The Q&A Archives: Fertilizing

Question: when asked about fertilizing vegetables, the answers are always indefinate. Some say, top dress,side dress,or add manure or mulch. I would like definative answers such as, a cup for each stalk of corn, or, a handful for each tomato plant and what kind of fertilizer. I realize that some answers would be general to fit any situation but I need quantities.

Answer: One of the reasons your answers will be vague is that soil varies tremendously in its fertility. If your soil is poor you would need to add more fertilizer than if it is very rich, and some soils are lacking in one nutrient but plentiful in another. Unfortunately there is no way to tell just by looking! The best thing to do is to run some soil tests and find out exactly what qualities your soil has (and doesn't have) and work from there. The fertilizer amounts also depend on what type and form of fertilizer you are using -- some are stronger or longer or slower acting than others and this makes a difference in how and when you would apply it. Finally, if in doubt, follow the directions on the label for amount per square foot or per foot of row and then observe how your plants grow as this is the best indicator of what needs to be done. Your County Extension (546-6421) should be able to help you with the tests and interpreting the results. They may even have fairly specific fertilizing guidelines for plants growing in soil typical to your local area. Last but maybe most important of all, a healthy soil will always grow better plants no matter what or how much fertilizer you use. The best way to work towards that is to add generous amounts of organic matter on a regular basis.

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