I have spent plenty of time on the internet looking for a guide/chart that tells me what type of veggie, what kind of fert to use, when to re-fertilize, what the ratio nutrients should be, etc. Almost like an excel spread sheet layout. I have yet to find one I was hoping that someone on this amazing site would know a link or have a chart that has the general rules of thumb for fertilizing veggies. Ya know...which veggies like nitrogen, etc. Thank you everyone for your time. Enjoy the upcoming holidays and be safe.
Here's a quick, down and dirty little ditty:
Nitrogen is for what grows above the ground... Phosphorous is for what grows below the ground... KPotassium is for overall plant health, all around!
Use Nitrogen for leafy green veggies, like cabbages, spinach, mustard & collard greens, lettuce, etc. The veggies that we eat the leaves of. Nitrogen promotes leaf growth and greening up the plant. Blood meal is a source of Nitrogen. So is Ammonium Sulfate (highly concentrated Nitrogen?)
Use Phosphorous to establish good root systems in the veggies. Root veggies like onions, turnips, beets, carrots, benefit from this element. Bone Meal is a source of Phosphorous.
Use Potassium for overall, balanced plant health.
A word of caution. Do NOT use excess nitrogen on fruiting veggies like tomatoes or broccolis, or cauliflowers. You'll end up with very lush greenery, and very poor fruit production.
A general rule of fertilizing is once every 7-14 days. Check the website or your fertilization packaging for the amount to spread. It'll give you a "per square foot" recommendation. I generally use a balanced fertilizer (all three numbers the same, e.g., 14-14-14, 13-13-13), once a week, sprinkling at the rate of about 1 oz. per square foot, watered in.
WATCH your veggies. They'll let you know when they need to be fed. But, err on the side of caution, because you can overfertilize and/or burn the roots on young plants if you're zealous with the sprinkling, LOL (ask me how I know this...). I'd suggest something like fertilizing a little less, more often, but not more, more often...
Keep reading the needs of individual veggies, and that chart will start to formulate in your own mind. Then, put it down on a spreadsheet, and you can send it to ME, LOL!
I hope this helps, and that I've been as accurate as I know. Double check what I've offered here. And, don't worry, one of the UBERs will come along and correct where I might be off track, LOL!
You might start with a DIY soil test kit.
If your soil is already high in some nutrient, then you do not need to add lots of that.
For example, my soil is low in N and Ca, so I concentrate on adding these at the right time, and add the others (P, K, traces) in smaller amounts once each season.
Ditto the above info, as a general guide.
If you use slow release materials (blood meal, bone meal, greensand and so on) you can work these into the soil well at the beginning of the season. They will become available slowly, and not burn the plants. However, some of the most demanding of plants might want more quickly released fertilizers, and these you could side dress through their fastest growing season. (Corn comes to mind)
Thank you Linda and Diana for the support. As we all know veggie gardening can be overwhelming in the first few years. With all the different types of veggies and what nutrients they need can be a lot to keep track of. I am in my 2nd season of veggie gardening and keep a detailed log of what I plant, when I plant it, what nuts I give it, etc. The only problem is that I am not successful as one might hope for. So the data logged is a bit less than chart worthy. I wonder if there is a forum section on Dave's Garden that I have yet to come across where all gardeners can post all that info and compile it. Thank you for the info it will help a great bit. Once the next few years have passed I should have that log for ya ;) Happy Thanksgiving! Be safe this holiday :)
What we've discovered here mostly is that every area, garden, speck of dirt is relatively different for each gardener.
The best we hope for is to locate someone in our respective growing area whose MO sort of matches our own, and then follow each other (or not, LOL!)!
There are a number of CA gardeners at Dave's in your growing Zone (9a?). Try to locate some of them and see what they're doing. I'm in Zone 9a, Houston. But, my microclimate is very different than yours on the sunny west coast!
Don't worry. We'll work with you here, to help you get where you wanna go.
Just keep posting your questions and someone will be along to offer you some good advice.
P.S. Keeping a garden journal is one of the BEST practices, and I am sooooooo happy to see you're developing that habit!
Are you growing in mostly the original soil in your garden?
Have you added compost or anything to that soil?
Are you growing in some sort of commercial blend? Perhaps purchased in bags or bulk?
I would start trying to correct the 'problems' by finding out what is in your current soil.
Here are a couple of easy tests:
1) Make a damp ball of soil and try working it with your hands. Especially try to roll it between your hands and make a worm.
