Vegetable Fertilizer Requirements

Vegetable Fertilizer Requirements  

Fertilizers are chemical substances supplied to the crops to increase their growth and improve crop yield. These essential fertilizers are used by the farmers daily to increase crop yield. They are available in many forms of manures, compost, and granular or liquid amendments. Most people often apply them to a plant’s root system or as a foliar spray. There are many things you can do to help plants grow faster such as selecting the right fertilizer. In this article, we also covered the below topics about vegetable fertilizer requirements;

  • When should I fertilize my vegetables
  • How do you make natural fertilizer for vegetable plants
  • Choosing a fertilizer for your vegetable garden
  • The best fertilizer for vegetables in containers
  • Fertilizer options for your vegetable garden
  • How do you fertilize vegetables in pots
  • How to fertilize container vegetables
  • How often should you fertilize container vegetables
  • Best organic fertilizer for vegetables in India

A Step-by-Step Guide to Vegetable Fertilizer Requirements

Guide to Vegetable Fertilizer
Guide to Vegetable Fertilizer ( pic credit: pixabay)

Fertilizers are mainly either organic or inorganic. Some examples of organic fertilizers are manure (poultry, cow, or horse), bone meal, cottonseed, or other naturally occurring materials. While inorganic fertilizers are man-made products. They usually have a higher nutrient content. Some important fertilizers essential by vegetables are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Including other nutrients like iron, copper, manganese, and zinc are needed in much smaller amounts. The key to success knows when what, and how much to apply to create the perfect balance of available nutrients.

Fertilizing vegetables is a must if you wish to get the highest crop yields and the best quality products. The common recommendations for vegetable garden fertilizers are nitrogen and phosphorus, but these aren’t the only nutrients a healthy garden requires.

Several Reasons for Why Fertilizer Is Important to Plants;

There are several reasons why fertilizer is important to crops. The first reason is that the growing medium in the container and your vegetable plants depend on the nutrients they need. The second reason is that container growing vegetable plants get watered a lot, and every time you water you wash some nutrients from the soil. The third reason fertilizers are necessary is that in a container garden, you are packing lots of vegetable plants into a small space. For example, one 2′ x 2′ self-watering planter might contain a tomato plant, two pepper plants, a basil plant, and some parsley.

Types of Fertilizer for Vegetables Gardens

Vegetable plant nutrients are absorbed from the air and water, but a fertile garden has 14 additional macro-and micro-nutrients for the healthiest plant growth. A soil test will help determine if any additional nutrients need to be supplemented to the plants in the form of vegetable garden fertilizers. There are two types of fertilizer for vegetable gardens. They are organic and inorganic (synthetic) fertilizers for vegetable gardens.

The Essential Nutrients for Vegetable Plants – Vegetable plants require varying amounts of 14 nutrients for healthy plant growth. Mainly, three nutrients, in particular, are essential for vegetable plant growth; they are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium sometimes referred to as the primary nutrients or macronutrients. Also, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur make up the group of secondary nutrients. Last are the micronutrients; they are not required in the same high levels as the primary and secondary elements, but deficiencies can affect developmental problems and less resistance to disease and pests. Then, the micronutrient group comprises boron, zinc, iron, chlorine, copper, manganese, molybdenum, and nickel.

Soil test results also show a lack of phosphorus or potassium as well. Then, the three macronutrients can be added using a completely commercial product in changing ratios, such as 10-8-6 or 20-10-10. These nutrients numbers represent the guaranteed percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the fertilizer as required by law. Mix the fertilizer into the soil 2 to 4 weeks before planting out young vegetables. After planting, apply additional fertilizer boosts every 3 or 4 weeks until vegetables are harvested.

Choosing Fertilizer Options for Vegetables

Fertilizing vegetables with organic fertilizer doesn’t harm the environment, as the ingredients found within are naturally derived from plants and animals. Fertilizing vegetables with manure is a common organic fertilizing method. The downside to using manure as a fertilizer is that the garden will require additional fertilization during the growing season. Vegetable plants need nitrogen as well as other essential nutrients readily available, supplemental organic fertilizer is applied for quick feeding. This is used in conjunction with other fertilizers. For example, gardeners supplement compost or manure-rich soil with the application of manure tea or fish emulsion.

Fish emulsion is rich in nitrogen levels but low in phosphorus and it is sprinkled around the plants every 2 to 3 weeks or as needed. Manure tea is a simple decoction to make. Then, use the manure tea when you water to add supplemental organic nutrients. Another vegetable garden fertilizer option is to side-dress your vegetable plants. If this is the fertilizer option for you, select an inorganic fertilizer for vegetable gardens that is slow or controlled release. When selecting an inorganic fertilizer, you will notice there are numbers on the packaging. Most vegetables need a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10, but some need additional potassium while leafy greens often only require nitrogen.

