Best Fertilizer for Vegetable Garden

What is the best fertilizer for a vegetable garden? With so many different kinds of plant food products around, it can be difficult to figure out what you should be using and how you should be using it.

In this article, I’ll explain how much fertilizer your vegetable garden needs, how often should be feeding your crops and what kind of fertilizer do they need.

 

Fertilizer

Plants rely on the sun and fertilizer for energy. As such, it’s your job as the gardener to provide it with what it needs.

The thing is, while the sun is readily available, soil quality isn’t. More likely than not, the soil in your garden doesn’t have all the nutrients your crops need.

And, even if it did, crops use a lot of them to grow. In fact, fruits and vegetables require need more “food” than flowers do.

As s result, it’s important to supplement your garden with fertilizer.

This allows you to make sure that the soil is supplied with adequate nutrients your vegetables need.

In many cases, vegetable gardeners will add side dressing.

Side dressing is applying fertilizer to the side of a row of vegetable crops. It is done by creating a shallow furrow about 1-2 inches deep where you can put the fertilizer in. For individual plants, a circle around the stem is made instead.

Side dressing allows you to give your plants extra nutrients to improve their yield.

When to side dress vegetables chart. This table shows you the different crops and when the best time to side dress them with fertilizer to increase growth.

 

Organic vs. Inorganic Fertilizers

As with houseplant fertilizers, you have the option to go with organic (natural) vs. inorganic (synthetic) fertilizers.

Both serve the same purpose.

But they work in different ways.

Here’s a chart that shows the difference between the organic vs. inorganic fertilizers.

Difference between organic and inorganic fertilizer. Organic vs synthetic fertilizer pros and cons
Difference between organic and inorganic fertilizer. Organic vs synthetic fertilizer pros and cons.

 

 

Soil Testing

But before you rush out to the garden center to buy some, you need to figure out which nutrients your soil has and which you need to compensate for.

That’s where soil testing comes in.

A soil test allows you to know which nutrients is present in your garden soil and at what concentrations. More importantly, it will suggest what kind of fertilizer and how much you should be using.

 

What Fertilizer Does Your Vegetable Garden Need?

In most cases, you’ll do well with a balanced fertilizer. A balanced fertilizer is one that has an equal amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

As such, it’s N-P-K ratio will read as something like 10-10-10 or 5-5-5, where all the 3 numbers are identical.

That said, leafy vegetables often prefer more nitrogen while others need more potassium.

But, it’s very important to keep in mind that too much can be just as bad as too little.

 

What Happens When There’s Too Much Nitrogen

Nitrogen promotes vegetation. Unfortunately, too much of it for fruiting crops like tomatoes means that the growth is focused on its leaves.

As a result, you end up with little to no fruit and just vines.

The same is true for corn where you don’t get many ears. Instead, you end up with tassels.

Meanwhile, root crops like carrots and turnips experience stunted root growth. As a result, you get small roots and lots of leaves.

Additionally, excess nitrogen can leach out of the soil and run off with the water. This contaminates the water it ends up.

 

What Happens When There’s Too Much Phosphorus

When there’s an excess of phosphorus that’s not needed, it can affect how well your plants can absorb micronutrients.

A couple of examples include iron and zinc. Both of which experience reduced availability when there’s too much phosphorus.

 

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Compost

Compost is decayed organic matter. It short, it’s plant and animal matter that’s rotted or decomposed.

While it doesn’t sound too appealing, it’s actually “black gold” for gardeners. That’s because compost improves the quality of your soil. Thus, by adding it to your garden’s soil, it helps make the environment more appealing for plants to grow in.

This is why many gardeners and homesteaders make the extra effort to compost.

 

Benefits of Composting

  • Improves soil quality. Loosens it, aerates better moisture retention suppress disease and pests
  • Increases your soil’s nutrient content. The carbon and nitrogen-rich materials you put into the compost pile contribute to your soil’s nutrient composition once it’s added. For example, nitrogen is involved in photosynthesis which is how plants produce their own food. They also need it for development and reproduction.
  • Improves soil ecology. Composting improves the overall soil environment. This including allowing beneficial organisms like bacteria, crickets, worms and many others to live harmoniously in the soil. All of whom contribute to making your soil better.
  • Makes use of things you’d throw away. Composting makes use of recycled kitchen and yard scraps. Thus, you’re able to reuse things you’d throw away anyway.
  • Reduces waste that goes to the landfill. Speaking of throwing things away, the stuff that goes into the garbage ends up in landfills that are piles and piles high. So by recycling them instead, you’re helping the environment as well.
  • Saves you money. By improving the nutrient content in your soil and allowing it to hold on nutrients from fertilizer, it helps save you money since you don’t need to apply as much.