Choosing the best fertilizer for your vegetable garden is easy with this detailed guide. Below I will break it all down for you to make it simple to figure out what type of vegetable fertilizer to use. Then I’ll give you a list with tons of options so you can find what will work for you.
My goal with this handy guide is to answer those questions and help new gardeners choose the best organic and natural plant food for your veggies.
Below I’ve discussed the differences in the many forms of vegetable fertilizers, and shared a handy list of my top recommendations.
I’ll also give you tons of helpful tips for how to determine the best one for the types of crops you want to grow.
Different Types Of Fertilizers Vegetables
If you’ve ever walked down the fertilizer aisle at your local garden center, you know first hand how many different types there are to choose from. It’s downright overwhelming!
The first thing you may notice is that some come in a liquid form, while others are dry (e.g.: pellets, powders, stakes, or granules).
The good news is that there’s no right or wrong answer to the form you choose. It often comes down to ease of use, convenience, and your personal preference.
However, when choosing the best fertilizer for your vegetable garden, I highly recommend you only use natural and organic ones.
Chemical/Synthetic -vs- Natural/Organic Fertilizer For Vegetables
When it comes to feeding your vegetable garden, I always recommend using natural, organic fertilizers rather than synthetic chemicals.
Chemical fertilizers give us instant gratification, but they cause major damage to the health and fertility of the soil over time.
It’s also much easier to burn the roots with these types of products. They can damage, or even end up killing, the plant. Plus, they just aren’t a healthy way to grow food.
Natural and organic fertilizers on the other hand build up the soil over time, giving veggies the rich, fertile foundation they need in order to thrive.
And rich, fertile soil means stronger, healthier plants, higher yields, and delicious, healthy organic vegetables for us!
So, in my list below, I’ve only included organic and natural options, because those are the ones that I use in my own garden.
Water Soluble Vegetable Garden Fertilizers
Most types of liquid vegetable fertilizers will come in either a concentrated form, as tea bags, or as water-soluble powders.
The biggest benefit of using liquids is that they are absorbed by the plant quickly. That means they start working faster than granules.
But on the flip side, they don’t last as long, and need to be applied more often than the slow release types.
Slow Release Vegetable Plant Food
As you probably already guessed by the name, slow release granules add nutrients into the soil over an extended period of time. This means you don’t have to apply them as often as liquids.
But, it also means that those nutrients aren’t immediately available to the plant. So it will be longer before they’re able to use them.
Another common product you may see in the vegetable fertilizer aisle is called “worm castings” (or “earthworm castings”).
In case you’re unfamiliar with that term, worm castings = worm poop. And what could be more natural than that?
Don’t let the word “poop” turn you off from using them. They look and feel just like dirt, and don’t really have any scent at all.
Worm castings work similar to slow release options by adding nutrients and building up the soil over time.
What Is The Best Fertilizer For A Vegetable Garden?
Now that we know more about the differences between fertilizers for vegetables, let’s talk about how to choose the best one to use.
The good news is that companies make it easy by putting the N-P-K numbers right on the bag. N-P-K stands for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Those are the three most important nutrients that vegetables need in order to live and produce tons of food for us. The ratio you choose depends on the type of plant you’re feeding.
- Flowering vegetables – These are the ones that need to flower in order to produce fruit (tomatoes, peas, squash, cucumbers, etc.). They need extra phosphorus, which encourages blooming, so the middle (P) number should be the highest.
- Non-flower vegetables – These are the ones where we only eat the leaves or roots (carrots, chard, lettuce, broccoli, etc.). These veggies need a high nitrogen (N) fertilizer, so the first number should be the largest.
Related Post: How & When To Fertilize Your Vegetable Garden
In this section, I’ll answer some of the most common questions I get regarding the best fertilizers for vegetable gardening. If you can’t find the answer you’re looking for here, ask it in the comments section below.
Can I use compost for fertilizing my vegetable garden?
Yes, you can use compost for fertilizing your vegetable garden. It is a wonderful organic soil amendment that will add key nutrients and feed your vegetables.
Is all purpose fertilizer good for vegetable gardens?
Yes, all purpose fertilizer is good for vegetable gardens. However, it is best to feed veggies that produce a fruit with one made specifically for flowering plants.
So for those, select one with a higher, middle ‘P’ number, rather than using a general purpose one.
Can you use houseplant food on vegetables?
Whether you can use houseplant food on vegetables depends on both the type of fertilizer you have, and the kind of plants you’re feeding.
General purpose or ones with a high nitrogen (N) number will work just fine for non-flowering veggies. If yours is high in phosphorus (P), that would be best for the blooming/fruit producing ones.
Choosing the best fertilizer for your vegetable garden will be easy now that you understand what to look for, and have a good list options to choose from. Whether you decide on a granular or liquid plant food, your vegetable garden will thank you for the healthy boost.
More About Vegetable Gardening
- Choosing The Best Mulch For Vegetable Gardens
- 15 Fast Growing Vegetables To Plant In Your Garden
- How To Design A Vegetable Garden Layout
What are your favorite types of fertilizer for your vegetable garden? Share your top picks in the comments below.