fertilizing your veggies

purnima(z9CA)April 23, 2012

I have been growing a few of the usual veggies in the past couple of years (tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, peas and peppers) and have fertilized them randomly and seldom. The yields were ok and last year was wonderful except for the peppers. What is the regimen you follow for fertilizing? and what kind of fertilizer? Thanks for replying.


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howelbama(7 NJ)

It really depends on your soil conditions... I try to build up my soil every year by adding compost and other organic material. I do fertilize, but I only use things like rotted chicken manure, bone meal, etc... Espoma has some great stuff... I like their garden tone alot, only use it a couple of times a season

If you are growing in containers, then it is a whole different story, and you need to fertilize regularly...

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 3:56PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Agree with all of the above. Containers or in ground? Totally different situations.

If in ground what have you done to improve and/or amend your soil? Well developed and amended soil with a high level of organic matter may only need 1 broadband application prior to planting and another for specific crops mid-season. While un-amended clay or sandy soil may require regional weekly applications for all except the legumes.

Lastly, "tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, peas and peppers" all have very different nutrient needs and different growth-cycle timing for applications. Have you been timing your applications to fruit-set? Have you been using water soluble fertilizers, organic fertilizers, or synthetic granular ones?

Need more info or it would be far too easy to unintentionally mislead you.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 4:55PM
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Thanks for your replies.
I have raised beds that is rich in organic nutrients. Every year I have added a third of compost soil to augment for the loss over the previous year. I had not grown any winter veggies in them except for peas last year. This year I have planted lettuce, carrots and peas which seem to grow slowly since it didnt rain here till March (Northern Cal). I didnt have time to replenish with compost material like last year. So I am wondering if I can add the compost soil around the individual seedlings of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. Over the last 2 years I have fertilized the plants with organic (EBStone) tomato and vegetable food just as the flowers set - maybe twice in the season and that's all. That's all the fertilizer I have added. I usually till the soil in the spring time, bringing the soil from down to upper layer. But this year I didnt do it. The lettuce and carrots have justed started growing and I am not sure if I can till now. Please recommend if I need to do something. I hope my message is not too long-winded.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 8:58PM
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howelbama(7 NJ)

Did your peppers flower a lot last year and just not set many peppers? If so, it may have been a pollination issue rather than fertilizer. I tend to go out an tap my tomato and pepper plants a few times a week when they are flowering to help them pollinate. My yields are usually really good, just be very careful when you do this to peppers as they are much more fragile than tomatoes.

If you are not seeing any signs of deficiencies like yellowing leaves, blossom end rot, etc... I wouldn't stress to much about the fertilizer, and just keep doing what you have been doing. If you're seeing signs in the plant foliage that make you think something might be off with their nutrients, then maybe take a sample of the plant and the soil to your county agricultural extension and have them tested.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 9:24PM
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I usually cheat and stick one of those miracle grow wide spectrum fertilizer stakes in next to the plant when I put it in the ground. Good balanced macro nutrients, all the main micro nutes, and my plants seem to be happy with it.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 10:09PM
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I had wonderful crop of eggplants and very huge crop of hot peppers. I used Perfectly Natural 666 organic fertilizer combined with compost. This year, I added compost of horse manure/chicken/goat and organic compost along with main fertilizer Espoma Tomatone.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 1:01PM
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If you have good soil with lots of organic matter most of the time you need nothing for beans and peas, and only nitrogen for the rest. Tomatoes and cukes can do with a single N shot, sometimes 2-4 weeks after transplanting, about 1/5 ounces urea (46/0/0) per 50 sqft. Peppers need a bit more, perhaps two applications.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 6:04PM
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The distinction between fertilizing methods for in-ground/large raised beds vs. container/sterile conditions was a real a-ha moment for me in gardening. I follow the steps others have said above - compost, compost tea, seaweed & fish, cheap or free organic amendments - but here in SoCal I'm growing 11+ months out of the year in some beds, so I only have the periods where I'm switching crops to add sub-soil amendments or improve my tilth and it needs to be a substantial input, I've learned.

