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4 Methods of Fertilizer Application in the Home Garden

Which methods of fertilizer application in the home garden should you be using? 

Well, you have 4 different methods to choose from.  And it depends on the season and what’s going on in your garden as far as nutrient. 

So, there’s a few things you need to do first before you even decide what fertilizer to put on. Don’t worry though. 

For information about soil requirements, go here. 

In this post, I’m going to focus on:

  • 4 Methods of fertilizer application in the home garden.
  • Fertilizing basics as far as what kind to use according to your values and need.
  • When to fertilize the vegetable garden. During the season or off season? It just depends. 

Let’s begin with the 4 different methods of fertilizer application in the home garden. 

Methods of Fertilizer Application in the Home Garden

Row Applications

This method is done prior to planting but you should already have your rows marked. Go ahead and dig a small trench 2-3 inches deep in either side of your row. Then, sprinkle half the total amount of fertilizer into each trench. 

Finally, cover up your trenches and plant into the marked row. 

This might seem like a lot of extra work. Instead of digging a trench on either side,  another option is to use the broadcasting method of fertilizer application. This method is also known as the top dressing fertilizer application.

Broadcasting fertilizer application is also known as “feeding the chickens” or just tossing the pellet fertilizer from side to side down the row. It’s recommended to use 2-3 pounds of fertilizer per 100 square feet and spread uniformly over the surface. It’s also best to wait a few days for the fertilizer to be incorporated into the soil before planted. 

Time of Fertilizer Application? 

When to fertilize the vegetable garden using this method? One of the awesome advantages of broadcasting method of fertilizer application is that you can do it anytime. However, there is a time I think it best and it’s in the fall.

I like to apply fertilizers using the row method in late fall. This allows the fertilizer to sit in the soil under plenty of ice/snow moisture all winter long. You can test again in the spring, but I generally broadcast an organic fertilizer, such as cow manure in early spring before planting.

The next method can be done at planting time. 

Starter Method

You might want to use a starter fertilizer at planting time to help your transplants get a better start outdoors. 

A starter fertilizer can be added to water and can be the veggies’ first food Be sure to follow labels to make sure you don’t burn your plants’ roots. 

DIY Starter Solution

Or you can make your own homemade vegetable fertilizer to use as a starter. Here’s what you need:

  • 2 T any ordinary fertilizer, such as a vegetable garden fertilizer 10-10-10
  • 1 Gallon of Water

Then, mix well. Use about 1 Cup of this starter for each plant. 

Remember that the 3 numbers above (10-10-10) is the npk fertilizer ratio. The npk fertilizer meaning is: 

  • N = Nitrogen
  • P= Phosphorus
  • K = Potassium

When you purchase fertilizers, check those three numbers and choose according to your soil test results and nutrient needs. 

Side Dressing

This method can be done during the season when you notice your plants turning yellow. That is a sign that important nutrients have been leached or washed out of the reach of the plant roots. 

And the yellow is usually a sign that the important nutrient leached is Nitrogen. 

So, you can side dress your plants with a nitrogen fertilizer alongside the row of growing plants. Just keep in mind that it is possible to apply too much nitrogen, so use sparingly. If you’re using a balanced fertilizer, use at the rate of 1-2 pounds per 100 feet of row. 

Remember this is called SIDE DRESSING. Don’t put the fertilizer directly on the plant. It can be injected through your hoses or water at the ground level. Too much on the plant will burn it. 

Foliar Method

The final method of fertilizer application in the home garden is done only in emergency situations. Certain nutrients can be added to a plant by spraying it onto the foliage when nutrient deficiency symptoms develop. This is a last resort option after every prevention attempt ahead of planting to amend the soil had been done. 

If you have and need further assistance with this, contact your local Extension Agent, Horticulture Specialist or Commercial Crop Consultant to help you with this. 

Here’s how it works: A commercial wetting agent or detergent in the solution provides better coverage of the foliage. Spray it on early morning or late afternoon on cloudy days, or soon after a rain. Don’t mix with any other type or kind of spray. 

Methods of Fertilizer Application in the Home Garden

There are plenty of organic options for fertilizing basics

Please understand that if you’re an organic grower, you have options of fertilizer, too. 

Read more about organic fertilizers here

Making the Decision

The decision of what and how you choose to apply fertilizer in your home garden is truly up to you. The only wrong decision is to do nothing even if your soil truly needs some nutrients. 

Your values do matter, and like I said above, there are some organic fertilizers that you can use that will work great. 

But the time and method of fertilizer application should matter upon which method you choose and what you’re growing: 

  • Row Applications – Prior to Planting
  • Starter Method – At Planting
  • Side Dressing – Ground Level during the season
  • Foliar Method – Spray on leaves (foliage) during the season. 

I truly hope this helps you to learn the difference between the fertilizer placement methods so you can choose the one that works best for you. 

For the 5 Simple Hacks to Improve Garden Soil, Click Here

~ Much Love ~

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