List of Vegetables based on Heavy, Light, and Moderate Feeders

If your plant leaves are wilting or yellowing, it means that the plant lacks nitrogen content. If the plant is unhealthy, then all three potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen are lacking.

  • Nitrogen is required for the healthy and green growth of foliage. It is part of every plant protein, so it is required for virtually every process and is even more so helpful for green leafy vegetable plants.
  • Phosphorous is good for root development and improved flowering, so it is essential in abundance for root-vegetable plants.
  • Potassium affects the plant size, shape, color, taste and is also important in fruit formation and also in the ripening of fruits, making it an essential nutrient in abundance for fruit-bearing vegetables.

In general, all vegetable plants need nutrients in different proportions depending on the type of plant it is;

  • Major nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium)
  • Secondary nutrients (calcium, magnesium, Sulphur)
  • Micronutrients (boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum,and zinc)
  • You can also use liquid fertilizers that can be applied to the foliage or the base of the root.

Heavy Feeders

Some of the heavy feeder vegetables are Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Spinach, Cabbage, Cantaloupe, Cauliflower, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Kale, Kohlrabi, Onions, Peppers, Rhubarb, Squash, and Tomatoes.

Light Feeders

These benefit from a small amount of starter fertilizer but require no additional feeding when grown in soil that has been enriched with compost. These include Bush beans, Mustard greens, Peas, Southern peas, Turnips, Onion, Beet, Potato, Bean, Radish, Carrot, Pea, and Turnip.

Moderate Feeders                         

These need good drainage and moisture-holding mulch more than they need fertilizer. Moderate feeders all respond well to liquid plant food and these include Beets, Carrots, Okra, Pole beans, Potatoes, and Sweet potatoes.

When to Fertilize Your Vegetable Plants

For most annual vegetables, the general rule is to fertilize in the spring season before planting. For perennial plants, fertilize before growth begins in the spring season. Wait until the ground is no longer frozen and the date of your last frost is a week or so away. Then, this ensures that there is less of a chance of the tender new growth getting immediately killed by frost. The best time to start fertilizing vegetable plants is when they go into the ground. Boosting the soil in the planting hole with additional nutrients sets the stage for a vegetable plant’s success. Then, mix every single planting hole with a supply of natural nutrients to provide lasting power for the plant. A healthy dose of compost, mixed in with a few tablespoons of worm castings and coffee grounds gives a virtual cornucopia of balanced power to plants.

Many gardeners use a general-purpose fertilizer in the spring season (either an evenly-balanced fertilizer or one that’s slightly higher in nitrogen). Incorporate fertilizer into the soil several inches deep for vegetables. For perennials, work fertilizer lightly into the soil around the vegetable plants. Regular fertilizer applications keep vegetable plants vigorous. When plants grow reluctantly or start turning yellow color, fertilizer may help. Be careful too much fertilizer can burn plants. Vegetable plants growing in well-drained soil should be fed frequently.

Tips for Fertilizing Vegetable Plants

Soil test by using Soil pH Test Kit – Do soil test of the vegetable garden at least once every 2 years to understand the soil structure and nutrient properties of the soil. Then, this will provide specific details of nutrients lacking from the soil and how to amend them.

Always follow label direction – Each brand and each variety of fertilizers need a different rate of application. Read the package label carefully and follow the direction. Skipping this part can lead to plant burn, which can cause stunted growth or dead plant.

Side dress the fertilizer – Always applies granular fertilizer 4 to 6 inches away from the plant base. This ensures the plant roots do not come in direct contact with the fertilizer.

Don’t feed before the rain – The heavy rain can wash away the fertilizer and also pollute the water reservoirs. Wait for the clear day before applying fertilizer.

Avoid overfeeding – When it comes to fertilizing vegetable plants, too much of a good thing can ultimately be a bad thing. Vegetable plants that are over-fertilized begin to spend the excess nutrients grow only bigger stems and foliage. When it comes to vegetable plants, feeding every 2 to 3 weeks is more than enough.

Water the vegetable plants after fertilizing with granular fertilizers – Granular fertilizer cannot start to provide value to the plant until melted by water. Also, watering after fertilizer helps prevent the fertilizer burns on the plant roots.

Keep fertilizer stored in a secure place – Always store fertilizer package in a cool, dry location, away from direct sunlight and humidity.

