Soil FertilityThe first step in successful vegetable production is to take care of the nutrition of the garden. You must realize that soil fertility is one of the few things that you can control in the garden. All the other aspects are up to nature. I divide soil fertility in vegetable production into three areas: (1) soil pH; (2) Preplant fertility; and (3) side dressing of fertilizer.
Soil pHVegetable producers should take a soil test at least once every 3 years. A little hint is to soil-test 1/3 of your fields every year. The best time to soil-test is when you finish your spring crops. This gives you time to get the results back in time to apply lime - if needed - in August and September.
If you have acid soils adjust the soil pH level to 6.0 -7.0. You also want to have 800 -1000 ppm Calcium and 100-200 ppm of Magnesium. If you have an alkaline soil you are in most cases in good shape and do not need to adjust the soil pH. Irish potatoes and sweet potatoes are grown on acid soils, pH 5.0-6.0, because of the absence of soil diseases at acid soil pH. If you want to lower your soil pH, request that a sulfur requirement be run to determine the amount of sulfur you need to apply to reduce the pH to the desired level. Elemental sulfur, aluminum sulfate and iron sulfate can be used to reduce your soil pH.
Preplant FertilizerI divide up vegetable crops into heavy feeders and medium feeders. The heavy feeders are: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, Irish potatoes, sweet corn.
The medium feeders are: snap beans, butter beans, Southern peas, cucumbers, squash, cantaloupes, watermelons, mustard, turnips, collards, okra, and sweet potatoes.
Preplant Fertilizers for Heavy Feeders
These crops require 5-7 pounds of 8-24-24 per 100 feet of row applied in the row 7 to 10 days before planting. [This works out to 500 to 700 pounds of 8-24-24/acre. A simple fact to remember is that 100 pounds of fertilizer per acre is equal to 1 pound of fertilizer per 100 foot of row. ] It is always a good idea to get an inch or rain on the garden after putting out the fertilizer before you plant. The rain is necessary to activate the fertilizer and to lessen the chance of burning the newly planted crops. This is especially true in the late summer and fall when the ground is dry. Generally there is sufficient soil moisture in the spring to avoid burning your newly planted crops.
Sidedress Fertilizers for Heavy Feeders'Side dressing' is the additional application of nitrogen fertilizer 3 or 4 weeks after planting or when the plants start to bloom and set fruit. Some crops are side dressed once while other are side dressed 2 or 3 times.
Preplant Fertilizers for Medium FeedersThese crops require 3-5 pounds of 8-24-24 per 100 feet of row applied in the row 7 to 10 days before planting. [This works out to 300 to 500 pounds of 8-24-24/acre].
Sidedress Fertilizers for Medium FeedersOne pound of AMNO3/100 foot of row [100 pounds AMNO3/A] or 2 pounds CANO3/100 foot of row [200 pounds CANO3/A] 3 or 4 weeks after planting or when the plants start to bloom and set fruit, will supply the additional nitrogen to make a good crop.
Rule of Thumb on Fertilizing Vegetable Crops:
THE AMOUNT OF FERTILIZER THAT YOU APPLY IS ONE OF THE FEW FACTORS THAT YOU CAN CONTROL IN VEGETABLE PRODUCTION. KEEP VEGETABLES WELL FERTILIZED AND WATERED. THIS WILL HELP TO REDUCE YOUR INSECT AND DISEASE PROBLEMS 1 QUART OF FERTILIZER = 2 POUNDS 1 PINT OF FERTILIZER = 1 POUND MEASURE YOUR ROWS AND WRITE IT DOWN, TO MAKE SURE THAT YOU ARE PUTTING OUT THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF FERTILIZER
Plastic mulch warms the soil and enhances crop development in the early spring. It provides weed controls, maintains soil moisture, sheds large amount of water away from the plant in times of heavy rain, and prevents the soil from splashing on the plant. Use black plastic in the spring and white plastic in the summer and fall.
Drip IrrigationDrip irrigation tube is buried 2 to 3 inches deep under the plastic mulch. Drip irrigation applies a little bit of water over a long period of time, keeping the soil in the perfect moisture condition. You can also inject nitrogen fertilizer though the drip tube to the plants. This process is call fertigation.
The drip tube and plastic mulch can be double cropped. Paint the black plastic with a mixture of 1 part white latex paint to 3 parts of water.
Weed ControlThe main means of weed control in vegetable crops is cultivation.
The second means of weed control is to get rid of the problem weeds before and after you plant.
ALL VEGETABLE FIELDS NEED AN APPLICATION OF GLYPHOSATE (ROUND UP, RATTLER, GLYPHOMAX, GLYPHOSATE) AT LEAST ONCE PER YEAR TO KILL THE TOUGH TO CONTROL PERENNIAL WEEDS.
Organic mulches, such as leaves, are an ideal way to control weeds between the row middles and around the plants while providing organic matter to the soil.