Importance and Application Method of Plant Fertilizers for Vegetable Garden
You’ve raked up all the leaves, and watered all your plants — there’s one last chore left: applying plant fertilizers for vegetable gardens. But crop nutrition can be a lot more complicated than you’d think.
Step outside and take a long look at your garden — chances are a feed is long overdue.
Vegetables will eventually drain the soil they’re in of nutrients, and when that happens they start to look more than a little pitiful. It’s all very well a shrub leeching nutrients, but at least they’ve got something to show for it; and unless you’re a firm believer in some sort of truly Spartan variety of pruning, shrubs will stay upright and verdant for a long time to come. A vegetable garden on the other hand, uses up nutrients to create, well, vegetables, which are then promptly lopped off, so it needs to call upon the soil over, and over, and over again. That’s where plant fertilizers for vegetable gardens come in.
Plants need a solid blend of nutrients, just like we need to consume a mix of protein, fat, carbohydrate, minerals and vitamins. Here’s a breakdown of what needs to be on the menu if your vegetable garden is to thrive: nitrogen (N) for leaf growth, phosphorus (P) for root growth, and potassium (K) for fruit growth. All plants need all three, but leafy crops particularly need nitrogen, and fruit crops won’t develop well without enough potassium. They also need a wide range of other nutrients, in small, measured doses. Think of these as being the equivalent of the additional vitamins and supplements you take. Lastly, a veggie patch needs to have plenty bacteria and fungi in the soil to help break it down and get food to the plants’ root systems.
Most of the so called “best fertilizers” or growing mixes you can pick up at your local garden supply store will only contain enough nutrients for about a six weeks’ worth of growth. You’re after better results, so you’ll have to invest in the right fertiliser (rich in either nitrogen or potassium) and ensure your soil is rich in vitamins and minerals.
Here are some of the easiest ways to add these critical ingredients.
Plant Fertilizers for Vegetable Garden
Your Soil Needs Nitrogen:
Your salads and other leafy crops need nitrogen in order to thrive.
Super cheap, easily available, and brimming with most everything your plant needs — chicken manure pellets are the way to go. Toss a handful into your compost before you plant your salads and you’re all set.
You can also brew a solid, nitrogen rich nettle tea if you’ve got a nettle patch around. Just soak nettles in a bucket of water in two weeks: the resulting super-brew is very high in nitrogen and other good stuff (though a little pungent).
Don’t be heavy handed with the nitrogen you add to fruiting crops – you may get lots of leaves and not many fruits. Try experimenting – a little bit at a time is your best bet.
And Phosphorus Fertilizer :
If you’ve ever stopped to marvel at your neighbour’s bountiful harvest of bright tomatoes, velvety aubergines, flaming chillies or other fruiting vegetables, the secret is likely regularly adding additional potassium (K) via plant fertilizers for vegetable gardens.
The quickest way to do this is to pick up a bottle of tomato fertilizer. Don’t worry, it’s completely fine to use on other fruiting crops, too.
If you’d rather DIY it, you can cook up a great potassium feed by soaking comfrey leaves in water for a week to make comfrey tea. Comfrey can be found alongside canals and in town marshes where there’s bushes and bushes of the wonderful stuff — though be warned, it’s even smellier than the nettle tea.
Don’t Want To Reach For A Box Of Fertilizer? You’ve Got Options.
Chemical fertilizer is one of the most resource-expensive industries out there — it practically guzzles water and oil — and if you can’t reconcile yourself to that to have a bit of an easier time with your garden, you don’t have to.
Thankfully, there are other solutions when it comes to plant fertilizers for vegetable gardens.
· Worm Composting
Worm compost is your friend — whether you’re growing in a container garden or a sunny patch outdoors, it’s full to the brim with the vitamins and minerals your plants need, alongside tons of major nutrients, making it one of the best fertilizers out there.
Add about 10 – 25% into old compost to perk it up, or add 5 – 10% to new compost to give your soil a much needed boost. An inch-thick layer spread round hungry crops like tomatoes and courgettes can yield bountiful new growth.
· Sow Some Micro Clover
Small but mighty — this teeny-tiny clover will germinate alongside your plants, staying evergreen throughout droughts. Best of all, the clover gets its nitrogen from the air and stores it in its root- nodules, so it’ll go on feeding your veggies, even when you don’t.