Applying Liquid Fertilizers for Vegetable Plants

Once vegetable plants have had a bit of time to settle in and recover from shock, you can give them a more instant boost to power them up. Liquid fertilizers, in the form of compost tea, worm casting tea, and even manure tea can work wonders to boost vegetable plants. It can be used to water vegetable plants, absorbing energy both through the foliage and root zones.

How to Apply Liquid Fertilizers for Vegetable Plants

Many gardeners wait 2 to 3 weeks after planting before fertilizing with liquid solutions, and then the newly set-out plants should have recovered from any root damage. Organic liquid fertilizer works better for vegetable plants and faster in comparison to other soil organic fertilizers. When organic liquid fertilizer is sprayed on the plant leaves, the molecules enter into the plant’s system almost immediately through the opening in the leaves. If organic liquid fertilizer is good you should see results in 5 to 7 days.

Liquid Organic Fertilizers for Vegetable Plants

Liquid seaweed – Liquid seaweed is a standout among other organic fertilizers you can use in vegetable plants. Most seaweed-based fertilizers are produced using kelp and it contains more than 50 nutrients and amino acids. It can be utilized as a seed vaccinate to build seed germination.

Fish emulsion – Fish emulsion is one of the preferred organic fertilizers to use in the vegetable garden. Then, use it on everything from seedlings to develop plants to keep them growing great through the late spring. One of the preferred methods to utilize fish emulsion manure is to fill the planting opening with it when transplanting seedlings into the garden.

Blood meal – Adding a blood meal is an extraordinary method to give nitrogen to your vegetable plants. You can blend it in with compost when you top dress the garden in the spring season and then add more to the garden every month through the growing season.

Methods of Applying Fertilizer to Vegetable Plants

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Applying Fertilizer to Vegetable Plants
Applying Fertilizer to Vegetable Plants (pic source: pixabay)

Fertilizers are applied in four ways. They are;

Broadcast before planting. The proper amount of fertilizer is spread evenly over the vegetable plants and then mixed with the soil to a depth of about 3 to 4 inches before rows are made. This process is the least likely to cause plant damage and it is best for home gardeners.

Band or row applications – The fertilizer is carefully applied in a strip to the side of the row before planting. With this method, you should be careful to prevent the plant roots from coming in contact with the fertilizer band, which can kill plants.

Starter solution – This is used on transplants such as Tomato, Pepper, Eggplant, and Cabbage. Then, mix 2 tablespoons of garden fertilizer in 1 gallon of water and then stir well.

Application to growing plants, or side dressing – The amount and timing of fertilizer needed changes according to the type of vegetable planted. Side dressing increases the yield of most vegetables.

Fertilize fall vegetable gardens in the same way as spring gardens. If a fall garden follows a well-fertilized spring garden, you’ll need about half the spring fertilizer rate at planting.

Organic fertilizers can be granular, like Tomato, vegetable, and herb fertilizers, or liquid, like fish and kelp fertilizer. Granular fertilizers can be mixed into the soil at the planting time and every 2 months for established plants. Liquid fertilizer can be mixed with water and then applied once a week through the growing season.

Organic Fertilizer Requirements for Vegetables

What does organic fertilizer mean?

The definition of organic fertilizer means containing carbon. All living organisms are carbon-based. So the carbon needs of plant growth we use organic fertilizers which are rich in carbon as well as other ingredients. Generally, the fertilizers coming from organic sources are termed organic fertilizers. For example manure poultry, fish extracts, manure from cow or animal dung, cottonseed, compost, and other types of naturally occurring waste materials.

Nutrients in chemical fertilizer are more than it is found in organic fertilizer. So, we recommend the purchase of the best organic fertilizer for vegetables. If you select an inorganic fertilizer it is composed of NPK ratio which denotes the percentage of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. The most common ratio is about 10-10-10 which varies according to the crop.

Organic fertilizers are used in the traditional method of farming. Organic fertilizer is made without chemicals that are beneficial for long-term farming goals for vegetable crops as well as humans. The best plant nutrients can only be extracted from organic fertilizers to the advantage of being harmless to humans and the ecosystem.

Best Organic Fertilizer for Vegetables in India

Compost – Compost is the most widely used fertilizer for plant growth; it’s an organic matter decomposed by the process called composting. It is made from waste products collected all around in daily use like kitchen waste, animal waste, etc. It is rich in nutrients. The composting process includes dumping the waste into the soil before using it as fertilizer. Therefore, it proves to be beneficial in improving soil health, generating microorganisms and earthworms which help the growth of the plants.

Compost Teas – It is a solution derived from drenched compost. Thus, the well-aged compost has the most nutrients, preferably vermicomposting, made of worm casting as worms save the time of years of decomposition. To clarify, it can become an energizer drink for your plants and provide the essential nutrients.

