If your vegetable garden is not thriving, you may need to feed your plants
CORVALLIS – So your vegetable garden becomes lush and fruitful – or not. If the latter is true, you may need to feed your plants.
Chip Bubl, associate professor and horticulturalist in the Extension Department at Oregon State University, has been providing advice on vegetable gardening for many years, and some tips on feeding plants in midsummer.
Most market gardeners start their crops with a balanced fertilizer that is incorporated into the soil before planting. For light crops, this will be enough to bring them to maturity.
Nitrogen is the plant nutrient that is most often reapplied after the crop has emerged and grown. There are several reasons for this. First, nitrogen escapes from our soils in winter and we have almost nothing left to start each vegetable year. Second, nitrogen is crucial for vigorous plant growth. A lack of nitrogen produces pale green to yellowish green plants that are often stunted. Third, nitrogen is easily soluble, unlike other plant nutrients, and can move quickly from the soil surface to the root zone if watered after its application.
Gardeners often apply fertilizer to their crops in midsummer with one cup of ammonium sulfate (21-0-0), one and one-third cup of calcium nitrate (15-0-0) or about half a cup of urea (46-0-0) per 10 feet of row. Scatter the fertilizer near the growing plant and water it. Cultures will respond very quickly. It is not uncommon to see a major change in the color of the crops within two weeks. Corn, onions, cabbage family and squash are particularly reactive.
Some organic fertilizers like blood meal and alfalfa pellets will also work well. They should be slightly sunk into the ground and it will take longer to see the response. So, consider using these organics earlier if you think nitrogen may be lacking in your garden a bit. Fish emulsion should be used more often to achieve the same effect. Read the label for dilution and application rates with fish emulsion.
The accompanying dressing at the right time generally produces higher yields and better quality vegetables. The schedule for these crops is:
But: when 8 inches tall and when 24 inches tall
Cabbage: 30 days after transplanting
Cukes: when the vines spread quickly
Winter squash: like cucumbers
Summer squash: at the start of fruit set:
Peppers: the same as the squash
Potatoes: when the vines are 8 inches tall
Beets: when 4 inches tall
Lettuce: like beets
Peas and beans are light feeders but only if the seeds were inoculated at planting with the bacteria that help them capture nitrogen from the air in the root nodules. Otherwise, they may need a supply of nitrogen during the growing season. Tomatoes are fairly heavy feeders, but too much nitrogen can cause overgrowth of shoots, leading to increased blossom end rot in tomatoes. Make any bandage with a gentle hand.
When we add a lot of organic matter to soils or if we buy a soil mix with a high organic content, not only is there often hardly any nitrogen available from the organic matter (again) but the creatures of the compost that will start to break it down needs more nitrogen. So, under these conditions, the application of nitrogen throughout the growing year will be very important for your crops.
– Kym Pokorny, email@example.com