Dandelion’s Great, Too
Dandelions have an unfairly bad reputation – they’re delicious in salads, lovely to look at and rich in phosphorus to boot. And what would we make secret-wishes on, if not the humble dandelion?
Dandelions – being surprisingly heavy-rooted – are rich in phosphorus, the nutrient responsible for root development, and your vegetables need good roots above all else. Thankfully, there are dandelions a- plenty pretty much everywhere you look and you won’t have to go hunting for them.
Dig up as many roots as you can spot, chop them up in a little bit of water and wait for them to begin to rot down – in a few days, you’ll have yourself a wonderfully phosphate-rich homemade fertiliser that can be watered on in a month or two’s time.
· We Love Seaweed
Seaweed – the slippery, floaty stuff in the water – is the best garden fertilizer you can sling at your plants. Period. It’s great for you, your animals, your soil and your plants; there’s nothing quite like it. Your vegetables are better for every little bit of seaweed you can get them.
As seaweed disintegrates into the soil, it fosters the growth of microorganisms that aid in converting unavailable nutrients into forms your vegetables can make use of. It increases chlorophyll and is chock full of the micronutrients your vegetables and soil need to flourish, as well as acting as promoting growth: it is rich in cytokinins, plant growth hormones that pull their weight above and below ground, nurturing root growth.
It’s important you only collect seaweed that’s already washed ashore; don’t go pulling it off rocks.
Watch out for winter storms that wash up tons of the stuff.
There’s three different sorts of algae: brown, red and green, and each of them have varying nutrient levels, so be sure you’ve got yourself a nice variety. Seaweed’s got 10 times the mineral levels of anything you’ll find on land, being particularly rich in iodine and calcium. Using seaweed is a matter of spreading it directly on your vegetable beds; it’s too salty to plant right into, but a good rain will take care of all that excess salt.
If you don’t have beds, or your vegetable garden is more a network of containers than anything else, amend your compost with seaweed, or compost it on its own. Once it’s well and broken down, it’s the magic ingredient for growing thin-skinned new potatoes, as well as acting as an all round soil-improver and A+ plant food. Rotting seaweed is always teeming with life.
If you’re stranded too far in-land, you’ll have to go out and buy some. And it’s well worth it: if you can only afford one sort of fertilizer, make it seaweed. It’s by far the best garden fertilizer you’ll ever use.
When Do You Feed?
Start in Springtime
Nutrient rich soil is the key to healthy roots. You’ll want to get started preparing your garden or containers in early spring — but after the last frost with the fertilizer you’ve decided upon, directly at their roots.
Don’t neglect your already-established perennial flowers and herbs: they’re in need of plant food as the growing season begins. Taking care to use a light-hand, work a calcium nitrate fertilizer into the surface soil around each plant base, being cautious not to disturb the roots or new growth, then water thoroughly to help the nutrients disperse into the soil.
Feed Regularly Through The Summer, Too
There’s few things as rewarding as the burst of early growth you’ll see when you first plant your vegetables.
Spring isn’t the only time you need to be feeding — many plant types also have growth spurts in the early or mid-summer, so it’s important you’re nourishing your soil all throughout the growing season. After all, you’re looking to coax the biggest, most beautiful harvest you can out of your vegetable patch right? Annual vegetables and flowers will do especially well with continuous-release feeding that nourishes them directly at their roots, promoting bigger, more productive plants.
How Much Plant Fertilizers for Vegetable Garden Are You Meant To Feed?
Feeding crops is equal parts luck and trial-and-error as it is science. The frequency/quantity of your feeding depends on lots of varying factors: the size of pot, what compost you’re using, how big your plant is, and how fast it’s growing.
Get out there and give it a go, taking notes all the while! A good rule of thumb is to stick to a “little and often” strategy whilst you figure out what works (too much feeding is as detrimental as too little). And feed more when your crops are fruiting.
Watch For Signs Of Tired Soil
Don’t wait for the delicate network of your soil to give out before you decide to feed: keep an eye on your plants, and you’ll notice when your soil is short on nutrients. Look for tell-tale warning signs like yellowing, pale foliage, stunted growth, fewer and fewer flowers or droopy, limp, weak steams.
If you’ve been sticking to a strict watering schedule, and haven’t had any issues with pests, disease or fungus, it’s likely your plants are in sore need of a feeding a la some good old fashioned plant food.
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