How do I Fertilize my Vegetable Garden?
At first, fertilizer can be confusing to navigate for your newfound outdoor or indoor plants. Here is our full guide for fertilizing vegetables for the highest yield of the season!
What is Fertilizer?
In essence, fertilizer is just a material that contains nutrients that plants need to grow. Fertilizer can come a wide variety of sources, some may be natural sources, while some may be derived through chemical synthesis. Many fertilizers can be purchased commercially for a very effective and comprehensive formula.
While some plants may be able to survive without ever having a commercial fertilizer applied, most growers find it essential for boosted crop yields and much healthier harvests.
If you are looking to give your vegetables a boost for larger and healthier yields, look no further! We are here to help and provide you with all the insight you need for usage instructions and varying fertilizer methods.
When fertilizing plants, there are a few basic rules of thumb to follow. For one, only fertilize within the active months. This will depend on the type of plant, but if your vegetable plants have a “dormant” phase, such as during the cold months when there is no new growth, no fertilizer is necessary.
Second, there is a such thing as too much fertilizer! Like everything in life, nutrients in fertilizer are dose dependent. Using more does not always mean more effective. But, how much is too much? We always recommend referring to the fertilizer labels for a guide on how much fertilizer to add to the soil, water, or leaves for application.
Why do I fertilize my plants?
Similar to watering, the best time of day to fertilize plants is in the early morning when it is not raining. By showing up before it is too bright out, the flora has time to absorb the water and nutrients before it evaporates, but will not stay moist too long where mildew or diseases may grow. These conditions make it ideal for watering and fertilization.
If early mornings do not work in your schedule, the next best time is in early evening, when the sun has set, the temperature is cooler, and the plants have time to air dry a bit before nighttime.
How do I fertilize my Plants?
Now that we have covered a few rules of thumb, there are two main methods for applying the nutrient boost: soil application and foliar application.
Also referred to as “ground application”, soil application entails applying the fertilizer, usually diluted in water, directly on to the soil as if you were watering the plant. If the fertilizer comes in “granules” or looks like little beads, they can be mixed into the soil. For liquid fertilizers, these are often diluted in water before being poured onto the soil for watering, depending on the strength and the directions for usage.
- Nutrients carried all parts of plant, including new growth
- More effective in most weather conditions
- More effective on outdoor and indoor plants
- Slower delivery of nutrients
Stemming from the word “foliage”, foliar application entails applying the product to the leaves of the vegetable plant. This differs from the former approach where fertilizer is applied to the dirt, as the product will be directly touching the plant. To apply, always dilute fertilizer before applying directly to leaves or they will burn. Apply to undersides of the leaves as well as the tops that make contact with the sun.
- Nutrients are absorbed and delivered more quickly, proven to grow faster
- Preferred method to correct nutritional deficiencies
- Requires large surface area of leaves to be effective
- New growth that appears after application does not receive as many nutrients if the foliar fertilizer is not able to translocate nutrients.
Which One is Better?
It depends on what is needed by your plant. As we may know, plants are can be deficient in nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, copper, magnesium, nickel, zinc, sulfur, molybdenum, born, iron, and manganese. Many growers know of the just previously stated nutrients, but plants can also be deficient in amino acids.
Therefore, both methods work the same, but it depends where your plant is deficient and what fertilizer is used. An example is a majority of foliar fertilizers are not systemic and cannot translocate nutrients throughout the plant, which is why growers need to perform a plant tissue analysis to see if their fertilizer is translocating nutrients throughout the plant. So, if your fertilizer is not able to translocate nutrients from foliar application then there is a good chance your plant is not receiving the nutrients is needs in the roots.
The short answer? Both work, it just depends your plant’s needs. Both are proven effective and have individual benefits and disadvantages. It’s up to you to determine the best method!