After deciding on the types and amounts of fertilizer to use then decide how to apply it. How fertilizer is applied may make the difference between a super productive garden and an "average" garden.
Fertilizers are applied four ways:
Broadcast before planting. The proper amount of fertilizer is spread evenly over the garden and mixed well with the soil to a depth of 3 to 4 inches before making beds for planting. This method is least likely to cause plant damage and is used by most gardeners.
Band or bed applications. The fertilizer is applied in a strip to the side of the row before planting. This method requires care to prevent plant damage from roots which may come into contact with the fertilizer band.
Starter solution. This is used mainly on transplants such as tomatoes and peppers. Mix 2 tablespoons of garden fertilizer with 1 gallon of water and stir well. Pour 1 cup of the mixture into the hole and let it soak in before transplanting.
Side dressing. The term side dressing simply denotes an application of fertilizer, usually one containing nitrogen only, alongside the rows or in a circle around growing plants. This insures a nitrogen supply as plants grow and develop. Side dressing is particularly beneficial in sandy soils or in seasons of abundant rainfall as nitrogen has a bad habit of being washed or leached out of the root zone.
One heavy fertilizer application in early spring is not enough; it's much better to apply a moderate amount before planting with supplemental side dressings during the growing season.
Side dressing offers three very important advantages. Properly used, it helps prevent delayed fruit set caused by excessive nitrogen too early in the season, it significantly increases yields and it results in healthier, stronger plants with fewer pest problems.
The rate and timing of sh­p; i¿ations are if<@tant. Unless otherwise specified, cup of ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) per 10 feet of row is adequate for most vegetable crops. Information concerning the best time to sidedress specific crops is outlined below:
- Onions - when 5 to 6 leaves have formed.
- Tomatoes and peppers - when first fruits are small, apply 1 level tablespoon per plant. Repeat every 4 weeks.
- Squash - when vines are 1 foot long at a rate of 1 level tablespoon per plant.
- Herbs - when about half grown and after first harvest.
Whenever sidedressing, avoid getting the fertilizer particles on the plant foliage and always water thoroughly after application.