Fertilizing vegetables is super important in order for them to produce their best. In this post, I’ll show you everything you need to know, including when, how often, and how much food to give them, as well as how to apply fertilizer to your vegetable garden.
By far one of the most intimidating topics for new gardeners is fertilizing vegetables. I know if was for me when I was a newbie!
But when it comes to growing vegetables, proper nutrition makes all the difference in the world. But the good news is that it’s not as difficult as you might think.
After reading this article, you’ll see just how easy it is. Below, I am going to dive deep into how to fertilize a vegetable garden. And don’t worry, I’m going to explain everything you need to know in a very non-technical way!
Here’s what you’ll find in this detailed guide for fertilizing your vegetable garden naturally…
- Do I Need To Fertilize My Vegetable Garden
- Chemical -vs- Organic Fertilizers
- Different Types
- Best Fertilizer To Use
Do I Need To Fertilize My Vegetable Garden?
The short answer is yes. Feeding your veggie garden will give the plants the boost they need in order to grow stronger, and produce more yummy food.
Many types of vegetable plants are heavy feeders, and will perform their best when they’re fertilized regularly throughout the growing season.
It’s especially important to feed veggies growing in pots, since they solely rely on us to provide the nutrients they need to survive.
Chemical vs Organic Fertilizer For Vegetables
When it comes to feeding your vegetable garden, I highly 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 chemicals, which can damage, or even end up killing the plant.
Organic fertilizers build up the soil over time, giving plants the rich, fertile soil that they need in order to thrive.
And rich, fertile soil means stronger, healthier plants, higher yields, and delicious organic vegetables for us!
Different Types Of Fertilizer For Vegetable Gardens
If you’ve ever walked down the fertilizer isle 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 have noticed is that some come in a liquid form, while others are dry (e.g.: pellets, powders, or granules).
The good news is that there’s no right or wrong answer to the type you choose to use. Many times it just comes down to ease of use, convenience, and your personal preference. Let’s talk about the most common ones in detail…
Liquid Vegetable Garden Fertilizers
Most types of liquid fertilizers will come in either a concentrated form, as tea bags, or as water-soluble powders.
The biggest benefit of using liquids to fertilizer vegetables is that they are absorbed by the plant quickly. Which 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. Here are a few examples of natural liquid vegetable fertilizers that I like to use in my garden…
- Liquid kelp seaweed
- Fish emulsion
- All-purpose water-soluble
- Compost tea concentrate
- Compost tea bags
Slow Release Vegetable Plant Food
As you probably already guessed by the name, granules release 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 it takes longer for the plants to be able to use those nutrients. So they aren’t immediately available to the plant. Here are a few of my favorite types to use…
- Organic vegetable granules
- Powdered kelp meal
- All-purpose granules
- Organic crab shell
- Root zone feeder packs
Another common product you may see for sale for fertilizing vegetables is called “worm castings” (or “earthworm castings”).
Incase you’re unfamiliar with that term, worm castings = worm poop. 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. Worm castings work similar to slow release granules, adding nutrients to the soil over time.
Best Fertilizers For Vegetables
Now that we know more details about the difference between liquids and dry fertilizers for vegetable plants, let’s talk about how to choose the best one to use.
The good news is that companies make it easy to choose by putting the N-P-K numbers right on the bag. N-P-K stands for nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.
Those are the three most important nutrients that vegetables need in order to live and grow. The ratio you choose depends on the type of plants you’re feeding…
The Best Fertilizer For Flowering Vegetables
Flowering vegetables are the ones that need to bloom in order to produce food. For example, tomatoes, peas, squash, cucumbers…etc.
These veggies need to be fed with high-phosphorus (P) granules (or if you prefer, a liquid version). Phosphorus encourages blooming, which is exactly what they need. So look for one where the middle number is the highest.
Best Fertilizer For Non-Flowering Veggies
Non-flower veggies are ones where we eat their leaves or roots, like carrots, chard, salad greens, brussels sprouts…etc. They will need a fertilizer that’s high in nitrogen (N), which supports healthy root and leaf growth.
Instructions For Fertilizing Vegetables
In this section, I’m going to go into detail about when, how often, and how much to fertilize vegetable plants. Then I’ll give you some simple instructions for how to do it.