Herbivore Manures – Herbivore Manures from animals like grass-fed cows, horses, rabbits, and chickens are termed as great fertilizers. Never use manure from animals like dogs or cats, or manures from humans. The best method is to use manures mixed with hay, straws, or alfalfa and set out to compost before using. So you should buy the best fertilizer for vegetables to get the best result.

Fish and Seaweed Emulsions – The great method to improve soil nutrients is by using Fish and seaweed (kelp) fertilizers. This provides your vegetable plants with good feeding.

Some of the organic fertilizer is good for vegetables are;

Blood Meal – A blood meal is good to give a nitrogen boost to vegetables. To use, mix it with compost while starting the plantation of the vegetable garden in the spring season and then add more to the garden each month through the growing season. Though, nitrogen-loving vegetable plants like Tomatoes, Peppers, Greens, Sweet Corn, and Cucumber get benefits from blood meal applications. It is prepared from the dried blood of the animals, and never be applied in excess.

Worm Castings – It helps to improve soil structure. To use worm casting spread about 1/2 an inch to 1 inch of worm castings over top of your garden in the spring. Later within small time intervals, you can add extra worm castings to the soil. It is a digested, organic matter left by the earthworms in the soil.

Fish Emulsion – This organic liquid fertilizer comes from the byproduct of the fish like bones, scales, and skin. To begin with, it helps the manual growth of the plants during summers. To use it, transplant these seeds while planting a vegetable plant.

Cow Dung Manure – It is one of the most popular fertilizers in India, it is easy to make and use. Just use the cow dung and prepare a mixture by mixing it with grass clippings and then used for plants.

Neem cake – It is an eco-friendly option that enriches soil fertility while working as a natural pesticide. Also, it balances the alkalinity of the soil and is compatible with beneficial soil microbes.

Bone Meal – To put more simply, it is good in phosphorus which helps vegetable plants to grow a healthy and strong root system. Also, it is combined used with Blood meal to get better results.

Cottonseed Meal – Cottonseed meal helps to lower the pH level and an awesome fertilizer to replace minerals in your soil.

Feather Meal – It is made up of dried and ground-up poultry feathers. This makes it an excellent source of slow-release nitrogen for vegetable gardens. It’s helpful for plants like corn and tomatoes that need high amounts of nitrogen over a long growing season.

Rock Phosphate – By adding rock phosphate called rock dust to your soil you solve the problem of lack of minerals in your soil. This will help improve root growth, increase yields and your food will have a richer taste.

Fertilizing Container Growing Vegetable Plants

The easiest method to go about fertilizing potted vegetable plants is by preparing a nutrient solution and pouring it over the soil mix. The fertilizer is absorbed by the plant roots and quickly adds what is missing from the existing soil.

Once you’ve selected a fertilizer, you’ll need to apply it about once every 2 weeks for container-grown vegetable plants. Then, this assumes that you’re growing in a high-quality, compost-rich potting mix that will help retains nutrients.

The excellent fertilizers for container-grown vegetable plants are liquid kelp, seaweed, or fish-based fertilizers. When using any natural liquid fertilizer, follow label instructions for mixing rates and also application instructions. Start fertilizing container vegetable plants twice a week. Fertilize your houseplants once a week and feed the plants in your garden every 2 to 3 weeks. Hungry container vegetable plants require a regular liquid feed. You can feed vegetable plants through their leaves or roots.

Which is the Best Fertilizer for Container Grown Vegetable Plants?

Slow Release Fertilizer – Slow release fertilizer is also called timed-release fertilizer; consists of small plastic balls which contain the nutrients. These work well and are used by many nurseries since they save time. You need to apply them once or twice a season, a good option for those of us that forget to fertilize.

Water Soluble Fertilizer – Water-soluble fertilizer is available as a powder or a liquid. These can be added directly to the pot or to the water you use for watering the vegetable plants.

Best Homemade Fertilizers for Vegetable Plants

Homemade fertilizers increase crop yield and improve poor-quality land. Best homemade fertilizers for growing vegetables are grass clippings, kitchen scraps, tree leaves, coffee grounds, eggshells, banana peels, compost, aquarium water, cooking water, wood ash, rabbit manure, chicken manure, and manure/compost tea or extract.

Vegetable plants especially the summer vegetable plants need a consistent supply of nutrients to grow and produce harvest over the entire season.

Strong organic fertilizer – High-quality or strong organic fertilizer has a variety of favorable microorganisms, these consistently release the required nutrients for the plant’s growth. This helps to increase the soil unity, and improve the soil’s fertility, water, and heat preservation ability.

Balanced organic fertilizer – A balanced fertilizer is added to the soil to provide essential mineral elements.


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