm Castings||$$||A+|
Our Pick for the Best Organic Fertilizer
Unco Industries Soil Builder Earthworm Castings
Earthworm castings are a great all-around organic fertilizer. It will definitely work for most plants without direct negative side effects. Unco’s fertilizer will also improve your soil condition.
Check the price on Amazon ›
How to Choose Fertilizer
There are a lot of choices for fertilizers, including nonorganic options. Organic fertilizers are better than nonorganic because they aren’t made with things like petroleum products that will harm the health of your soil in the long run.
To choose the right organic fertilizer for your needs, there are a few considerations you have to make.
First, what type of soil do you have? Is it clay, sand, or loam? Loam is considered the holy grail of soil types, but most of us have a combination of all three, with either clay or sand featured more prominently.
Sandy soils are great with drainage, almost too great, but have difficulty holding nutrients in. Clay soils are heavily fertile but have drainage issues.
The fertilizer you use should account for the type of soil that you have so that your fertilizer isn’t washed away in a sandy soil by the first rain, or cause calcium deposits in your clay soil due to lack of drainage.
If you have loam, congratulations! You just need a basic fertilizer formulated for the type of plant life you have.
The second thing to consider is what your soil is actually missing. The best way to determine this is through a basic soil test. These cost as little as $10 and are usually done through your local horticulture extension, but it is possible to buy home tests.
After the soil test is done, your report will give you the composition of nutrients in your soil, and you can match your fertilizer to what is missing.
What do the numbers mean?
Organic fertilizers are labeled with the percentage concentration of nutrients. These are referred to as the NPK ratio, which stands for Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium. In a 6-12-0 formula, for example, there is 6% Nitrogen, 12% Phosphorous, and 0% Potassium
It’s also a good idea to consider other types of nutrients that you may need. Fertilizers have all sorts of micronutrients and minerals that can replenish other missing pieces of your soil.
Fertilizers come in either liquid or dry forms. Dry fertilizers are slower to release and last over a longer period. They are good when you need general plant maintenance and are rebuilding nutrients directly in the soil.
Liquid fertilizers are faster acting and are better when your plants need a boost. For example, in late summer when the taxing heat and in-optimum water conditions take their toll on your blooming plants or veggies, a shot of liquid fertilizer can be just the right pick-me-up to get them through the rest of the season.
Our Best 6 Organic Fertilizer Choices
Below, we’ve compiled the best 6 organic fertilizer options to help you get your plants and soil back to their best conditions. Each one provides all the different nutrients your plants need to grow strong and healthy all season long.
1. Neptune’s Harvest Organic Hydrolized Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer
Neptune’s Harvest combines both fish and seaweed to give you the best of both products in an easy to use formula.
Both fish emulsion and seaweed build the natural sugars in plant leaves, helping them grow stronger even in dry or excessive heat conditions. Flowers, fruit, and foliage are stronger and more productive, with fruit reported to have a longer shelf life.
The product is easy to use. Simply dilute in water as the instructions say and use to water plants, or use as a foliar spray.
What we like:
- Liquid is easier to apply than dry fertilizers
- Works best with flowers (also great for some vegetables)
What we don’t like:
- Fish-seaweed is hit and miss with different plants
- If improperly mixed or stored, this fertilizer may get smelly
- Dogs and cats love the smell
Check the price on Amazon ›
2. Jobe’s 6028 Organic Vegetable Spikes
Jobe’s has made fertilization super easy by putting it in the form of spikes to be buried in the ground near the plant’s root system. There’s no mixing involved, they are easy to carry and store, and simple to apply.
This particular formula contains 2-7-4 combination, with nitrogen, phosphate, potash, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. The spikes are driven into the ground near the root system so that the plant can begin to take in the nutrients as soon as possible, but you don’t have the inconvenience of dilution as you do with liquid fertilizers.
One problem with the spikes that is often reported is that animals love to dig them up. If you have dogs or other animals, put down some kind of barrier until the spike is dissolved enough that your plants benefit.
- Complete active ingredients
- Easy to use and store
- OMRI listed
- Your pet may dig the plants after applying the fertilizer
- Gets expensive for large garden
Check the price on Amazon ›
3. Humboldts Secret Golden Tree
Golden Tree is a professional quality fertilizer that works on a variety of plant types. It activates enzymes in the root system that encourage growth and production, as well as improved photosynthesis. It also provides nutrients for veggies, flowers, and even roses.
