I’m not big on fertilizing plants. For one thing, it’s a time consuming, messy task. But my real reason is that I agree with those who say to feed the soil and let the soil feed your plants. When my plants look ill, I know it’s time to add some organic matter. Of course, I try not to wait that long, but time can get away from you in the summer.
So when I was asked how often vegetables need fertilizer, I really had to think. These are my suggestions, for a garden that has good soil. If your garden does not have good soil, start by beefing it up, rather than adding supplemental food. You’ll be amazed at the difference.
Early in the season, when temperatures are still cool and the ground is just warming up, we mainly grow leafy vegetables. These are quick growers and as long as your soil is moderately rich in organic matter, they won’t need any additional fertilizer. If you’re soil is poor and you forgot to add compost, go ahead and give them a hit of all purpose vegetable fertilizer. Something balanced or high in nitrogen, like a kelp based food, would be find.
When the heat loving, fruit producing crops like tomatoes, peppers, and corn, start growing, you will probably need some supplemental food. These are heavy feeders and they can deplete even the richest soils. I like to mix in a slow releasing, dry, organic food, before planting. It will slowly add nutrients to the soil and be available when these plants need them.
By the time fall rolls around and the quick growing leafy vegetables start to re-fill my garden, it’s time to top dress with a bit more compost. There is never enough compost. I don’t usually bother with more fertilizer at this point, if I’ve added anything during the summer months.
When I close my garden for the season and try to get my hoop house up in time, I do one more sprinkling of granular organic fertilizer. I top this with a layer of leaves. I don’t bother to shred them any more. They break down from all the freezing, thawing and snow fall. The worms love it and, until the soil is frozen, they come up and help turn in the fertilizer and break up the leaves. The fertilizer won’t do much over winter, but it should be there for my first spring vegetables to take advantage of.