With spring right around the corner and warm temperatures teasing every gardener in Northern Colorado, we thought we would provide you with some content to not only get you excited for the gardening season, but also help you prepare to have the best garden yet! If you want to know some of the secrets to having a successful garden, then look no further!
Vegetable Garden Fertilizer Overview
Using fertilizers in your garden is one of the biggest things that will set a flourishing garden apart from a mediocre garden. I know when I first started gardening, I was very reluctant to use fertilizers for several reasons. First, I thought that the soil should have everything my plants need already. Second, I didn’t like the idea of having to spend more money on something that I didn’t see as necessary. And third, I felt like using fertilizer was cheating… like it was for the gardeners who didn’t really know what they were doing so they just used fertilizer to make their plants grow instead of using their skill and knowledge to have a successful garden.
I soon found out that none of these are true! So, if you have a similar mindset as I did when it comes to using fertilizers in your garden, let me clear up a few things for you. 1) Soil rarely starts out in good enough condition to grow a successful garden, and even if your soil did have all the nutrients your plants need, these nutrients become depleted very quickly and need to be replenished yearly, if not more often. It is easy to neglect your soil, and poor soil that is lacking in nutrients can only yield a sad-looking crop. 2) You will have no problem spending the money on good, quality fertilizers and soil amendments once you begin to see the need for them! Once you begin to see the amazing effect fertilizers have on your garden, you will realize it is TOTALLY WORTH IT. 3) A true gardener knows and understands the importance of using fertilizers. It is not cheating, but more so the “secret ingredient” to a successful garden. Experienced gardeners will know when to use fertilizer, how much to use, and what types to use, all of which contribute to their success in gardening. If these are some things that you are not yet familiar with, keep reading! We will go over each of these aspects of using vegetable gardening fertilizer in your garden.
When To Use Fertilizer
There are so many different ways to fertilize and so many different products available, and each product will have different instructions for use. In general, however, fertilizing is an ongoing process. You will want to introduce nutrient-rich materials to your soil before you begin planting, then you will want to fertilize periodically throughout the growing season, and you will also want to introduce more nutrient-rich material to your soil at the end of the season to help keep it in good health.
Step 1: Prepare Your Soil for Planting
This is perhaps the most important part. If you want your garden to get off to a strong start, you will need soil that is already rich in nutrients and organic materials to help encourage vigorous growth. So, once the soil warms up enough that you can dig into it without much resistance, you will want to amend the soil with nutrient-rich materials. Many popular products that we recommend include mushroom compost, sheep and peat, cow, chicken or sheep manure, or your own homemade compost. While these products might not quite be what you were expecting in terms of traditional fertilizers, they are organic materials that are rich in many of the nutrients that are essential to strong plant growth. Introducing these materials to your soil will get your plants off to a good start, especially if you are starting your garden from seed.
Step 2: Fertilize Throughout the Growing Season
Now that you have a good starting point for your plants, you will want to think about feeding them consistently throughout their growing season. You will want to begin fertilizing two weeks after planting your garden. Now again, there are so many different fertilizer options, and each one may have slightly varying instructions for use. In general, you will want to fertilize your garden plants every two weeks. If you use a slow-release fertilizer, you will only need to apply the fertilizer twice per season, approximately. Be sure to read the instructions specific to the fertilizer of your choice, as application instructions may vary! Keep in mind that plants such as your tomatoes and peppers may need more nutrients than your general garden fertilizer offers, so you may need to pick out a fertilizer specific to tomatoes/peppers in order to supply them with the nutrients they need to produce big and tasty fruit.
Step 3: Amend Your Soil to Prepare it for the Off-Season
At the end of your growing season when you are preparing your garden beds for fall, you will want to do some prep to help make sure that the soil is replenished and preserved throughout the winter. Adding more soil amendments and compost to your garden beds will help your soil maintain its integrity and make sure that it is in good shape for the upcoming growing season. It is also recommended to plant a cover crop in the fall as you prepare your garden for the off-season. Planting a cover crop not only helps preserve your soil and save it from erosion from wind or snow/water throughout the winter season, but it also helps enrich your soil for the upcoming spring season!
How Much Fertilizer to Use
The question of how much fertilizer to use will completely depend on which product you choose to use. Vegetable garden fertilizers come in all sorts of different forms, from slow-release granules to concentrates, to ready-to-use solutions. Every different type of fertilizer will have directions for use on the back of the bottle or container, so be sure to read the instructions carefully and use as directed for best results!
Vegetable Garden Fertilizer Tips
We asked our seasoned gardening professionals here at Bath Garden Center what tips they would give to anyone looking for advice on how to grow a vegetable garden, so here are several of their recommendations!
Foliar feeding is a way to give your plants the nutrients they need by showering them with a fertilizer. Certain fertilizers are made to be applied directly to the foliage of a plant, and this allows the plants to absorb the nutrients they need through their leaves! This can be a highly effective and easy way to make sure your plants are strong and healthy. Just be sure to avoid the heat of the day if you are going to apply a foliar fertilizer, as the combination of direct, intense sun with the foliar fertilizer could cause damage to your plants. In general, it is always best to water or fertilize either in the morning or evening, avoiding the hottest part of the day.
While fertilizers are full of nutrients that are essential to healthy plant growth, too much of these solutions could cause irreversible damage to your plants. Whether it is fertilizer or other soil amendments such as manure or compost, not having the proper ratio of soil to amendment could create an environment that is too nutrient-rich for the plants. Over-fertilizing often will cause burn damage to the roots of your plants, which will affect your plants’ ability to grow strong and healthy, and in extreme situations, could kill your plant entirely.
It All Starts with your Soil
Healthy soil is going to be the one thing that affects the success of your garden vegetables the most. If your garden beds are full of unhealthy soil, there is no amount of fertilizing that will yield favorable results. The perfect soil can take years of work to achieve, so if your soil isn’t perfect right off the bat, don’t get discouraged! Repeatedly amending your soil and making sure it is taken care of will eventually result in soil that is rich in nutrients, full of beneficial insects, high in organic matter, and perfect for growing an abundance of delicious produce. For more information on how to create the perfect soil, check out this blog!
Types Of Vegetable Garden Fertilizer
As we have said above, there are SO many different types of fertilizers. And while there is not necessarily one type or brand that is THE brand to use, these are a few of our favorite vegetable gardening fertilizers and amendments that we would recommend for use in your vegetable garden.
Choosing the Best Vegetable Gardening Fertilizer
If you are wondering how to choose the best vegetable gardening fertilizer for your garden, there really is not an easy answer. Which fertilizer you choose depends on many things, such as what you are growing, the condition of your soil, or your standpoint on organic vs. inorganic products. At Bath Garden Center, we believe in the power of organic. Organic products in general are more sustainable and have less of a negative impact on our environments. So, if you share our passion for organic gardening, we have tons of products just for you! And if you are not as worried about only using organic products, we have other options as well that are very effective and highly recommended. If you would like to explore some of these options or are trying to get your garden ready for the planting season and aren’t really sure where to start, please stop by! Our gardening professionals are here and ready to help you make the best decision for your situation. Happy gardening everyone!