When planning a vegetable garden in your yard, you need to ensure that you have the appropriate nutrients available to fruiting plants and leafy greens. If planting directly into the ground, a soil test can help you incorporate the right fertilizer for a vegetable garden.
A vegetable plant has different needs from flowers or a healthy green lawn. You may need to fertilize differently throughout the season to meet the changing needs of your plants as they flourish into large bushes or vines and begin producing fruit.
Read more about fertilizer for a vegetable garden below, or keep reading to learn about A Garden Patch’s self-watering planters for tomatoes that will feed your vegetables all season.
How Often to Conduct Soil Testing
Plan for soil testing every two years. A soil test can determine your yard’s current nutrient levels so that you know how best to fertilize for your garden’s needs.
Once you understand your soil, you won’t need to test as frequently. Many gardeners prefer to test in the fall so they have time to fertilize before planting in the spring.
Once you know your soil composition, you can select the appropriate fertilizer. If you find that you already have high levels of certain nutrients, you don’t want to add more of those nutrients.
Fertilizer vs. Soil Amendment
You can alter the chemical composition of your soil with several different additions, including fertilizer, compost, or soil amendments.
Fertilizer adds nutrients in concentrated quantities to feed plants. A soil amendment, such as worm castings or gypsum, improves the texture of the soil to create pockets for additional air and water around plant roots. Some soil amendments can improve the nutrient density of soil, though not to the same degree as fertilizer.
What Kind of Fertilizer Should You Get?
Most fertilizer features three numbers on the label, such as 10-20-10, which describes the ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus to potassium. Additionally, those numbers represent the percentage of the nutrients in the bag. So a 50-pound bag of 10-20-10 fertilizer contains 10% or five pounds of nitrogen, 20% or ten pounds of phosphorus, and 10% or five pounds of nitrogen.
A fertilizer with all three nutrients is a “complete” fertilizer. The rest of the fertilizer blend includes filler, which helps dilute the nutrients for appropriate mixing into your soil. Each of these three nutrients provides a vegetable plant with different benefits:
- Nitrogen builds proteins and feeds the growth of all parts of the plant, including roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruit. You need to balance nitrogen in the soil since too little can starve a plant, while too much can kill it.
- Phosphorus helps maintain the cell division necessary for fruits and vegetables to grow. A healthy plant may not produce many fruits if deficient in phosphorus.
- Potassium regulates vital processes in a vegetable plant, including photosynthesis, growth, and maintaining the plant’s health.
If your soil test demonstrates that you only need to improve soil nitrogen, use an organic or nitrogen-only fertilizer rather than a complete fertilizer. Nitrogen-only fertilizers include blood meal, fish emulsion, fish meal, and nitrate of soda. The proper nitrogen quantity for a vegetable plant garden is two pounds per 1,000 square feet, or 0.2lbs. per 100sqft.
How to Apply Fertilizer to Your Garden
There are four main methods for applying fertilizer to a vegetable garden.
- Broadcasting is sprinkling fertilizer evenly over the topsoil before planting, mixing to a depth of three to four inches before creating your planting rows. This method helps many home gardeners manage beautiful vegetable gardens each season.
- Banding involves applying fertilizer in rows next to the planting rows before planting. Be careful that plant roots won’t come into contact with the fertilizer band, as this can kill your plants.
- Side-dressing is similar to banding, except you do it after the plants have established in the soil. Both side-dressing and banding help feed the soil around plants with rainstorms or watering after application, adding nutrients for months after application.
- Foliage spraying includes mixing a water-soluble fertilizer in water and spraying directly onto the plants. Verify that the fertilizer you choose is suitable for this application method.
You may also want to fertilize any transplants at the base of the hole with a water-soluble fertilizer before transplanting. Plants should be at least six inches tall to fertilize the transplant, and the most suitable plants include tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and hearty leafy greens like cabbage.
For transplant fertilizing, mix two tablespoons of fertilizer into a gallon of water, then apply one cup of the mix to the hole before transplanting. Allow the fertilizer to soak into the dirt fully before adding your transplant.
Put Your Calculator Away and Order A Garden Patch™ GrowBox™
The GrowBox™ offers simple vegetable plant gardening, even for novice gardeners. Simply fill the GrowBox™ with potting soil, lay the Nutrient Patch™ over the soil, plant using the numbered guide, and keep the lower reservoir filled with water for beautiful vegetables every season.
The portable GrowBox™ enables gardeners to grow beautiful tomatoes, eggplants, squash, leafy greens, and more outdoors, inside a covered patio, on a concrete apartment balcony, or even indoors near a window.
The GrowBox™ allows gardeners of all skill levels to easily grow vegetables all season long without weeding, digging, turning, or stooping. The GrowBox™ also comes in an assortment of colors, including standard colors of green or terra cotta and premium color options of eggplant, lime, cauliflower, and celery.
The Nutrient Patch™ system feeds your vegetables all season long, with no need to add fertilizer to your GrowBox™ soil. Each Nutrient Patch™ cover comes with time-release nutrients to help your vegetables thrive, plus a printed number planting guide so you can plant tomatoes, berries, herbs, flowers, and more.
Plan a Vegetable Garden Without Needing Fertilizer
With so much information available about gardening, it’s easy to find some myths about gardening that can impede your garden’s progress. Now that you know more about fertilizer for a vegetable garden, order your GrowBox™ today at our online store, or order by phone at 800-519-1955.