Best Fertilizers for Vegetables – A Full Guide

Introduction: Hi vegetable gardener how about knowing the best fertilizers for vegetables? Well, you are at right place. Vegetable plants must have light, moisture and nutrients to grow. The sun provides light and moisture comes from rainfall or irrigation. And nutrients come from fertilizers, compost or manure. Choosing the right kind of fertilizer and adding the right amount depends on the soil and the plants you’re growing. If vegetable plants are not growing well, fertilizing them will help only if a lack of nutrients is the cause of the problem. Vegetable plants grown in poorly drained soils, in excessive shade, or competition with tree roots will not respond to fertilizer. What are we waiting for? Let’s jump in to the best fertilizers for vegetables.

A step by step guide to best fertilizers for vegetables 

Creating healthy soil with sufficient nutrients is the main key to a healthy harvest. Fertilization adds the necessary minerals to the soil to feed the vegetable plants, but getting the right balance of nutrients can be a challenge. Each season of growth has different fertilization requirements, but learning the basic cycle of garden fertilization pays off in several years of nutrient-dense vegetables.

Types of fertilizers for vegetables

Vegetable plants are composed primarily of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. These nutrients are absorbed from the air and water, but a fertile garden should have fourteen additional macro- and micronutrients for the healthiest growth. A soil test will help find out which, if any, additional nutrients need to be supplemented to the plants in the form of vegetable garden fertilizers. There are two types of fertilizer for veggie gardens they are inorganic (synthetic) and organic fertilizer for vegetable gardens.

Fertilizers for the vegetable garden are either organic or inorganic. Examples of organic fertilizers contain manure (poultry, cow or horse), bone meal, cottonseed, or other naturally occurring materials. Inorganic fertilizers are manmade products and they usually have a higher nutrient content.

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Vegetable Fertilizer Guide.
Vegetable Fertilizer Guide.

Choosing fertilizer options for veggies can be given below;

Inorganic fertilizers for the vegetables are made from materials that have never lived. Some of these fertilizer options have nutrients that can be immediately taken up by the plants, while others are formed so the nutrients are released over time. If this is the fertilizer option for you, choose an inorganic fertilizer for vegetable gardens that is very slow or controlled release.

When choosing an inorganic fertilizer, then you will notice there are numbers on the packaging. These are generally referred to as the NPK ratio. In these, the first number is the percentage of nitrogen, the second the percentage of phosphorus and the last number the amount of potassium in the fertilizer. Most veggies require a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10, but some need additional potassium while leafy greens often only require nitrogen. There are several types of organic fertilizers.

Fertilizing veggies with organic fertilizer doesn’t harm the environment, as the ingredients found within are naturally derived from several plants and animals. Fertilizing veggies with manure is a common organic fertilizing process. The manure is incorporated into the soil before the planting process. The downside to using manure as a fertilizer is that the vegetable garden will need additional fertilization during the growing season. A similar choice is to incorporate plenty of compost into the soil before planting. Because vegetables require nitrogen as well as other nutrients readily available, supplemental organic fertilizer is often applied for a quick feeding. This is often used in conjunction with another type of fertilizer.

For example, many gardeners supplement a compost or manure rich soil with the application of fish emulsion or manure tea. Fish emulsion is rich in nitrogen but low in phosphorus and it is sprinkled around the plants every 2-3 weeks or as needed. And manure tea is a simple decoction to make. Put a few shovelfuls of manure into a porous bag and steep the bag in a tub of water until it looks like weak tea. Use this manure tea when you water to add supplemental organic nutrients.

Another vegetable garden fertilizer is to side-dress your plants. Simply put, this means adding a nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer along the side of each row of vegetable plants. As the vegetable plants are watered, the roots absorb the nutrients from the fertilizer.

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Fertilizers and pH level for vegetables

The degree of acidity or alkalinity of the soil, as measured by pH level, is an important factor in the availability of soil nutrients to plants. At pH extremes, some nutrients become partially or completely locked up in the soil and cannot be used by vegetable plants even though they are still present. For example, in a soil with a pH level near 8.0, phosphates, iron, and manganese-all become less available. At pH level 4.5 or below, the availability of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, for plant uptake is low. Other elements could become so readily available that they are toxic to plants, as happens with aluminum at very low pH. Most vegetables do best between pH level 6.0 and 7.0. Lime is often added to increase the pH level to a desirable level. Though, the addition of lime does not eliminate the need to add fertilizer.