It’s easy to store. It comes in a 2 oz. bottle that makes 28 gallons of fertilizer, though larger sizes are available if you are doing some serious fertilizing. Simply follow the directions on the label with the following cautions.
With this product, it’s good to do a small test with smaller amounts than what is recommended to see how your plants react. There may be some issues with fertilizer burn when adding at full strength for the first time, but most people should see positive results with the recommended amounts.
- Highly potent, professional fertilizer
- Concentrated, so it’s easy to store
- Very affordable
- Works really well for most kind of plants
- May cause fertilizer burn, test first
- Container is low quality
- Mainly advertised for cannabis
Check the price on Amazon ›
4. SEA-90 Organic Fertilizer
SEA-90 is an all-purpose fertilizer that can be used even for hydroponics. It’s harvested from mineral deposits in the ocean and is odor free.
It’s water soluble, and so works great in a sprayer. SEA-90 is also rated as a livestock additive because of the natural minerals, so if you do both gardening and animal husbandry, this product will take care of both things at once.
One caveat of this product is that it tends to raise the acidity of the soil, so if your soil tends to be on the alkaline side, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Quick home soil testing should help you regulate ph levels for plants that have a harder time in acidic conditions, though plenty of common shrubs, trees and flowers prefer an acidic Ph.
- Odor free
- Can also be used as a mineral additive for livestock
- OMRI certified
- Can raise the soil ph
- Just OK
Check the price on Amazon ›
5. Fox Farm FX 14049 Liquid Nutrient Trio Soil Formula
Fox Farm is well known in gardening forums and although a little pricey, produces results. This particular fertilizer is actually a three-part fertilizer for each stage of plant life.
The first bottle is Grow Big Hydro to support abundant foliage growth. The second bottle is Tiger Bloom and is for the first signs of blooms and flowers. The third bottle, Big Bloom, can be used all throughout the growing cycle to continually heal root systems and encourage nutrient cycling. It is also ideal for late season flowers and veggies.
One drawback besides the price is that it may raise the ph of the soil. Periodic soil testing should help you keep the ph in balance. It also comes in the same trio of hydroponic growers; just look for the correct formulation on the label.
- Easy to use
- 3-in-1 solution for different stages of growth
- Comes with feeding schedule and guide
- Initial price is high. No options to choose different sizes
Check the price on Amazon ›
6. Unco Industries Soil Builder Earthworm Castings
Of all the fertilizers listed, one particular type of fertilizer is ideally made directly into your soil with a creature nature uses to condition soil, break down nutrients, and redeposit beneficial microbes: the worm.
Worm castings are a great all around fertilizer because of its ability to provide both quick and long-term feeding without changing the ph of the soil. It’s difficult to mis-measure this particular fertilizer and using it should actually attract more worms to your garden as the health of your soil continues to improve.
Unco’s earthworm castings is a great all around fertilizer and soil conditioner. Earthworms process the soil and the resulting castings redeposit broken down nutrients in a form that is easy for your plants to process. Other types of fertilizers require the plant to expend energy breaking down nutrients into a form the plant can use.
The nutrients are actually in two forms. One can be quickly and directly absorbed, giving plants a boost in late season, or when just putting out leaves. The other provides a long-term, rich environment for plants to grow. And since only small amounts are needed to see big results, investing in this particular fertilizer is cost effective.
Castings also improve overall soil structure because the composition of the castings increases airflow, and with steady continual use allows the plant to grow dense, fibrous root systems with minimal effort. Plants that grow in dense, compacted soils cannot put as much energy into foliage or fruit production, so worm castings relieve them of laboring to push roots into the soil.
Microbes in the worm’s gut actually provide other needed micronutrients to the plant as well, further improving soil conditions and supporting plant growth.
- Great overall fertilizer for almost all types of plant life
- Provides easy to use nutrients for plants in two forms: quick and long-term feeding
- Earthworm castings loaded with beneficial biologicals
- Non-toxic and odor-free
- Package has a shelf life
- If you already have earthworm in your compost bin, this product will only add small benefit
Check the price on Amazon ›
It doesn’t have to be rocket science to support plant growth and improve the condition of your soil. Organic methods are best because they support the environmental cycle and work with existing conditions. Whatever you choose, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve made a good choice for both your garden and the planet.
