Fertilizing vegetables

If you have a kitchen garden, you know that vegetable plants require extra tender-love-and-care. By fertilizing, you create healthy soil, which is imperative if you want a healthy harvest. Read more to learn about this.

Getting that perfect mix of minerals is a daunting task. Start out by getting your soil examined for its mineral content. This gives you an in-depth knowledge on what fertilizers to use.

Usually, if you prep the soil before planting, there is no need to use any later on i.e. when the plant is fruiting or flowering. But, that theory is not universal and varies with different kinds of soil. Anyways, do prep your soil.

Soil pH

The most important step is having a healthy pH. The lower the pH, the higher the acidity, and vice versa. The proper pH value to have for your vegetable plants is around 6 to 7 i.e. almost neutral (check specifically for each vegetable). If the pH is too off the optimal range, plants cannot take up the proper amount of nutrients.

If your soil is too acidic, add a lime source to make it less acidic. The carbonate ion in lime sources works to neutralize the acid. Agricultural lime, wood ash, dolomite and oyster shells will help raise your pH levels.

To reduce the pH of your soil, iron sulphates or aluminium sulphates or sulphur reduce pH through the formation of sulphuric acid. Organic matter in the form of plant litter, compost, and manure will decrease the pH through the decomposition process. Organic matter such as pine needles, pine sawdust and acid peat are also effective at reducing pH.

Fertilizing Vegetable Plants

Observing the plant is the best thing you could do. If your leaves are wilting or yellowing, it generally means that the plant lacks nitrogen content. If your plant is just plain unhealthy, then all three potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen are lacking.fertilizing vegetable plants

Nitrogen is required for healthy, green growth of foliage. It is part of every plant protein, so it is required for virtually every process and is even more so helpful for green leafy vegetables.

Phosphorous is necessary for good root development and improved flowering, so is essential in abundance for root-vegetables. Being slow moving through the soil, it’s important to work it into the soil, where it can be easily accessed by the roots.

Potassium affects the plant shape, size, colour, taste and is also important in fruit formation and production and also in the ripening of fruits, making it an essential nutrient in abundance for fruit-bearing vegetables.

In general, all vegetable plants require nutrients in different proportions depending on the type of plant it is:-

– Major nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium)

– Secondary nutrients (calcium, magnesium, sulphur)

– Micronutrients (boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, zinc)

The frequency of fertilization depends on the kind of fertilizer you are using. If it is a slow-release one, you need not apply very often. The use of this kind of fertilizer is further recommended, as it does not burn the plant. If your soil is covered in mulch, apply the fertilizer on top of the mulch and then water it. You could also use liquid fertilizers that can be applied on the foliage or the base of the root.fertilizing vegetable plants

The following signs show that you have gone overboard with the fertilizing and have to step back a notch:

– Crust of fertilizer on soil

– Browning of leaf tips

– Blackened limp roots

– Defoliation

– Slow growth

– Death of seedlings

So, do fertilize, but read label instructions and approximate how much is required for your plants. A healthy balance must be maintained.

Before fertilizing any plant, refer a gardening book on how and when to fertilize that plant. The requirements of a few are given below.

Beans No requirement
Beets When 4 to 5 inches high
Broccoli Three weeks after transplanting
Cabbage Four to six weeks after transplant
Carrots Three weeks after plants are well established
Cauliflower Four to six weeks after transplant
Corn First after three weeks of planting; then when ten inches high; and lastly when tassels start to appear
Cucumbers When plants begin to run; and then when blossoms set
Eggplant Three weeks after planting
Lettuce Three weeks after transplant
Muskmelons First when it begins to run; and when blossoms set; then three weeks after the second fertilisation
Onion Three weeks after plantation; and then when tops are six to eight inches high
Peas No requirement
Peppers First three weeks after transplant; and then when fruits set
Potato When it blossoms
Pumpkin When the plants start to run; then when blossoms set
Radish No requirement
Spinach When three to four inches tall
Squash First when six inches tall; then when it blossoms
Tomato Two weeks after transplant; and then after first picking

 Happy fertilizing!

Happy Gardening

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