Wrong fertilizer ?

(Question)

Hi,

I used the Jobe’s fertilizer spikes 13 -4-5 that are for houseplants at my in ground garden. Would that be a problem ? I used 2 on cucumbers , 2 on zucchinis , 1 on peppers , 1 on eggplants. I used everywhere on strawberries , lettuces , etc ?

I got worried about the higher N but did not think they will do any harm. They are very small anyways and slow release, they are good for 60 days. What do you think? Should I add anything else to the soil?

Should I get more manure ?

I had used old manure initially (cow) , like a month ago.

(Answer)

The fertilizer spikes you used are unlikely to cause any real harm to your vegetables. However, as you suspected, well composted manure is a good addition to the vegetable garden soil. If you already added a generous amount well before planting, you will not need to add any more this summer.

In fact, the best thing that you can do for your soil is to add organic matter – in the form of manure, compost, leaf mould, chopped leaves, crop residue. Organic matter will return nutrients to the soil, contribute to good soil structure, and feed the community of creatures living in the soil who work hard at changing nutrients into a form that plant roots can absorb.

When you add organic matter to your soil every year, your soil may have such a good balance of nutrients, it will not be necessary to feed your vegetable crop because it can get everything it needs from the soil. 

The best time to prepare the soil for your vegetable garden is in the fall, to ready it for next spring’s planting. Simply spread evenly on top of the soil, a layer of chopped healthy plants from the vegetable garden itself, chopped leaves, compost, any leftover fine shred mulch.

On top of this, add a layer of well-rotted manure and then let the earthworms do the work of dragging these organic materials into the soil.

Meanwhile, certain vegetables do have specific feeding  issues over their growing period. Here are some examples:

Peas and beans can produce their own nitrogen through nodes on their roots but when they are still young plants (about 4-6 cm tall) they will need a single feeding of a complete fertilizer. An organic liquid fertilizer such as fish emulsion is best. Leeks also need to be given a boost of nitrogen to stimulate the green growth when the average temperature reaches 10 degrees C – in the GTA this occurs in May.  They need to be fed again in June.

It’s best to be cautious; if your soil is well prepared, you may not need fertilizer at all for most of your other crops.

Don’t fertilize radishes at all, since too much nitrogen will give you lots of foliage and very little bulb. You can side dress onions with compost – side dressing means that you lay some compost along side the onions – between the plants.  Don’t over fertilize: An excess of nitrogen will cause the onion to have lots of green leaves and small bulbs. Too much fertilizer can also lead to hairy carrots.

Less fertilizer, not more, is best. 

If your plants have a nutrient problem, they will tell you. Just look at them:

  • Light green to yellow leaves, growth stunted = nitrogen deficiency
  • Red or purple leaves = phosphorous deficiency
  • Yellow leaves, veins remain green = iron deficiency
  • Dark green leaves, excessive growth = excessive nitrogen

If plants just are not growing despite having optimal moisture, temperature and sunlight, they may need a boost – give them a feeding of a liquid fertilizer such as fish emulsion, compost tea or manure tea.

For more information about organic vegetable gardening, check out our Gardening Guide, here