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Q. Twice this year friends have come to me and said, “My tomatoes are all vines and no fruit.” I asked what they were fertilizing with (thinking they were applying too much nitrogen), and to my surprise both replied: “10-10-10”. I said, “That’ll do it.” What I don’t know is why anyone would think 10-10-10 is fine for their garden—or how to help them fix the problem they’ve caused. Maybe by next year the crappy chemical fertilizer will be flushed out by rain and winter?,
- —Michael in Albemarle, NC
A. I have mixed feelings about you, Michael. On one hand, you’re my new favorite listener for knowing how bogus so-called “balanced” fertilizers like 10-10-10 are. On the other hand, if more people DID know things like that I’d have to go out and find a real job.
Seriously, you’re absolutely correct: 10% nitrogen is only appropriate for non-flowering plants like sweet corn and lawns; it’s way too much ‘N’ for plants that flower, like tomatoes, squash, beans, peppers, melons, eggplant, and—oh yeah, flowers! Bogus ‘even number’ fertilizers like 10-10-10 and 20-20-20 are always composed of concentrated chemical salts; and the super-fast growth they cause makes plants extremely attractive to pests and diseases. And those salts—originally designed to be used as high explosives—ruin the soil, and kill the soil life that keeps plants naturally healthy. And finally, despite their arithmetic rhythm, fertilizers like 10-10-10 are also unbalanced. No plant uses those three nutrients in equal amounts.
A little background: The three numbers (commonly referred to as “N-P-K”) that appear on the label of every packaged fertilizer represent the three main plant nutrients: Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (which is sometimes called ‘Potash’). Studies have found that the ideal ratio of those nutrients for flowering plants is 3-1-2. (That’s 3% Nitrogen, 1% phosphorus & 2% potassium.) So look for that ratio on the label of packaged fertilizers; anything close to a 3-1-2, a 6-2-4 or a 9-3-6 should be ideal. (Beware higher numbers—that’s the realm of chemical salts.)
My advice to folks like Michael’s friends is to water on the heavy side to wash those salts out of the soil as quickly as possible, feed with compost alone for the rest of the season, and then move to organic fertilizers and/or compost in the future and sin no more!
Q. I’ve been growing heirloom tomatoes for a few years with reasonable success. But I would like to know how to build on that success. I understand that some fertilizers promote root growth, some promote leaves, and some encourage flowering. I have fish emulsion and a seaweed solution. Which should I use and when to maximize my tomato yield this year?
- —Nina in Central NJ
I’m curious about the difference between bone meal and blood meal. Would I use either for new plantings?
- —Ray from Front Royal, VA
A. Nitrogen—the first number of an NPK rating—grows big plants with lots of leaves. But too much nitrogen, especially combined with a lack of other nutrients, will inhibit flowering and fruiting. The plants that thrive with this nutrient are the non-flowering grasses and grains (i. e. lawns and sweet corn). Blood meal is a high nitrogen fertilizer (it rates a 12-2-0; a very high number for a natural product), as are fish meal (and fish emulsion), horse and poultry manure and corn gluten meal (which also prevents seed germination, making it the only natural springtime weed and feed for lawns).
Phosphorus—the middle number—is best known as the nutrient that produces more flowers and fruits, but it’s also essential to strong root growth early in the season. Bone meal (1-11-0) is the organic source that becomes available the fastest. Many growers prefer rock phosphate or colloidal rock phosphate, which release the nutrient sloooowly, and for a long time after application—three to five years. But that slowness means you should try and apply rock phosphates the season BEFORE you want your blooms boosted, to give it time to get ready to work.
Potassium—the third number—helps plants process all nutrients more efficiently, improves the quality of fruits, and helps plants resist stress. The best single-ingredient source is green sand. Also known as glauconite, this mined mineral formed in prehistoric oceans also contains lots of important trace elements and minerals. It releases its nutrients the slowest of all—over the course of a decade; so, like the rock phosphates, always try and spread green sand in the fall in preparation for the following season.
