How to Fertilize Vegetable Garden Soil

Fertilizing your garden is a two-stage process.
Fertilizing your garden is a two-stage
process.

Fertilizing your vegetable garden is a two-stage process, performed before planting and again midway through the growing season.
  1. Broadcast Fertilizing: When you're preparing the bed for spring planting, apply a complete fertilizer -- such as 10-10-10 -- evenly to the entire garden according to the soil test recommendations. Do not overfertilize. A hand spreader helps keep the job neat as it distributes the granules. Turn the fertilizer into the soil with a hand spade or tiller and smooth out the surface to prepare for planting. This first fertilizing step will see most of your vegetables through their initial period of growth. Halfway through the growing season, the plants will have used up a lot of the nutrients in the soil, and you'll have to replace these nutrients.

  2. Side dressing: As the nutrients are used up by the plants, a second boost of fertilizer will be needed to supply the plants with essential elements through the remainder of the growing season. Use the same complete fertilizer at the same rate as used in the spring, but this time apply it as a sidedressing to the plants. With a hoe, make a four-inch deep trench along one side of the row, taking care not to disturb the plant's roots. Apply the fertilizer in the trench and then cover the trench with the soil you removed. Rain and irrigation will work the fertilizer into the soil, becoming available to the plants.
Side dressing Individual Plants

When long-season vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers need a second application of fertilizer, there's no need to trench an entire row. Cut a four-inch-deep collar-trench around the plant 12 to 18 inches from the stem. Spread about 1/2 cup of the same fertilizer used in the spring around each plant and cover it with soil. Water the garden well after fertilizing.

Want more information about vegetable gardens? Visit these links:
  • Starting a Vegetable Garden: Learn how to get your vegetable garden started, from planning your plot to planting seeds and sprouts.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Find out everything you wanted to know about vegetable gardening.
  • Vegetables: Pick out your favorite vegetables to plant in next year's garden.
  • Gardening: We answer all of your general gardening questions in this section.