By Nikki Phipps
(Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden)
Proper vegetable garden fertilization is an important aspect in order to achieve success with vegetable gardening. The amount of vegetable garden fertilizer generally depends on the type of soil and particular crops which are being grown. Fertility requirements differ between growing seasons and among soil types. For example, while vine crops such as tomatoes and beans generally require only small amounts of vegetable fertilizer, root crops are favorable to larger amounts of vegetable fertilizer. With regards to soil, that which is abundantly rich with organic matter may not require much, if any, vegetable fertilizer. Organic matter improves the soil and helps release nitrogen, minerals, and other nutrients plants require.
Fertilizer for Vegetable Garden
Organic Vegetable Garden Fertilizers
When you fertilize a vegetable garden, organic fertilizers are always the preferred method, especially when you plan on eating from it. One of the easiest and most widely used forms of organic fertilizers for the vegetable garden is compost, which promotes greater soil and plant health.
Just about any type of plant material can be composted for vegetable garden fertilizer. These materials can include leaves, lawn clippings, straw, and garden or kitchen scraps. Crushed eggshells and coffee grinds are particular favorites of mine for use in compost.
You also might consider fertilizing the vegetable garden with nitrogen-producing plants, such as alfalfa or crimson clover. This technique can help increase fertility by sowing the plants into your garden soil during fall. Before any blooms appear, simply chop up and work into the soil. Since nitrogen is required by most all crops for healthy development and production, this technique is another natural alternative.
Wood ashes are also good for the soil, provided they are not from any wood that has been previously treated with chemicals.
Manure is another natural fertilizer that can be used in the garden. Horse or chicken manures are the most commonly used but other types are also available. Chicken manure has a higher content of nitrogen than horse manure and is highly preferred; horse manure is more likely to be used as it is more readily available, however. People who own horses are generally more than willing to allow others to treat themselves to loads of manure for free in order to get rid of it. When applying manure, allow it to rot and dry out first as unrotted manure can cause burning of the roots in plants.
Non-Organic Vegetable Fertilizer
Commercial fertilizers should be applied to the vegetable garden either a few days before planting or when the crops are planted. Adding fertilizer to the soil during preparation of the garden, however, is ideal since placing any type of fertilizer too near seedlings or young plants can cause the roots to burn.
Care should also be given to keep the leaves of plants free of fertilizer as well when reapplying to avoid burning and injury to the crops. Any form of commercial fertilizer should be used sparingly and checked out beforehand to be sure that there are no harmful chemicals present.
Mulching will increase yields, conserve moisture, prevent weed growth and regulate soil temperature before decomposing to help with fertilizing the vegetable garden. Organic mulches can be made of straw, leaves, grass, bark, compost, sawdust or peat moss. Organic mulches incorporated into the soil will improve fertility and drainage. With good drainage, abundant organic material, and minimal use of commercial fertilizers, the growth requirements of nearly all vegetables can be fully met; these vegetable garden fertilizer tips will result in a more productive and healthy vegetable garden.