Choosing the Best Fertilizer for Vegetables
Think about the last time you ate a mouthwatering tomato. It was probably brightly colored and full of flavor, but most importantly, it came from a healthy plant. Healthy plants produce delicious vegetables. Fertilizer is just as vital to plant health as sunlight and water. Fertilizer provides key nutrients that support plant growth, stress prevention, and vegetable flavor. Enjoy the fruits (or veggies) of your labor by choosing the best fertilizer for your vegetables.
Most farmers and gardeners agree on the benefits of fertilizer, but if you search for what fertilizer to buy, you’ll receive an overwhelming hoard of recommended brands and products. With tons of fertilizer options available, it can be hard to make a choice. That’s why we’ve taken our agricultural expertise and narrowed it down for your easy understanding. Read more below for our sound advice on fertilizing your garden and watch your vegetables grow!
Types of Fertilizer: Organic vs. Synthetic
The first question you may want to ask yourself is whether to purchase organic or synthetic fertilizer. Both organic and synthetic fertilizers have the same goal of improving plant health, but the ingredients they utilize to fulfill this goal are quite different. You may want to read the ingredients on the label before selecting your fertilizer.
Organic fertilizers are comprised of naturally occurring materials from plants or animals. They typically work by feeding the soil which in turn feeds the plant. Organic fertilizers nourish both the plant and the earth where it grows.
Synthetic fertilizers, also called inorganic or chemical fertilizers, are comprised of altered chemicals. In general, synthetic fertilizers work fast to boost growth by feeding the plant through quick absorption.
At a glance:
- Improve soil structure
- Break down easily in environment
- Improve plant health quickly
- Do not improve soil structure
- Requires repeated applications
- Harmful to environment
Granular vs Liquid
Both granular and liquid fertilizers can be organic or synthetic. While one is not necessarily better than the other, they each have their own set of advantages. Choosing the right type depends on your specific needs or preferences.
Granular fertilizer is a dry form of fertilizer that comes in granules or small particles. You may see granular fertilizers formed by tiny pellets or coarse powder. They typically are slow-release forms of fertilizer, breaking down over time in the soil and providing nutrients to your plants for months.
Liquid fertilizer is a liquid substance that can be applied on the soil or by spraying the leaves. Foliar spraying is fast-acting as the leaves absorb the nutrients right away. It dissolves quickly. You’ll need to re-apply more frequently than granular fertilizer.
At a glance:
- Apply in soil or as top dressing
- Easy to store
- Good choice for bulk usage
- Apply on ground or foliar spray
- Easy application
- Great for mid-season usage
What nutrients do your vegetable plants need?
The most common measurement of plant fertilizer is the N-P-K ratio. It is a set of three numbers listed on the label to show the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the fertilizer. Nitrogen produces green, healthy leaves. Phosphorus stimulates growth from the roots. Potassium promotes the plant’s overall wellbeing and protection against stress.
While N-P-K is typically the first thing you’ll find on the fertilizer label, you may want to consider additional nutrients that optimize plant health such as magnesium, calcium, and sulfur. Micronutrients like iron, zinc, and copper are also necessary to support plant health.
Unfortunately, there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to the amount of specific nutrients your garden or crops need to grow delicious vegetables. The quality of your soil plays a huge role in determining what supplements your plants need. A soil test is a great way to better understand the nutrients your soil already has or may be lacking.
How much fertilizer do your plants need?
Not all vegetables need the same care and attention. Different plants require different environments and nutrients. It’s important to understand the needs of your vegetables. Know which ones are heavy feeders and which ones are light feeders so that you can apply the perfect amount for their abundant growth.
Heavy feeders require a lot of nutrients to grow and produce. It’s beneficial to mix fertilizer in the soil prior to planting. As they continue to grow, heavy feeders will be happy with regular fertilizer application.
Heavy feeders at a glance:
Light feeders do not need as many nutrients as heavy feeders do. While they still benefit from fertilizer application, you won’t need to apply it as frequently as heavy feeders. Light feeders tend to be root vegetables.
Light feeders at a glance:
- Collard greens
- Swiss chard
What is the best fertilizer for vegetables?
From a hands-on approach to agricultural research, we’ve selected the best fertilizers for several categories. Click on the listed fertilizer to link to more information about each product.
Best Eco-friendly Fertilizer: Organic Fertilizer made from Corn Hydrolysate
Best Fertilizer for Tomatoes: Pure Protein Dry Organic Fish Fertilizer
Best Granular Fertilizer: Boogie Black Insect Frass Fertilizer Plant Food
Best Organic Fertilizer: Boogie Brew Heavy Harvest Compost Tea
Best Liquid Fertilizer: Liquid Seaweed Fertilizer
Best for High Efficiency: Bloom Enhancement
Best for Combatting Plant Stress: KelpGreen Fertilizer
Final Tips for Fertilizing Your Garden
With the right level of care, your vegetables will grow rich with color and flavor. Some plants are fine with minimal care, but others thrive with careful attention. Follow our top tips to successfully fertilize your plants:
- Test the soil before planting
- Mix the fertilizer into the soil before planting
- Tailor your plan to your unique plants’ needs
- Create a regular fertilizing schedule for heavy feeders
- Avoid feeding plants in the high heat of the day
- Store fertilizer in a cool dry place
Always follow the directions on the label