How to Fertilize your Plants
In the wild, nutrients enter the soil through the breakdown of organic materials. This also occurs in your garden, but not very much in raised beds or containers. Most potting mediums are fairly inert, but contain some compost or fertilizer to get things going. After these initial nutrients are used up, fertilizer is essential to develop larger, healthy plants. In our field which is most similar to a garden, we have a lot of organic matter, as well as use fertilizer regularly. A high quality fertilizer will of course have its own nutrients, but will also help your plants uptake nutrients that are already in the soil.
We use (and sell) Fertrell brand fertilizer, but you can use any high quality liquid or granular fertilizer. Most big box stores do not have high quality fertilizer. A little goes a long way, so why not get the good stuff? Most big box fertilizer (especially those promising miracles) have a very high Nitrogen content which creates big bushy plants, but reduces that quantity of fruit production. Think of it as steroids for plants, resulting in very small "fruits". They are also less likely to have adequate micro nutrients (anything not N, P, or K), and the cheap filler material can be detrimental to the soil.
Granular Fertilizer: Apply 1/4 cup in a ring, 3" from the plant stem when transplanting and scratch into the soil. Cover with mulch and water in. It will take 2-3 weeks for the nutrients to reach the roots, depending on how much water is received during that time. Apply every 6-8 weeks, or more frequently in heavy rain conditions. One benefit of the granular fertilizer is that it will feed your plants with every rain or watering. Liquid fertilizer is faster to reach the roots, but you can only apply when watering. If your area is receiving a lot of rain, you won't be able to apply the liquid fertilizer.
Liquid Fertilizer: We use two varieties of liquid fertilizer on our farm. Fertrell Fish and Kelp (3-4-3, red), and the Kelp and Fish #3 (2-3-1 blue). The 3-4-3 has a higher nitrogen content making it more suitable for young plants, and the 2-3-1 is better formulated for mature plants. Use either one at a dilution rate of 1-2 TBSP per gallon of water once a week for the first 3 weeks after transplanting, assuming your plants are able to dry out during this time. Thereafter, apply once a month. If using both fertilizers, switch from red to blue after the plants reach full size and are ready for fruit production.
Link to our Fertilizers
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