Spring : Tending to the Veggie Patch
I planted my garden in mid May this year and everything is growing great, but now I am in maintenance mode! Watering, weeding, thinning, cultivating, reseeding for succession... it's a lot of work! And at the end I know I will be rewarded with a bumper crop of produce to keep our fridge full for the summer and our freezer full for a good portion of the winter and spring. However, keep in mind that the veggies wouldn't mind a little bit of food in return.
Vegetables require sunlight, water, and in most cases, a consistent source of nutrition to develop and be productive. They all have different fertilizer requirements- some are light feeders, some are heavy feeders. Many commercial growers will alter the blends of fertilizers they use depending on the crops they are growing, but this is often hard to do in your back yard especially if you have a wide variety of veggies intensively planted in a small space.
It can be frustrating to decide which fertilizer to use so sometimes it is best to keep it simple, especially if you are new to the game. I personally choose a complete balanced fertilizer in my veggie bed, consisting of organic and natural ingredients. I do, however, give my corn a bit of an extra kick by side casting some blood meal in addition to my regular fertilizer regime, as it is quite a heavy feeder.
At planting time, I will dig in a 2"-3" layer of Soil Amender or Fish Compost, then top dress my planting area with a small amount of fertilizer and work it into the surface of the soil. Throughout the course of their development, I supplement the plantings every 3-4 weeks with fertilizer applications until it is getting close to harvest time.
Everybody has their own techniques and secrets for fertilizing their vegetable beds. They range from using materials such as compost teas, granular/liquid organic fertilizers, and even synthetic fertilizers with a certain percentage of organic matter. I personally prefer to choose the organic path, using natural ingredients that will also help to enhance the soil structure in my garden beds, and I would encourage others to as well. However, there is no right or wrong - it is a matter of preference and what works for you. Just keep in mind to READ THE LABEL on the product that you choose to apply to ensure that there are no ingredients that may pose harm to your health! Also if you are using composts or manure products, make sure that they have been properly composted!
On a final note, you may want to consider doing a soil test next spring before you plant. This will tell you what nutrients are available and in what quantities, the percentage of organic matter present in the soil, the PH level of the soil, and many other things that we won't get into at this time. Soil PH plays an important factor in the uptake of nutrients by your plants. A soil test will tell you If it is necessary to raise or lower your soil PH creating optimal soil conditions to enhance the performance of your veggie patches for the next round.