The Q&A Archives: When to Fertilize

Question: I'm not sure what vegetables need what for fertilizing. I'm growing green peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, swiss chard, bush beans, pickling cukes and asparagus. Is there an overall fertilizer I could use? My soil is kinda like packed loam. It's a large raised bed. And what about lime?

Answer: I suggest you have a soil test done, to determine nutrient levels and pH. The results will tell you how much, if any, lime you should add. Contact your cooperative extension office (ph# 207-324-2814) for soil test kits. Soils in the northeast can be quite acidic, and pH is an important factor in growing good plants.

That said, if you have a rich, dark, loamy soil, you may be just fine this season! I like to use lots of compost in my garden at planting time, then apply a dilute mix of a kelp/fish emulsion fertilizer every week or so. Or you can use any soluble fertilizer, mixed according to label directions. I'd go with one labelled 10-10-10 or 5-10-10 for good all-around fertilizing. Peppers and tomatoes can be fertilized weekly--but in any case they should be fertilized when they begin to flower. Don't be tempted to overfertilize with a commercial fertilizer, however. Too much food, especially nitrogen, can inhibit fruit and flower formation.

As important as fertilizing is adequate water. Tomatoes and peppers in particular need constant moisture (though the soil should not be soggy) for best production. You might want to mulch these plants to help hold in moisture.

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