I germinate my seedlings in flats and then like to transplant them into 24" of fluffy, highly-enriched soil that is about 1/3 native mineral soil, 1/2 fully composted organic matter (from a variety of plant types) and 1/10 sand and solid fertilizer amendments (bone, blood meal, worm castings, ...). In the last year, I've got in down to about a 10 day switchover, as I like to let the disturbed soil "settle" a bit before I put tender transplant roots into them, here's what that looked like this weekend:

Here's how it looked last July, with the soils less improved than now and the lens distance hiding the creeping blight slowing my cherry tomatoes' growth & heath. So I'm expecting great things this year (always a great way to have nature humble me in some new, painful way).

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 7:34PM
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1. This year I have planted lettuce, carrots and peas which seem to grow slowly since it didnt rain here till March (Northern Cal).

2. I am wondering if I can add the compost soil around the individual seedlings of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.

3. organic (EBStone) tomato and vegetable food just as the flowers set - maybe twice in the season and that's all.

4. I am not sure if I can till now.


1. Sounds like the low levels of rain are the culprit.
2. For sure. Side dressing with compost is a good idea
3. Looks like good stuff & sounds like a good program. Maybe decrease the amounts & increase the frequency?
4. I would not till now. Perhaps digging extra large grow holes before planting, but I wouldn't risk damaging the roots of your existing plants.

Peppers can be finicky, so I'm not sure I'd stress out just because last year you didn't have a great crop of peppers.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 10:12AM
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I really like ground fish meal, fish emulsion and kelp.
I also like Frog'Farm tomato fertilizer with mycos. Finally, composted manures. Both the chicken manure mixed with alfalfa hay bedding and my aged horse manure, which I mix in at the beginning of each growing season.
I will sidedress my more perinniel veggies with manure about 3-4 times a year as well.
Alfalfa pellets or meal is another nice addition, plus a great soil conditioner. I prefer the pellets since they have molasses and they're cheap. 80 pound bags at the feed store (horse pellets) for 12-15$. They expand in water after 8 hours.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 11:58AM
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Thanks for all the inputs. My tomato, bean and peas crop last year were really good. But I had tilled the soil and added new compost material. This year havent done any of that and now that the lettuce and carrots (all sown directly) are growing I dont know how to add the compost/fertilizer to the bed. That is the reason I was asking what do people do? Thanks. Purnima

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 4:27PM
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You are much safer using organic fertilizers. Also, the organics add other micro and macronutrients beside just the "big 3". You won't get the salt build-up, burning and nutrient run off with organics. Don't be fooled into thinking that the low numbers of organic fertilizers make them less valuable.
Kelp, at 0-0-1, actually works as more of a growth hormone. I've seen amazing results and always use maxicrop at transplant and with any stress such as heat or potting up. I add it every time I fertilize as well.
Fish emulsion or ground, dried fish meal, is high (relatively) in nitrogen but is quite gentle. You can use the emulsion as a foliar spray (especially nice in the mixtures that come with kelp) or as a soil drench. The fish meal can be used as a slower release side dressing or at planting out in the hole.
Seed meals like soy bean meal or cotton seed meal, as well as alfalfa pellets or alfalfa meal, can be wonderful fertilizers at a very low cost. Just purchase at the local feed store in 50-80 pound bags, till in the soil in spring or fall.
Manure, don't forget aged or composted chickenr, rabbit or horse manure! It's a great fertilizer and soil conditioner!
You can also make teas from alfalfa or manures.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 5:44PM
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Amending my previous post, I meant 1.5, not 1/5. To add urea, I tend to dilute it in a lot of water, and then water the bed with the water. 5 gallons per ounce is sufficient.

I am organic otherwise. unfortunately all compost retains all P, K and micronutrients, but it will lose about half the N to degassing. Usage of just organic matter usually increases P and K over time, while seldom providing all the N that is needed, specially for something like collard, cabbage or pepper. There is, of course, a strictly organic source of urea in your household, producing 1/5-1/6 of an ounce per person per day. If you are willing to use that, you can be strictly organic.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 10:36PM
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