If you are new to having a vegetable garden, you might want to know when is the best time to put fertilizer on it. This is a fairly easy question, but you also may want to know more about fertilizing, and this is where we come in.
The best time to apply fertilizer is in the morning in most cases. If you want to learn more about fertilizer and how it can benefit your vegetable garden, keep reading.
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Plants need specific nutrients to grow, and sometimes the soil doesn’t naturally have what the plants need. For instance, if you are growing tomatoes, they need a lot of calcium. But your soil might not have that. This is when you should use fertilizer.
There is more to it to that, however. If you are a new to gardening, you definitely want to check your soil to see what is in there already. After the test, if you need nutrients depending on what you are planning, fertilizer can help to boost your garden’s bounty.
When to Fertilize
Depending on what you are planting, the time to fertilize might change. For instance, if you are growing vegetables, it’s best to apply fertilizer at the beginning of the spring season if you can.
Did you miss this window? No problem. You can still use fertilizer, but you simply have to be more careful. Keep in mind that if your plant is already growing, you must use granular fertilizer and not liquid. The liquid fertilizer can harm the roots of your plants.
You don’t have to put the fertilizer in too deeply…usually three to five inches deep is enough. Remember, there are roots in the soil, too, so you really need to be careful here.
Fertilizing Based on What’s in Your Garden
You also need to consider what type of plants you have in your garden.
For instance, if you are planting leafy greens like kale, lettuce, or arugula, you should fertilize early in the season.
If you are growing squash or corn, you need to understand that these crops have a lot of rapid growth in the middle of summer. This is when you fertilize. However, you should still apply a small amount of fertilizer at the beginning of the season. Then, in early summer, add more.
Plants like potatoes and tomatoes need extra fertilizer in the middle of summer, even if you fertilize when you plant. Once you see your tomato plants producing flowers, you should add fertilizer that is low in nitrogen to get more flowers instead of leaves.
If you have fruit plants, like strawberries which come back year after year, you should fertilizer them after you harvest. Blueberries, however, like fertilization early in the season when the buds begin to appear.
What Kind and How Much Fertilizer to Use
If you take a look at a bag of fertilizer, you will see a series of three numbers like 10-12-12 or 4-4-4. This tells you how much of the three main nutrients that plants need is in the fertilizer in question.
These nutrients are Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium, and the number shows the percentage of weight that is in the bag. In other words, if your fertilizer says 10-12-12, 10 percent of the weight is nitrogen, 12 percent is phosphorus, and 12 percent is potassium.
The rest of the bag is made up of filler material, and it might contain other nutrients, such as iron or calcium.
When you start your garden, you can use a general fertilizer made for vegetables. 4-4-4 is a good option. Just make sure the packaging says that it’s not for a specific plant. If you have a specific plant, like tomatoes, there are specific fertilizers made for those plants.
When you look at these nutrients, they each have different roles. Nitrogen, for instance, encourages the leaves of the plants to grow.
Phosphorus is important at the start of growth, as it is necessary for root development. Finally, potassium helps to boost immunity in the plant, which helps it to resist disease.
In general, vegetable gardens need most of the nitrogen available when they have started to produce fruit. If they get too much before that, it can delay growth or even reduce yield. That being said, some nitrogen later in the season can also be beneficial.
If you look at some of your crops, you can determine when they might require fertilizer.
For instance, if you are growing broccoli, cabbage, or cauliflower, you should give them fertilizer before transplanting them in the garden.
If you are growing plants like cucumbers, peas, or beans, you should give them extra fertilizer after they start to blossom.
Nightshades, like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants should get some extra fertilizer after the first fruits come off, and then once again, a month after that. This can help you get more fruit to harvest.
For people growing corn, you should give the plants an extra boost of fertilizer when the plants are around 8 to 10 inches tall. You should fertilize again approximately a week after the tassels grow in.
You should give greens like kale, spinach, and turnip greens some extra fertilizer when the plants are approximately a third of their fully grown size.
A word of warning, though…do not add extra fertilizer on plants like lettuce, carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, watermelon, and parsnips.
When it doubt, the best thing to do is to talk to someone at your local garden center, or simply buy fertilizer that is specific to the plants you are growing.