Soil Care after Refurbishing

  • Approximately 4 weeks after transplanting, side dress with granular fertilizer at a rate of 9-12 cups per 50′ row. Trench the fertilizer next to the drip tape, 2-3” deep and 6 to 8” from the plants. The fertilizer is more effective when delivered near the root zone.
  • Continue to apply liquid fertilizer following package instructions during the growing season.
  • Maintain a 2-3” layer of garden compost around plants


Fertilizing Basics

All fertilizers have 3 numbers on their packaging that represents the percentage N-P-K

  • The 1st number represents Nitrogen (N) for top leafy growth
  • The 2nd number represents Phosphorus (P) for root and fruit production
  • The 3rd number represents Potassium (K) for cold hardiness, disease resistance, and all around health

In general, the roots support the stem and the stems support the leaves. The first weeks of a plant’s life should be about growing a strong foundation. Just like children, we want them to be well grounded before they start to reproduce. If the plant starts to produce before developing a strong root system, it will become easily stressed. A stressed plant is the target for aphids and other critters.
Ideally, a complete fertilizer with a higher Phosphorus number (4-6-4) is applied at planting time to encourage good stem and root development. High nitrogen fertilizer like fish emulsion encourages leaf growth, sometimes at the expense of the fruit set, so be careful! Garden Plant Info gives info about fertilizer demands of our vegetable garden.

Fertilizers Available for the Garden

All Purpose Fertilizer (all numbers even as 4-4-4)
Vegetable Fertilizer (1st number lower than 2nd as 4-6-4 or 5-10-10)

  • Unplanted rows being readied for a new crop: broadcast or band at a rate of 12 cups per 50′ row and turn into the soil 4-6″ deep.
  • Planted row: side dress at a rate of 3 cups per 50′ row. Trench fertilizer next to the drip tape, 6 to 8 inches from the plants.
  • Apply before planting and when plant starts its first growth spurt. Light feeders like beans may not need additional applications. Heavy feeders like tomatoes may need a second feeding after setting fruit. Your observation determines the feeding schedule.

Fish Emulsion 5-1-1 – Leaf Health

  • Used for plants whose leaves are harvested for food such as lettuce and spinach
  • Used on plants that look a bit yellow or chartreuse, indicating nitrogen deficiency
  • May be used in diluted amount to provide micronutrients
  • Follow mixing directions on the bottle

Kelp Emulsion .01-.01-1.1 – Root Health

  • Used to promote overall health
  • Used at time of planting to stabilize root health
  • Used in cool weather to help with nutrient uptake
  • Follow directions on the bottle

Worm Castings as a Conditioner

  • Feeds microorganisms and conditions the soil
  • Fertilizer- sprinkle around the base of the plant, scratch into the soil and add water
  • TEA (Liquid Fertilizer)- Add 1 cup of Worm Castings to a gallon of water and soak for 48 hours. Apply as a liquid fertilizer/leaf foliate spray. May help control insects.
  • No such thing as too much worm casting, will not burn plants, provides micro nutrients.

Compost as an Amendment

  • Rebuilds soil texture, provides nutrients for microorganisms
  • Apply in bulk when refurbishing the row
  • Mix in the new planting hole when replacing plants mid-season

Compost as a Mulch

  • Compost will help with humidity and water retention in the soil
  • Apply at about 1-2″ thickness around new plants
  • Leave breathing space for the stem
  • Can be turned into the soil for the next planting.

updated 1/24/14