If it feels gritty and won't hold its shape then there is a high % of sand.
If it feels just a little bit gritty, fine gritty and holds a reasonable worm as long as you support it then there is more silt.
If you feel almost no grit and the worm keeps on growing, and growing... then there is a lot of clay in the soil.
2) Put some soil in a jar with a tight lid. Make sure all the clods are broken up. Remove obvious non-soil things like leaves, sticks and earthworms.
Put a piece of tape on the side of the jar and mark how high the soil is. (about 2/3 full is good)
Add water. A drop of dish washer detergent can help. No bubbles.
Shake. A lot.
Set the jar down and start timing. Mark on the tape how much soil has settled out of the water:
Interpreting the results:
Sand settles out almost instantly. A few seconds, not even a minute.
Silt settles out in a couple of minutes.
The larger clay particles settle out in an hour. The finer ones may stay suspended overnight.
If the water is still cloudy after settling overnight then there is a lot of Colloidal Clay. This is hard soil to work with.
If there are a lot of floating particles this is organic matter. This is good.
If the water is clear but colored brown or yellow this is likely tannins from the organic matter. This is good.
Do some math and convert the marks to %.
Up to 50% sand is OK. Good drainage, plenty of air flow through the soil.
Mostly the remaining is silt, this is good. Silt does not compact like clay.
10-15% clay is OK. Clay is the best for holding fertilizer. It makes the soil hard to work, though.
25% organic matter is good for most vegetables. As it breaks down add more each year. It does a lot of good things to the soil. It encourages beneficial organisms to live in the soil.
3. Buy a soil test kit. The simplest test N, P, K and pH. Post the results.
Gymgirl has posted how different crops use each of these.
Instead of charting each individual crop, lump them.
Vegetables arent as finicky about the fertilizer as a flower- Flowers do show different responses to fertilizer that is tweaked just for them, but veggies are just grateful to get enough to grow right. Just sayin
Corn, sunflower, and peppers especially like nitrate. I plant rows of corn and when the corn is about 8 inches tall I sprinkle nitrate down the row, same with the sunflowers. It does not take long (about 2 weeks) for the corn to respond and turn a darker shade of green. Then, when the corn is say knee high, I give it a little more (same way). Same with sunflowers. As for the peppers, I usually plant pepper slips or from a 6 pack. When the peppers are getting established and growing on their own, I draw a small circle of nitrate around each plant dropping the nitrate about four - six inches away from the stem.
Tomatoes like 12-12-12 fertilizer or better yet, the Miracle Grow for tomatoes.
Wow - you are CA and I am IL. My soil is clay.
The county extension office would be a good place to inquire about your chart. Or perhaps a soil test would be in order, especially if you are more concerned about one particular veg crop.
If your soil is fertile enough from containing lots of organic matter (like compost), you might need little or no chemical fertilizer. A few kinds of crops are known as "heavy feeders", and those might benefit from a little balanced fertilizer even if the soil is fertile and has plenty of organic matter.
As compost and mulch break down, they slowly release small amounts of N, P, K and everything else. The organic matter they release (C, H and O) feeds soil microbes that extract minerals from some rock grains. Well-fed microbes also digest organic matter into "humic acids" that leach needed minerals out of rock grains, making them soluble and available to plants.
Larger microbes eat smaller ones, and pass the remains as soulble minerals.
There's a saying that organic matter feeds the soil, and the soil feeds the plants. Or "feed the soil, and the soil will feed the plants!"
I think that's more true of well-established gardens with rich soil and plenty of beneficial soil life. Getting a new bed made from poor soil to that highly productive state may go faster with the addition of chemical fertilizer in small amounts.
But it is vital to add lots of organic matter. That feeds the soil life and improves tilth, which makes soil better draining AND more water-retentive. That make the soil a better substrate for holding onto any chemicals you may add, and it lets roots grow deep so they can absorb the chemicals before they leach away.
You can compost vegetable matter first, or just top-dress your bed with it and call that "sheet composting". It will digest in place, especially if it doesn't dry out first. Or you can bury it in holes (spot composting). Or scratch it into the top few inches of soil, but I don't know a special name for that method.
In general, if the soil microbes can get at anything organic, they will rot it and return its minerals and carbon to the soil. Somehow or other, evolution seems to have arranged that soil organisms cooperate with each other and with roots to support even more plant growth that later returns to the soil.