should I add fertilizer?

berryman135678February 2, 2013

I add compost (about an inch) every fall. I through out add coffee grounds and other mulch like straw and wood mulch. I added manure but had tons of weeds in the garden about 4 years ago. I haven't added any N since and wondering if I should throw down some 10-10-10 this spring? I know I should get a soil sample but in our area of IA I don't have a lot of faith in the experts.

This post was edited by berryman135678 on Sat, Feb 2, 13 at 20:31

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"I don't have a lot of faith the experts."

You've come to the right place!



    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 8:26PM
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I don't get from your post why you'd think of adding more ferts cause you just said you got a lot of weeds there and then you didn't say what were you planting there and if there's any nutrient deficient signs.

Actually what are you suspecting is lacking in your soil and based on what ground if I may ask ?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 10:24PM
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Adding any "fertilizer" without knowing what might be needed and how much is a waste of your money and may well cause more problems then you care to think about. Excess soil nutrients are as bad, and often give similar symptoms, as nutrient deficiencies. Too much P in your soil can inhibit a plants ability to uptake Zinc, Iron, and Cobalt and too much K can inhibit the uptake of Nitrogen. Too much Nitrogen produces a whole array of other problems.
Have a good reliable soil test for soil pH, Phosphorus, Potash, Calcium, Magnesium, etc. done before thinking of adding some "fertilizer".

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 7:10AM
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Because I come from a old line of thought that you always add N (either Manure or granular) to your garden every year. Since I started gardening on my own I have tried to rely on better gardening methods. But that being said I was wondering if it could hurt, if there was a rule of thumb that if you add compost every year then you only need to add additional N every other or so many years? I think I am going to break down and get a soil sample done. Again I dont trust the Extension office here (they have given folks flat out wrong info on all sorts of things. Also some of the labs in the area have been shall I say it not the most professional. The state lab (I look ed on ISU site for info), doesn't say they even test the N level. So do I buy a kit?
Oh last year garden was how hom for growth in the plants.

Going to start growing and adding Comfrey to my compost, any one had any luck?

This post was edited by berryman135678 on Sun, Feb 3, 13 at 9:42

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 9:27AM
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You said that last year the garden was ho-hum for growth of plants. That might indicate a need for fertilizer. It is generally safe to add compost, it is hard to get too much organic fiber into the soil. But too much fertilizer is definitely not good, much of it will run off and end up in the watershed, or in the ground water. One way to avoid this is to use Miracle-Gro or Schultz's plant food, mixed in with water, and used conservatively. You don't have to add fertilizer every time you water, once a month, during the growing season, should be plenty. If you try this, and see an improvement in growth and yield, then the plants will have answered your question.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 6:43PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I would like to stir up some discussion concerning the best time of year to get a soil test. Are we not wanting to know the available level of the soil minerals? organic matter and PH.

Warm weather brings bacteria and fungi into action upon the soil matter and obviously nitrogen and other numbers change. Might it be like catching a snapshot at a given instant of time?

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 8:44PM
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Nitrogen availability is dependant on soil temperature which influences the activity of the soil bacteria which provide the N to the plants. Very few good soil test labs test for N anymore for that reason.
Most people experienced less than optimal growing conditions last year because of the hot and dry weather that limited soil moisture levels that kept plants from uptaking nutrients as needed. The home soil test kits provide less information then would a soil test from your state university and often, in my experience, wrong information.
What is your soils pH?
What are the nutrient levels in your soil?
What is the ratio of Calcium to Magesium?

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 6:47AM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

You should contact the state lab and ask them. I'll bet they will do N testing. The above posts are correct about N changing seasonally. Farmers often need to test N levels to gauge fertilizer needs for crops.

My Extension lab does it, but I didn't even bother last year when I got a test. I did everything else though, and learned my copius compost additions have raised my P and K to very high levels. Not saying you're in that situation, but in my case, I sure won't add any P or K fertilizer. If I think N is needed, it'll be something like urea or 29-3-3 lawn fert so as not to boost the P and K and farther.

This post was edited by toxcrusadr on Thu, Feb 7, 13 at 11:04

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 1:29PM
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fairfield8619(Zone 8 NW LA)

Get a couple of those MG cartridge thingys that attach to your hose and spray everything down really good. It will perk everything up in no time. Works great.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 12:44AM
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I use lots of compost each year, and when I say lots, I mean lots. My three-bin compost bins contain horse manure, leaves, grass, all our kitchen waste and paper towels, wood stove ash, and I occasionally throw a scoop of greensand, bone meal, kelp meal, and rock dust on them as they are being built. Everything seems to grow well so I haven't had a soil test done in years. If I did, I would probably find various nutrient levels to be too high which would cause me to worry about it. I'm too old for that kind of worry now.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 6:12AM
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Is there a reason to stick with your own state extension service or state university for a soil test? I've been using the University of Massachusetts for my own tests (from West Virginia) and for those of family members from all over the country -- they're very thorough, test for heavy metals, and it costs $10.00. You can add $5.00 and get your OM level tested, and if you're concerned that you've added too much manure over the years (which it sounds like you haven't) then you can add an additional $5.00 and get salt levels tested.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 10:22PM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

Sounds like a super deal elisa. If they'll take mail ordered samples, some folks might get a better deal. Although shipping cost is getting ridiculous. I just sent a CD to someone by Media Mail and it cost $2.50.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 10:41AM
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sunnyside1(z6/SW Mo.)

You mentioned using Comfrey in your compost bin. DO grow this, as everything about the perinneal plant is beneficial. I have four comfrey plants and use the stems, cut up, in the bin, and some of the leaves are laid around the vegetable plants as a light mulch all summer. They break down easily to a black goo-like stuff and every plant loves them. I have four plants, so far they are growing 2-4 ft. (depending on the age of the plant) and the leaves can even be used as a polutice for sprains, sore knees,etc. Check the internet for this. You can order the roots from a place in North Carolina and I was very happy with the service/prices.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 6:53PM
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I'm in Environmental Science class, the N-P-K fertilizers are causing a problem to our ecosystems and oceans. I would find a organic fertilizer or soil amendment such as Kelp, Seaweed, Fish Emulsion, Rock Dust, organic alfalfa meal, Activated Charcoal, Earth worm castings).

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 7:16PM
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Some of the state universities that do soil testing will not accept soil samples from outside that state because that puts them into competition with privately owned labs.

ladyrose, as you have learned N-P-K fertilizers are causing problems and that can be from these organic fertilizers as well as the synthetic if the organic fertilizers are used in excess, the soil does not have adequate levels of organic matter in them, drain too well, or a number of other reasons which is why having periodic soil tests for nutrient levels is the environmentally sound thing to do.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 6:17AM
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