Today’s Gardening Tip: Fertilizers and compost teas

Just like you, your veggie plants need food on a regular basis. Heavy-feeder plants (i.e. tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, broccoli, cabbage and melons) need more food than light feeders (i.e. Swiss chard, peas, carrots and sweet potatoes).

Fertilizers

Bone Meal

Delicious bone meal. Your plants say “yummmm!”

Side dressing with an organic balance fertilizer found in most garden centers will work for most of your plants’ needs. To side dress, create a depression about 1-2 inches deep and 5-6 inches away from the plant stem. Put the fertilizer in the depression and cover with soil. Water to make the fertilizer available to plant.

Here’s a site listing when and how much fertilizer to apply for each type of vegetable. This website has some great info on tomatoes in particular.

“Graduate school” info of the week: When plants are flowering and setting fruits, they need less nitrogen and more phosphorus and potassium. Fish emulsion and bone meal contains phosphorus and wood ash (scant sprinkling) contains potassium. Apply as a soil drench (liquid) or side dressing. Really go gung-ho and add Epsom salt to provide magnesium and sulfur, molasses to feed soil organisms and/or kelp to stimulate root growth and fruit set.

Compost Tea

Worm castings

Worm castings

Boost your plants’ immunity and soil organisms by spraying them with compost tea. While you can use compost from your backyard bin or the store, recent studies show that worm castings (poop!) work the best.

Buy a big bag of worm castings (call your garden center to verify they sell it). To make tea, you want 5 parts water to 1 part castings. Bundle ~3 quarts of castings in a rag towel, t-shirt or other breathable material. Place in a 5-gallon bucket and fill the rest of the bucket with water. Let stand for 24 hours. Remove the bag from the water and fill a spray bottle or tank with the resulting tea. Spray plant foliage in the morning or evening (when sun’s rays are less intense). You can also water your plants with this tea. You can apply compost tea every 7-10 days.

Happy growing!

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