Mid-Season, Amending Garden Soil – nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K)

NPK Fertilizing your vegetable garden is a two stage process, performed before planting and again midway through the growing season.

Broadcast Fertilizing When you’re preparing the bed for spring planting, apply a complete balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 evenly to the entire garden. Do not over fertilize. A hand spreader helps keep the job neat as it distributes the granules. Turn the fertilizer into the soil with a hand spade or tiller and smooth out the surface to prepare for planting. This first fertilizing step will see most of your vegetables through their initial period of growth. Halfway through the growing season, the plants will have used up a lot of the nutrients in the soil, and you’ll need to replace these nutrients.

Side dressing. As the nutrients are used up by the plants, a second boost of fertilizer will be needed in early to mid summer to supply the plants with essential elements through the remainder of the growing season. Use the same complete fertilizer at the same rate as used in the spring, but this time apply it as a side dressing to the plants. With a hoe, make a deep trench along one side of the row, taking care not to disturb the plant’s roots. Apply the fertilizer in the trench and then cover the trench with the soil you removed. Rain and irrigation will work the fertilizer into the soil, becoming available to the plants.

Side dressing Individual Plants. When long season vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers need a second application of fertilizer, there’s no need to trench an entire row. Cut a deep collar trench around the plant 12 to 18 inches from the stem. Spread about 1/2 cup of the same fertilizer used in the spring around each plant and cover it with soil. Water the garden well after fertilizing.

Fertilizing Your Garden, Oregon State University Extension Service

Fertilizing Garden Soil, University of Missouri Extension

Fertilizing the Vegetable Garden, Colorado State University

Don’t be Cheap. Be Frugal. Till the garden spot with mechanical tiller or by hand. Loosening the soil will allow for the easy addition of compost and aerate the soil for the growth of roots and earthworms.

Use Rabbit droppings. Add about 25 lbs of rabbit droppings (NOT RABBIT FOOD) for an area of 1,000 sq. ft. Make sure the rabbit droppings are NOT fresh, but well dried or composted.

Horse Manure or Cow Manure. If you live near a cattle yard or dairy, race track / fair grounds or a riding stable, you can get free horse/cow manure if you are willing to haul it away. This could be done by pickup truck or even using buckets or trash bags in the trunk of your family car. Fresh horse/cow manure can generate a lot of heat, which can be useful to improve your compost bin if it is not breaking down quickly. It’s wise to remember most horse/cow manure will contain weed seeds so they should be composted first to avoid weeds spreading.

Compost grass clippings. Grass clippings from your lawnmower can be easily composted. Choose a location that is out of the wind, so the clippings won’t be blown away or scattered. If you have a bagging mower, empty the clippings onto the mound every time you mow. Layer the fresh clippings with dry leaves, crushed eggshells, coffee grounds and any vegetable scraps from your kitchen. Turn this compost pile weekly to allow air to penetrate. Green lawn clippings can generate a heat which is important to be able to destroy weed seeds and pathogens. When adding clippings to a worm farm, its best to let them sit in a pile for a week or two first to be able to break down and not risk generating too much heat.

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One response to “Mid-Season, Amending Garden Soil – nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K)

  1. I always look forward to reading your good ideas.


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