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How do I fertilize my vegetable garden?
Most vegetable gardens benefit from the application of fertilizer. A soil test will tell you for sure but you can generally not go wrong if you apply a modest amount of complete fertilizer each spring before you plant.
Complete fertilizers are those that contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in roughly equal amounts. For example 10-10-10 contains 10% of each element. The first number indicates the percentage by weight of nitrogen, the second is the amount of phosphorous, and the third of potassium. Other examples of complete fertilizers are 5-10-5 or 20-20-20.
It is best to have a soil test to determine the correct amount of fertilizer required and to determine if lime is required. If you do not have a soil test the general rule is to apply 2 pounds of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet of garden and work it into the soil before planting. A one pound coffee can holds about two pounds of fertilizer. A two to four inch layer of rotted manure, compost and other organic material should also be worked into the soil. Organic material can also be worked into the soil in the Fall after garden clean up.
Some vegetables, like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and corn, will benefit from a side dressing of a balanced fertilizer during the growing season. To side dress scatter a light application of fertilizer on the soil around the plant and rake or water it in or place the fertilizer in a shallow trench around the plant or between rows.