Fertilizers selection for vegetables

Most gardeners must use a complete fertilizer with twice as much phosphorus as nitrogen or potassium. An example could be 10-20-10 or 12-24-12. These fertilizers generally are easy to find. Some soils have enough potassium for good plant growth and don’t need more. But since a slight excess of potassium will not injure plants, it is generally best to use a complete fertilizer. Do not use lawn fertilizers on vegetable gardens. They have too much nitrogen, and many have chemicals for lawn weed control that can injure or kill vegetables. Soils with pH levels below 5.7 need lime and lime add calcium to the soil and make it less acidic, raising pH to an acceptable level.

In general, all vegetable plants require nutrients in different proportions depending on the type of vegetable plant it is;

  • Major nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium)
  • Secondary nutrients (calcium, magnesium, sulfur)
  • Micronutrients (boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, zinc)

The frequency of fertilization mainly depends on the kind of fertilizer you are using. If this is a slow-release one, you need not apply very often. The use of this kind of fertilizer is further recommended, as it does not burn the vegetable plant. If soil is covered in mulch, apply the fertilizer on top of the mulch and then water it. You could use liquid fertilizers that can be applied to the foliage or the base of the root.

Fertilizing vegetable plants

Observing the vegetable plant is the best thing you could do. If your plant leaves are wilting or yellowing, it generally means that the plant lacks nitrogen content. If your vegetable plant is just plain unhealthy, then all three potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen are lacking.

Nitrogen is necessary for healthy, green growth of foliage. It is part of every plant protein, so it is required for virtually every procedure and is even more so helpful for green leafy vegetables.

Phosphorous is required for good root development and improved flowering, so it is essential in abundance for root-vegetables. Being slow-moving through the soil, it is important to work it into the soil, where it can be easily accessed by the roots.

Potassium affects the plant shape, size, color, taste and is also very important in fruit formation and production and making it an essential nutrient in abundance for fruit-bearing vegetables.

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When to fertilize vegetable plants

  • Regular fertilizer applications keep vegetable plants vigorous and productive. When vegetable plants grow reluctantly or start turning yellow, fertilizer may help. If vegetable plants are vigorous and green, you can wait a little bit before applying more fertilizer. And too much fertilizer can burn plants. For example, tomatoes and beans have given too much fertilizer to grow lots of foliage but little fruit.
  • Vegetables growing in porous, well-drained soil must be fed frequently. Usually, a balanced fertilizer is applied every 3 to 4 weeks throughout the growing season. Don’t stop applications when the fruit appears to continue to apply fertilizer as required to ensure continued production.
  • Growing vegetables in clay soils will need less fertilizer than those in sandy soils. One application every 4 to 6 weeks after planting is typically enough.
  • Crops growing in organic soils could need little additional fertilizer again, just use foliage color and plant vigor as guides. In gardens where the soil is sand enriched with organic matter, one or two additional applications at intervals or 3 to 4 weeks is usually enough.
  • Gardeners must have their soil tested about every 2 years. This is very important for beginning gardeners who are unfamiliar with growing plants. A soil test indicates the levels of nutrients in the soil and recommends the amounts of each nutrient to add.
  • To collect a soil sample, choose a time when the soil is moist but not wet. Dig down about 4 to 6 inches and get a handful of soil. Do this in several different places in the garden. Put each handful of soil in a large container and mix. From this mixture, take ½ pint of soil for the sample.
  • Soil can be tested in midwinter to form for spring planting. County Extension agents can provide you a soil sample container and explain where to send the sample for testing.
  • If the garden soil has not been tested, use 2 to 3 pounds of fertilizer for example 10-20- 10 for every 100 square feet of garden area. If a garden is 30 feet long and rows are 3 feet apart, each row is almost 100 square feet. Use 2 pounds of fertilizer if the garden is sandy and 3 pounds if the soil is generally clay.
  • Do not use too much fertilizer and this can kill plants. Two cups of most fertilizers will weigh about 1 pound and if a fertilizer has more nitrogen, useless. Two pounds of 5-10-5 fertilizer supplies as much nitrogen 1 pound of 10-20-10.
  • If you are using an organic fertilizer such as barnyard manure, spread it evenly over the vegetable garden and work it into the soil. Use 20 to 30 pounds of manure for every 100 square feet of the vegetable garden. Do not use too much and do not use fresh manure because it can injure plants.

Fertilizers for vegetables in containers

Containers and pots supply one method for squeezing more space into a vegetable garden. Most vegetables grow well in a container set in the yard or balcony or even in a basket hanging over a deck. Unlike those vegetables grown in beds, the plants don’t have access to natural nutrients in the soil and need careful fertilization to grow and produce well. While specific fertilization requirements vary among vegetable types, the basic guidelines for application apply to most vegetables.

