All Things Gardening forum: feeding my seedlings

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Name: Jerri Kuchenmeister
Minnesota (Zone 4b)
Vegetable Grower
Mar 18, 2013 7:53 PM CST
So I picked up some Scotts all purpose flower and veggie plant food (granuals). How much should I use? Ive transplanted my tomatoes and peppers into 3.5" pots, but im not sure how much to use. Ive never used fertilizer before. Probably why my veggie yields werent so good I dont know.
Name: Arlene
Grantville, GA (Zone 8a)
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Mar 18, 2013 8:07 PM CST
I'm probably not the best person to respond, but I am only using Neptune's Harvest foliar spray still. But my potting soil has compost in it.

Rick? Green Grin!
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
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Mar 18, 2013 9:55 PM CST
I only use soluble stuff like "Miracle-Gro" in pots. I save the solid granules for outdoors.

Also, from what I read, and my limited experience with being successful, seedlings can't take much fertilizer at all. For example, add none until they have 1 pair of new leaves, then use 1/4 strength every second or third watering until they have ... 3 pairs of leaves? Even so, you would rather have slow-growing, stocky seedlings than leggy things that shot up due to fertilizer, and then died when they couldn't adapt to going outdoors.

Get them "hardy" and established before you overfeed them. Under-fertilizing young plants will only slow them, and that might be a good thing. Over-fertilizing bur5ns or kills. If they aren't becoming pale yellow, they don't need more food.

(But I hope someone with more knowledge and fewer opinions joins in!)

>> Probably why my veggie yields werent so good I dont know.

Unless you have super-rich, super organic soil, yeah, they will want to be fed after they are big enough to take it. Last year I under fed my Lobelia in containers and they never became thick. But even with adults, the rule is the same: over-fertilizing is much worse for a plant than under-fertilizing.

P.S. I'm n ot the most fervent "organic" advocate i n the world, but they are certainly right about many (or most, or all) things. And that wisdom goes back at least 100 years, and maybe 10,000 years. Compost and humus are NEEDED by soil. Soil needs them to sustain it's structure, water holding capacity and its microorganism (and worms). Plants grow much better in organic soil than in dead dirt.

You "can" grow plants hydroponically with chemicals, but not as well as rich organic soil can grow them. Better to fed the soil with lots of compost and use fewer chemical nutrients. (I fertilize some because I don't buy or make enough compost.)

"Feed the soil, and the soil will feed the plants".

If your outdoor soil isn't alive with a healthy herd of microorganisms, your plants will never thrive. That micro-herd needs organic matter (mostly carbon) and air to live - they eat the OM and combine it with oxygen for energy and to build their bodies, just like we do. Doing so, they release the N, P and K in the compost or humus or manure or leaves. Your plants eat the NPK that was released.

The beneficial soil organisms include root fungi that live symbiotically with plan t roots and increase their ability to draw minerals and water from t6he soil (mycorhyzae, but I can never spell it without looking it up).
Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cut Flowers Winter Sowing Charter ATP Member Seed Starter
Echinacea Plant and/or Seed Trader Region: Ohio Region: United States of America Butterflies Hummingbirder
Mar 30, 2013 6:43 AM CST
I only use fish fert on seedlings. I start with a dilute mix, I don't measure. It's a mild, low NPK anyway (the one I have is 5-1-1). I've never had any problems that way.

Name: Linda
Carmel, IN (Zone 5a)
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Mar 30, 2013 3:08 PM CST
When we plant up pots for our Master Gardener plant sale, we use about 1/2 tsp. slow release fertilizer per gallon pot of soil.

Generally, you only want to use fertilizer at 1/4 strength for seedlings, then can go to 1/2 strength as the plants mature.

Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)

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Mar 30, 2013 4:19 PM CST
I agree It all depends on the potting soil. If there is organic (compost) material in the mix, you really don't need anything further until the plants are either transplanted to a gal. pot or the garden. I make my own seedling mix, using 1/3 ground-up sphagnum (or Miracle-Gro garden soil), 1/3 Black Kow (something like 0.5-0.5-0.5), and 1/3 perlite. I mist the soil to keep it moist, then lightly water when there's a couple of leaves sprouted, but don't fertilize. I move these "plugs" into 4" pots and if something like tomato plants, there will be quite a bit of top growth in a couple of weeks, perhaps 6-8" high. I then begin to use 20-20-20, diluted 1/2 tsp/gal. When the 4" pots are full of roots, if they are tomato plants, they then go into a 1 gal pot. Other vegetables, such as asparagus, herbs, and onions, go into 6" pots. The mix I use is the same except I add a couple of handfuls of slow-release granules per 10-15 gals of mix. When the 1 gal pots of tomato plants have lots of roots, the whole root ball goes into a 20" diameter pot or into the raised garden. Since the soil already has the slow-release fertilizer granules, I don't bother to top-dress these planted vegetables. I water to keep the soil moist, perhaps allowing the top 1" of soil to dry before watering, and every-other week I will drench the soil with either a vegetable, soluable fertilizer (1 tps/gal) or just use 20-20-20.

I will put my asparagus plants, in 6" pots up for sale when they are well rooted. The onions and herbs will go directly from their 6" pots into the raised garden, or I will sell them in their 6" pots. Ken
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.

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