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The dirt on fertilizers: part 2

June 30th, 2011
Using the tips and tricks from Cindy Fake’s article in the The Curious Gardener, we have compiled a list of great fertilizing suggestions for your summer veggies! (Click here to read part 1.)
Lettuce and other greens are short-season crops which means they grow to maturity in 30-75 days. An initial nitrogen supply is important because these plants are all-leaf and grow rapidly. Side dress with a nitrogen fertilizer when seedlings are 2-3 inches tall. To side-dress, dig a shallow trench 2-4 inches away from the plants that is 2-4 inches deep. Use one half to one pound of blood or fish meal or a granular fertilizer with 10 to 15 percent nitrogen such as a calcium nitrate.  Use 1/2 to one pound per 50 feet of row.  Along the row, try using a liquid fertilizer for foliar feeding or band a nitrogen fertilizer.  (See illustration below to understand what ‘banding’ fertilizer means.)
Large Barred Boar Tomatoes from Wild Boar Farms
This group of plants have a long life cycle and need several fertilizer applications to maintain production, therefore initial nitrogen is important for good leaf canopy to support fruit production. Since fruiting mode requires less nitrogen and more phosphorus and potassium, it is good to use a vegetable fertilizer with a low first number such as 6-12-18 or 5-10-5.When it comes to side dressing, Cindy suggests you dig a shallow furrow in a circle around the plant about 5-6 inches from the stem. Then place fertilizer in the furrow and cover, making a second application 2-3 weeks after you harvest the first fruit and another one about one month later.
Royal Burgundy Bush Beans
Beans and peas have the ability to take nitrogen from the air and fix it in the soil. Because of these it is important to be cautious of fertilizing with a high nitrogen fertilizer, so instead bring on the phosphorus! These plants can thrive with high phosphorus fertilizer, which should be used when side dressing them. Try a 5-10-5 or 8-16-16 fertilizer at pod set which will give a boost to later fruit production.
Yellow Squash
These plants have relatively low nitrogen needs (too much nitrogen will cause excess vine growth and retard fruiting) and high phosphorus and potassium needs. Try adding compost or well-composted manure to row or planting mound to promote good fruit development. When side dressing, use 6-10-10 or 10-10-10 fertilizers after flowering begins, reapplying 3-4 weeks later or use 1-2 cups of compost at flowering, which will maintain soil organic matter.

**All photos in this article came from the UC Davis Good Life Garden!

Below is an illustration of how to ‘band’ fertilizer along your seed row.

Image illustrating band fertilizer application.

How to 'band' a fertilizer application along your seed row.


The Dirt on Fertilizers

June 28th, 2011

We all know we need to fertilize our plants and gardens, but the options can be overwhelming. Placer County Master Gardener Cindy Fake can help!  Here we have excerpted from her article, “Fertilizing Vegetable Gardens” to bring you this two-part fertilization series.  (Download the complete article here.)


Made from animal or plant products or mined minerals. Organic fertilizers have soil-building properties beyond their nutrient value. They are slow release, which means they have to be broken down by soil microbes and other chemical processes before they can become beneficial. The slow release fertilizer options reduce the risk of leaching (the loss of water soluble plant nutrients).

Slow release, organic fertilizers include: bone meal, kelp meal, oystershell lime, dolomitic lime, and soft phosphate rock.  Slow release fertilizer is not the best option for short-season crops because the nutrients may not be released in time for your plants to use them.

Organic fertilizers include:

  • bone meal
  • kelp meal
  • oystershell lime
  • dolomitic lime
  • soft phosphate rock
  • blood meal
  • chicken manure
  • liquid kelp
  • fish emulsion
  • some fish meal


Composed of inorganic chemicals or minerals, synthetic fertilizers can be found as granular fertilizer in bags labeled 12-12-12 or 15-15-15 (See diagram.), or they may be called vegetable or tomato fertilizer. Synthetic fertilizers often are available in large quantities, such as ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) or calcium nitrate (15.5-0-0 + 19% Ca).

Coated pellet synthetic fertilizer, is another option but is more expensive up-front; however, because it is a slow release fertilizer, it will continue to fertilize over a period of months, making it a more cost-effective choice in the long run.


Here is a link to a past articles you might find informative that goes over the type of organic soil amendments we use in the Good Life Garden.

Good Life Garden Soil Amendments

Link to video about Good Life Garden Soil Amendments

Stay tuned for more of Cindy’s fertilizing tips in “The Dirt on Fertilizing: Part 2″!