For best results, be sure to read and follow the direction on the label of the specific product you are using.
When To Fertilize A Vegetable Garden
You can fertilize vegetables whenever it’s most convenient for you, there’s not really a best time of the day to do it.
The only thing to keep in mind is never feed your vegetable garden if the soil is dry. Dehydrated plants could absorb the fertilizer too fast, which can cause major damage to them.
So, if the soil is dry, give it a deep watering. Then wait a few hours before fertilizing to give your vegetable plants plenty of time to rehydrate first.
How Often To Feed Vegetables
Most vegetables are heavy feeders, and need to be fertilized regularly in order to grow and produce the most food for us.
So, for best results, apply granules at planting time, and then again monthly throughout the summer. Then supplement with a water-soluble fertilizer every 2-4 weeks.
How Much Plant Food To Use For Vegetables
The amount of plant food to use varies depending on where they’re planted (in pots vs in the ground), as well as the size of your garden. So, it’s difficult to give exact amounts here.
There is a lot of room for error using natural fertilizers though. Which makes it almost fool-proof, since you don’t have to worry about getting the measurements perfect every time.
But, for best results, you should check the packing to find out exactly how much fertilizer to use in your vegetable garden.
How To Fertilize Vegetable Plants
The steps for fertilizing vegetables depends on whether you’re using a liquid or a slow-release product. So, I’m going to break it down into the specifics for each one.
These are just general guidelines though. So always read the label to make sure there aren’t any special instructions for you to follow.
Feeding vegetables with a liquid
To make this easy, you can use a hose-end attachment to apply liquid fertilizer to your vegetable garden. Then just pour the recommended amount of concentrate into the hose sprayer, and you’re ready to go.
If you prefer, you could use a handheld sprayer instead. Or, of course, you could always just use a watering can to do it by hand.
In those cases, add the recommended ratio of fertilizer and water into your container, and mix it well. Then simply spray or pour it around the base of your vegetable plants.
Using slow release granules
It’s super easy to apply granular fertilizer to your vegetable garden. There are only a few ways to do it, and there’s really no way you can do it wrong when using natural products.
- Adding it into the hole while planting – It’s easy to fertilizing vegetables at planting time. Simply add the recommended amount into the hole, and mix it into the loose soil (or not). Then add the plant as you normally would. Yep, told you it was easy.
- Top dressing your veggies – Simply sprinkle the recommended amount of dry fertilizer around the base of each plant, or over the entire garden. Then work it into the top layer of soil using a hand rake or trowel.
FAQs About Fertilizing Vegetables
Below I am going to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about fertilizing vegetable gardens. If I haven’t answered your question here, then ask it in the comments below.
Can you grow vegetables without fertilizer?
Yes, for sure. However, unless you’re certain that the soil is rich in all the necessary nutrients that vegetables need, then I highly recommend using fertilizer.
Most types of veggies are heavy feeders, and will use up the nutrients in the soil fairly quickly.
How do I know if my vegetable garden needs fertilizer?
If your veggies aren’t growing very fast, or aren’t producing much food for you, then they are likely nutrient deficient. The only way to fix the problem is to add some kind of fertilizer to your vegetable garden.
It’s best to feed them on a regular basis though, or it could cause other problems. So don’t wait until you see the signs of deficiencies before fertilizing.
Can I use compost for fertilizing my vegetable garden?
Yes, compost is a wonderful organic soil amendment that will add key nutrients, and feed your vegetables. You can even brew your own compost tea, and then use it just as you would use any other liquid fertilizer.
Fertilizing vegetable gardens is not as difficult as you might think. When you give them the nutrients they crave, you’ll see a big difference in how well they grow and produce. Once you get the hang of it, feeding veggies will become a no-brainer.
If you want to spice up your veggie garden this year, and grow even more food, then you need a copy of my Vertical Vegetables Book. It will teach you all about growing your best veggie garden ever! Plus, you’ll get 23 step-by-step projects that you can build in your own garden. Order your copy today!
Learn more about my new Vertical Vegetables book here.
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More Posts About Vegetable Gardening
- How To Water A Vegetable Garden, The Right Way!
- How To Prepare A Garden Bed For Planting Vegetables
- How To Attract Bees To Your Vegetable Garden
Share your tips for fertilizing vegetables in the comments section below.