But it’s important to remember that all fertilizers—chemical and organic—rely on soil life to make their nutrients available to plants, and that high levels of organic matter in your soil are vital to the healthy growth of all plants. So all fertilization plans should begin with an inch of high-quality compost applied to the soil (preferably on top as opposed to tilled in). Then as the season progresses, you can give your plants a little boost by adding more compost or using a well-balanced organic fertilizer (remember, the ratio you want to come close to achieving is 3-1-2).
I like to use a liquid fish and seaweed mix for that boost, as these products provide a nice balance of the basic nutrients, and lots of essential trace elements from the seaweed component. Just pour some into a watering can, dilute it as directed and water it into the soil around the root zone. If you prefer granular fertilizers, spread the material evenly over the soil beginning about six inches away from the plant stem and then cover it with some soil or compost to help it get to the plants faster.
Vegetable Gardening: Applying Fertilizer
Fertilizer is a powerful tool that can help plants thrive if used appropriately. If applied incorrectly, it can not only harm plants, but also the environment.
When to Fertilize
Regular fertilizer applications keep plants vigorous and productive. When plants grow reluctantly or start turning yellow, fertilizer may help. If plants are vigorous and green, you can wait a little bit before applying more fertilizer. Too much fertilizer can burn plants. Tomatoes and beans given too much fertilizer grow lots of foliage but little fruit.
Vegetables growing in porous, well-drained soil should be fed frequently. Usually a balanced fertilizer is applied every three to four weeks throughout the growing season. Don’t stop applications when fruit appears—continue to apply fertilizer as needed to ensure continued production.
Vegetables growing in clay soils will need less fertilizer than those in sandy soils. One application every four to six weeks after planting is typically enough. Crops growing in organic soils may need little additional fertilizer—again, just use foliage color and plant vigor as guides. In gardens where the soil is sand enriched with organic matter, one or two additional applications at intervals or three to four weeks is usually enough.
We usually suggest that you select something with 2% phosphorus or less in accordance with Florida State Law, but edibles are the exception. But you may not need extra phosphorus in your vegetable garden; a soil test can help you determine which nutrients you truly need.
Types of Fertilizer
There are many options for how you convey nutrients to your plants. Many gardeners use a combination of different fertilizers and techniques. Try using granular products or manures to supply the main nutrients and liquids to correct minor deficiencies or quickly boost growth.
Dry fertilizer can be applied in many ways. Scatter it over the entire garden, down a row, or ring individual plants. You can broadcast dry fertilizer (1 pound for each 100 square feet of garden or 100 feet of row) over the entire garden plot before planting. Then after planting, side-dress along the plant rows. The fertilizer should be applied 2–3 inches to the side of, and 1–2 inches below, the seed level or plant row. Avoid applying fertilizer when foliage is wet, and water after applying it to remove particles from foliage. For best results, use small amounts or light concentrations of fertilizer, and spread it over the root zone.
Composted animal manures used in place of inorganic fertilizer are best applied as a side dressing—this means they’re placed next to rows.
Water-soluble fertilizers are often useful as a quick boost for vegetables. Liquids or crystals mixed with water are applied as frequently as once a week. The nutrients, easily distributed by a gardener with a sprinkling can, are readily available to plants. These fertilizers are especially handy for container-grown plants.
Foliar feeding, a technique of spraying plants with dilute liquid fertilizer, is rarely part of regular maintenance. Instead, use it to provide a special boost or to supplement micronutrients like iron, manganese, or zinc.
To prevent water pollution from nutrient leaching and runoff, always follow these steps when fertilizing your vegetable garden.
- Follow UF/IFAS recommendations. Ideal rates, application timings, and formulas are different for different plants.
- Keep fertilizer off hard surfaces. If fertilizer gets spilled on a hard surface (like a driveway), sweep it up and dispose of it. Fertilizers can wash into storm drains and from there into a nearby water body.
- Don’t fertilize before a heavy rain. If rain is forecast in the next twenty-four hours, hold off on applying fertilizer. Rain can wash fertilizer off landscapes or cause it to leach into groundwater, contributing to pollution.
- Know your water source. If you use reclaimed/recycled water for irrigation, keep in mind that it can contain nutrients, including nitrogen, and adjust the amount you fertilize accordingly.