10 Tips from Olle Garden Bed for Effectively Using Vegetable Garden Fertilizers

Knowing when and how to fertilize can make a significant impact in your vegetable garden. The following content also has some reference value for raised garden beds.

Fertilizers can promote plant health and help you grow more leafy greens, juicy tomatoes, and other vegetables. However, with all the options available in the market today, it can be challenging to choose the right fertilizer for your garden. Figuring out how to fertilize can also be confusing once you've made a product selection. Whether you have a traditional garden or an organic one, the tips in this simple guide will help you select and use the best vegetable garden fertilizers.

1. Perform a soil test.

It's always a good idea to test your soil before applying any fertilizers to your garden. Soil tests can be done at home using testing kits, or you can send soil samples to your local cooperative extension office for more accurate results. These tests will tell you which nutrients your soil lacks, so you can choose the best fertilizer for your vegetable garden.

2. Create a schedule.

Different plants have different fertilizer requirements, but keeping track of when to fertilize specific plants can be tricky. For example, pumpkins are heavy feeders and usually require fertilizing every 2 to 3 weeks, while tomatoes only need fertilizing about every 4 to 6 weeks. Tracking these dates on a calendar or gardening journal can ensure that you always fertilize at the right time.

3. Choose the right fertilizer.

When you visit a plant nursery to purchase fertilizers, you can easily be overwhelmed by all the choices. Some fertilizers are made from all-natural ingredients and are suitable for organic gardens, while you can also find granular and liquid fertilizers that provide different benefits to plants.

Fertilizers with high nitrogen content are particularly useful for leafy greens, while fruiting plants like tomatoes tend to grow better with fertilizers rich in phosphorus and potassium.

One option is to use high nitrogen fertilizers at the start of the season to support leaf development and then transition to fertilizers rich in phosphorus and potassium when the plants begin to flower and fruit. Alternatively, you can use a balanced general-purpose fertilizer throughout the year, which should work well for most vegetables.

Some quality fertilizers for organic vegetable gardens include:

Alfalfa meal
Kelp meal
Soybean meal
Fish emulsion
When to use granular fertilizers vs. liquid fertilizers:

Granular fertilizers are usually the best choice for heavy-feeding plants as these types of fertilizers release nutrients over a longer period. They can be a bit challenging to apply and require working or watering into the soil after application. Avoid placing granular fertilizers directly on plant stems, as this can cause tissue burn.

On the other hand, liquid fertilizers are easier to apply and are more readily absorbed by plants. This means they act faster in the garden but need to be used more frequently.

4. Remember safety.

Depending on the type of fertilizer you use, you may need to wear protective gear during the application process. This may include gloves, goggles, and a mask. Be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions on the fertilizer label to determine what equipment you need.

5. Make application easier.

While you can manually sprinkle granular fertilizers, using a handheld spreader can make fertilizer application faster and ensure even coverage on your vegetable beds.

Liquid fertilizers are typically applied using a sprayer or garden mister. Some fertilizers can also be added to convenient hose attachments, making fertilizing your garden a breeze.

6. Observe your plants.

Plants can tell you a lot through their growth patterns, and you can often determine if your plants need fertilizing by their appearance. Plants with striped or pale leaves and visible veins may have some nutrient deficiencies that can be corrected with fertilizer. However, if plants start growing yellow or brown leaves or appear deformed, it may indicate over-fertilization.

7. Time your fertilizing.

The best time to apply granular fertilizers is often right before expected rainfall. Rainwater will wash the fertilizer into the soil, making it more readily absorbed by plants. Alternatively, you can apply granular fertilizers to the soil before you plan to water your vegetable garden.

In contrast, liquid fertilizers should be applied in the early morning or late evening when temperatures are cooler and the weather is dry. This gives your plants more time to absorb the fertilizer and reduces the chances of leaf damage from sunlight.

8. Know when not to fertilize.

During the summer, you may need to reduce the amount of fertilizer used. This is because plants suffering from high temperatures or drought stress are unable to properly absorb fertilizers, and the salt content in the fertilizers can accumulate around the roots, reducing their ability to take up water. You may also want to avoid fertilizing some perennial vegetables in the fall as it can disrupt their dormancy period.

9.Use both fertilizers and compost.

Many gardeners think they need to choose between fertilizers and compost, but the combination of these two gardening products actually works better when used together. Compost is rich in nutrients and can improve soil texture and drainage, while fertilizers typically contain trace nutrients that compost may lack. Using both products together can further improve the soil and produce healthier plants.

One of the best ways to combine these products is by amending garden soil with high-quality compost or aged manure during spring or fall. Then, as the growing season begins, start fertilizing and supplement with compost tea in moderate doses.

10.Combine fertilizing with companion planting.

Certain plants can improve the soil and promote the growth of neighboring plants. When combined with fertilizers, these companion plants can enhance the overall health of your garden and help you produce more fresh vegetables.

Some of the best companion plants for natural soil improvement are legumes, such as beans and peas. Planting these in mixed vegetable gardens can reduce the amount of fertilizers needed throughout the season.