Choosing a Fertilizer for Your Vegetable Garden
Vegetables grow best in soil that contains 5 percent nitrogen, 10 percent phosphate, and 5 percent potash. The commercial fertilizers list this ratio on their bags, so if you see a fertilizer that’s labeled 5-10-5, then you know you’re buying the right thing.
That being said, we do not generally recommend commercial fertilizers for growing a vegetable garden. Although many people use them with some measure of success, a far better method for growing nutrient-dense, pest-and-disease resistant veggies is by fertilizing with organic compost.
Why is organic compost better?
In the same way that it’s better for your body to eat nutritious foods than rely on vitamins to maintain your health… it’s smarter and more effective to fertilize your garden using compost.
Organic compost improves the soil structure, which then becomes a natural habitat for microorganisms whose job it is to break down the waste into nutrition for your plants.
Organic compost is “slow release” by nature. This means far fewer applications are needed to keep plants lush, healthy and producing at their peak.
Organic compost fights fungal and bacterial disease in the soil, which can then spread to your plants. Processed chemical fertilizer can actually harm the organisms in your soil.
How to start composting
You can either “cook” your own compost by mixing organic materials in a compost tumbler, or you can go the lazy man’s route and purchase high quality compost at a local farmer’s market.
No, it’s not possible to make compost overnight. But remember that “any time” is the right time to decide you want to start. Composting is kind of like the background programs running on your computer. It only takes a little extra effort to get the process going. After that, it’s easy to sustain. Once you have compost readily available, simply spread a layer over your raised garden beds to keep the soil at optimum planting condition.
Other fertilizing options that will do in a pinch
Sometimes, you have a dire situation like sickly tomato problems, or just peevish looking veggies in general, that you need a quick remedy for. In that case, it may take too long for newly-spread compost to begin doing its job. There are some good organic fertilizers on the market that you can combine with routine application of compost.
Organic fish emulsion (or fish fertilizer) provides excellent nutrition for growing vegetables, and can be purchased in liquid form and sprayed on plants for relatively quick results.
Espoma Garden Tone is trusted by many organic gardeners who don’t wish to use chemicals on their vegetables. In addition to compost, you can sprinkle it around just after planting, and at several critical points during the gardening season.