Growing your own produce can be a rewarding (and often delicious) experience. Taking care of a garden from seed-to-salad entails doing research on care specifications, spending a lot of time getting dirty, and also mixing your own fertilizer.
When you expect the best quality vegetables and fruit with the best flavor, a lot of it will depend on the nutrients they are absorbing from the soil. Planting produce in infertile soil may produce bland-tasting vegetables with low nutrient density.
More importantly, lack of soil nutrition will produce a smaller yield of edibles. The plant system will not have enough nutrients to support its own growth. Therefore, far fewer munchable greens will come from your garden.
Overloading the soil with nutrients may disrupt the pH balance, or the nitrification cycle naturally occurring in the soil. By incorrectly giving too much fertilizer for your plant at one point in time. Giving it barely any on another, you risk your crops by allowing possible root rot. Worse, you might compromise the soil quality so much that the roots would find themselves incapable of receiving nutrition from it at all.
As with every plant guide, make sure to read up on the plant care specifications of each of your leafy friends. Even with those in the same plant family may have different needs due to changes in the variation.
In general, you can check the following guidelines for how often to fertilize certain types of vegetables in your garden.
Primed and Prepped
Many bigger plants may need this requirement, but it may seem fairly rare for a vegetable garden. If you intend to grow parsnips, the fertilization schedule is an entire year before the planting. This allows the soil quality to develop through the seasons and the nitrogen quality to be fairly rich before planting happens.
This is more typical for crops that really have to grow deep into the soil. Radishes also need to be planted in fertilized soil, but not as drastically as parsnips. For radishes, just make sure to fertilize before planting in the spring.
Jumpstart the Growth
Most green vegetables and ground crops for raised beds will need an extra push at the start of their journey.
For example, beets, celery and similar crops will need to be fertilized at the time of planting. This allows for the fertilizer to seep into the soil throughout the lifetime of the beets.
For vegetables where tops are harvested and then are transplanted into the soil, the fertilization may happen during transplanting, or a few weeks after.
Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, and Lettuce are some great examples of vegetables that need to be fertilized 3 weeks after transplanting. This kind of schedule allows for the fertilizer to work from the very start of the growing process.
Blooms and Pods
Vegetables that flower are easy to read because they already have the perfect, built-in guide for when to fertilize. Typically, when a vegetable blooms, it means it is ready for pollination, and soon after, fruiting. By fertilizing after the blooming process, the nutrition is focused mostly during the time that the fruit or vegetable is being formed.
This rings true for many podded greens, like French Beans and Snow Peas. Once heavily blooming, apply the fertilizer to the soil, and mix gently.
Cucumber is another plant that have flowers to guide you through its fertilization schedule. Once heavily blooming, mix in the first batch of fertilizer. Come back to your cucumber patch after three weeks for a second batch of fertilizer.
Since Cucumbers and Melons fall under the same family, they also share the same fertilization rules. Most melons will only need fertilization once heavily blooming. Then a second batch will be necessary after three weeks.
Vines of the Times
Though melons and gourds are fairly similar, when it comes to the fertilization schedule, gourds will depend more on their vines than their flowers, despite the fact that some gourds have flowers too.
Fertilize your Pumpkin, Winter Squash and Summer Squash when the vines have just started to run, and your gourds are about a foot tall.
Ready to Rumble
Many fruits, peppers, and other fuller, fleshier produce will need to be fertilized when it’s just about ready to pop off the stem.
In the life cycle of such plants, typically the stalk grows first. You want to focus your nutrients not on the growth of the stalk, but on the growth of the fruit. This is especially true for tomatoes of any variety. For plump, juicy, lush tomatoes, fertilize the soil just two weeks before the start of picking season. Because the fruit will sprout continuously through the harvest, you have to replenish these nutrients sometime after the first two weeks of the first pick.
Onions will also follow this two-step process. Fertilize the soil once the bulbs begin to swell to aid it in growing large, delicious, flavorful onions that truly pack a punch. When the tops are growing to about a foot tall, fertilize the soil again.
Most varieties of peppers follow the same principle of late game growing, but far simpler. After the first fruit of a pepper plant has set, fertilize the soil, and leave it to grow.
Surprisingly enough, Spinach follows much the same rule. The difference between Spinach and your typical leafy green is the stalk length. Because Spinach is mostly stalk in comparison, just like tomatoes, you would want to focus the nutrition during the growth of the leafy parts which you eat. The best guideline isn’t by time, but by size. When the plant is about one-third in its size, fertilize it, and expect delicious Spinach on your table soon.
Feed Well and Be Well-Fed
Truly, providing the best nutrition for your plants means putting the most nutritious and most delicious meals on your dinner table. Remember these basic guidelines, but still research the specific fertilization schedules of the vegetables you intend to grow, and make sure to follow them.
Show your garden a little more love, and it will definitely love you back.