  • Fill a bucket with the potting soil in the garden. Water it lightly and mix it with hands until it feels evenly moist throughout.
  • Carefully, add ½ tablespoon of a slow-release fertilizer per gallon of soil. For example, a 5-gallon bucket needs 2 ½ tablespoons of fertilizer. Use a balanced fertilizer, for example, a 10-10-10 or 14-14-14 variety.
  • Mix the fertilizer into the soil until it’s incorporated. Fill the planting pots with the soil mixture and transplant the vegetables into the containers.
  • Apply soluble fertilizer for plants at midseason. Midseason is when fruiting or flowering vegetables begin to form vegetables, or halfway through the growing season listed on the seed packet for leaf or root vegetables.
  • Dilute the soluble fertilizer in water, following label directions for the fertilizer type and the size of the container. Normally, fruiting and root vegetables require a phosphorus-rich fertilizer such as a 15-30-15 blend, while leafy vegetables need a nitrogen-rich or balanced fertilizer, such as a 20-20-20 blend.
  • Water the vegetable plants with the soluble fertilizer solution every one to two weeks for the remainder of the growing season.

Fertilizers application for different vegetables

Fertilizing your vegetables at the appropriate time will keep plants healthy and producing fruit. There are several types of fertilizers to choose from as well as many natural fertilizers around the house. Be careful to not over-fertilize plants which can lead to heavy foliage without much fruiting.

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Fertilizer for different vegetables;


Apply plant to FYM 25 t/ha, Azospirillum 2 kg and Phosphobacteria 2 kg/ha, N 75 kg and K 25 kg/ha as a basal dose.

  • Before Planting – Mix organic matter in with the soil at the time of planting and add 5 lbs of bone meal per 100 sq. ft. of asparagus.
  • After Planting – Spring and fall side-dress with 3 lbs of 10-10-10 fertilizer.

Apply FYM 25 t/ha and 50 kg P and 25 kg K/ha as a basal dose. 25 kg N and 25 kg of K/ha are applied between 20 to 25 days after sowing and application of another 25 kg of N are done between 40 to 45 days.

  • Before Planting – If necessary use 1 lb. of 5-10-10 per 100 sq. ft.
  • After Planting – Side-dress each plant with 1/2 oz. of 5-10-10 every 4 weeks until harvest is over.
  • Before Planting – Add 3 lbs. of 5-10-10 per 100 sq. ft.
  • After Planting – Side-dress 1 month after transplanting with high nitrogen fertilizer such as urea or ammonium sulfate.
  • Before Planting – Mix organic matter or old manure into the soil. Or add 3-4 lbs. of 5-10-10 per 100 sq. ft.
  • After Planting – 4 weeks after transplanting add 4 lbs. of 10-10-10 per 100 sq. ft.
  • Before Planting – Add 1 lb. of 5-10-10 to every 50 ft row of carrots.
  • After Planting – At 6 inches tall add a fish fertilizer as a side-dressing. Add a thin layer of hardwood ash for sweetness.
  • Before Planting – Add compost or well-rotted manure.
  • After Planting – When vines begin to run add a handful of 5-10-10 fertilizer to every plant.
  • Before Planting – Use manure or add 3 lbs of 5-10-5 fertilizer per 100 sq. ft.
  • After Planting – When fruits begin to appear to add 2 lbs. of 5-10-5 per 100 sq. ft.
  • Before Planting – 2 lbs of 10-10-10 per 100 sq. ft. of okra
  • After Planting – Side-dress with 2 lbs of 10-10-10 per 100 sq. ft. when 10 inches tall, when pods appear, and one month later.
  • Before Planting – 5 lbs of all-purpose 10-10-10 per 100 sq. ft.
  • After Planting – Twice add 5 lbs of 10-10-10 fertilizer once when 6 inches tall and again when onions begin to bulb.
  • Before Planting – Thoroughly mix 4 lbs. of 5-10-10 fertilizer into every 100 sq. ft. of potatoes
  • After Planting – 4 weeks after emerging add 4 lbs of 5-10-10 or a mixture of compost, seaweed, and fish emulsion
  • Before Planting – Use 1 lb. of all-purpose 10-10-10 for each 100 sq. ft. of spinach
  • After Planting – Nothing
  • Before Planting – Add compost or 3 lbs of 5-10-10 fertilizer into every 100 sq. ft.
  • After Planting – Add 3 lbs of 5-10-10 again when 1feet of growth and again when fruits begin to appear.
  • Before Planting – Add 3 lbs. of 5-10-10 organic fertilizer per 100 sq. ft. of tomatoes
  • After Planting – Side-dress once with 2 lbs of 5-10-10 when fruit begins to set and again after the first harvest.

That’s all folks about the best fertilizers for vegetables and thier application procedure.

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