How to fertilize vegetables?
Vegetables belong to a group with a high nutrient requirement, so they should be regularly fertilized in a balanced way.
Note! Many gardeners only use fertilizer when they notice warning signs of a plant disease. However, this is a mistake, it is worth fertilizing vegetables when they have no problems with growth and fruiting, even before sowing and planting vegetables.
Plants with a short growing season such as lettuce, radishes or spinach usually have low nutrient requirements and these vegetables do not need to be fed. In the same way, you can refuse top dressing when growing legumes: asparagus, beans, peas. Other species require additional nutrients.
Green, mineral fertilizers, manure and compost are used to enrich the soil on which plants grow.
Regardless of whether in liquid or granular form, fertilizers contribute to the rapid growth of plants, their better rooting, and therefore help to reap a high yield.
Some of them are used in spring, others in summer or autumn. They are a source of humus, valuable minerals and at the same time remain completely safe for certain species. They also protect against dangerous diseases.
Additional Information! The best effect in growing plants can be obtained by alternating organic and mineral fertilizers.
Organic fertilizers have a varied composition, but often, compared to mineral fertilizers, they do not have such a high content of basic nutrients, i.e. macronutrients. They greatly improve the soil by stimulating the production of humus. Particularly suitable for retaining water and nutrients on light soils.
Mineral fertilizers for vegetables
The question arises whether artificially fertilized vegetables will do more harm than good? An excess of mineral fertilizers in vegetables can create more problems than not fertilizing at all. Compliance with the doses and terms of fertilizer application is the main condition for obtaining high healthy yields with good quality characteristics. The dose of fertilizer should correspond to the fertility of the soil and the needs of this type of plant.
Important! Mineral fertilizers work well where the substrate has good properties. In case of excessively sandy or too heavy soil, it is better to use only natural fertilizers.
Granular fertilizers should not be applied too thickly as they can burn the plants. This is a common mistake.
It is worth choosing those fertilizers that contain many trace elements. Individual plants have individual nutrient requirements in terms of macro- and micronutrients. In tomatoes, boron is very important, in onions – copper.
Soil nutrient deficiencies when growing vegetables
Fertilizers are applied to replenish the supply of nutrients in the soil and ensure normal plant growth.
Each element plays a specific role in plant metabolism and is required in a specific amount. Individual plants have individual nutrient requirements in terms of macro- and micronutrients. Boron is very important in tomatoes, copper in onions.
Depending on the amount needed by plants, nutrients are divided into:
- macronutrients: primary (N, P, K) and secondary (S, Ca, Mg);
- trace elements: Fe, Mn, Zn, B, Mo, Cu.
If there are signs of macronutrient deficiency, plant development is limited, greens may take root poorly, bloom poorly and produce a small crop.
Among all the elements, nitrogen deficiency is the most common. It is the main element that forms the crop.
In the spring, vegetables should be fed with nitrogen fertilizers. Doses should not be too high. Popular fertilizers include urea, ammonium nitrate. It is also worth adding phosphorus fertilizer (smaller doses), for example, potassium superphosphate, potassium nitrate.
It is an important element that affects the production of vegetables, being considered an element of growth. With a large nitrogen deficiency, the plant produces sluggish, weak shoots. Flowering is weak and occurs late.
To fill the deficit, chemical fertilizers with nitrogen are applied to the soil by incorporation, into irrigation water, or by foliar feeding, repeated at intervals of 8-10 days.
Excess nitrogen also shows up on mature leaves at the base of the plant. The plants have thick, stiff stems, the foliage is strongly developed and has an intense green color. Vegetables and fruits have weaker taste qualities, pulp density and resistance to transportation and storage are reduced.
Phosphorus plays a primary role in plant metabolism, participating in the most important physiological processes. Gives plants resistance to drought, stimulates the development of the root system and promotes the process of fruiting and seed formation.
With a deficiency of phosphorus, the root system is poorly developed, the plants are small and develop poorly, branching is reduced, and flowering is delayed. To make up for the deficiency, the application of phosphate fertilizers or foliar top dressing is recommended. Excess is rare.
Potassium – determining the quality of the crop, affecting the development of the root system and the abundance of flowering. Increases plant resistance to adverse factors such as frost, drought, diseases and pests.
With a lack of potassium, plants yield worse crops, wither, sometimes lose leaves. The problem can occur if the pH is too low, or if there is too much calcium or magnesium. Potassium deficiency usually occurs in acidic soils with a light, sandy texture. An excess of potassium causes a deficiency of Ca and Mg.
Calcium is one of the main elements that favorably affects the growth of roots. Many factors can affect calcium uptake by plants:
- high temperatures, low soil temperatures;
- excessive feeding with nitrogen, especially ammonia;
- insufficient or incorrect water supply;
- high levels of salts in the soil due to excessive fertilization of the soil.
Feeding with calcium fertilizers controls the lack of this element. With an excess of calcium, deficiencies of various elements occur: B, Mn, Fe, Mg, K and their characteristic symptoms.
Magnesium helps to strengthen cell walls and improves the absorption of other elements by plants, it is part of chlorophyll.
With a deficiency of magnesium, marginal chlorosis or interveinal spots of a mosaic appearance appear on the leaves. To prevent magnesium deficiency, regularly apply organic or chemical fertilizers with Mg and avoid excessive potassium fertilization.
Sulfur is an essential nutrient that activates many processes in plants. It is part of the glycosides that give a characteristic smell to mustard, onion and garlic plants.
Sulfur deficiency first appears on young leaves and gradually spreads to the base of the plant. Uniform yellowish-green or yellow chlorosis appears on the leaves. Insufficient supply of sulfur slows down growth or even stops it.
To prevent sulfur deficiency, organic fertilizers are periodically applied, the correct selection of nitrogen doses and the maintenance of appropriate moisture in the soil. Excess sulfur usually does not harm plants.
Among all trace elements, boron deficiency is the most common. It appears first on the tops of growth and young leaves. They curl, become brittle, and have uneven necrosis between the veins. Flowering is inhibited: buds, flowers and emerging fruits often fall off.
To prevent boron deficiency, it is recommended to add borax or boric acid to the soil. Natural fertilizers also have a beneficial effect. Avoid excessive amounts of lime additives on acidic soils and provide adequate soil moisture
Copper plays a role in the formation of chlorophyll, in seed germination, in increasing drought tolerance and in providing water to plants.
Copper deficiency especially appears on sandy soils, on soils with a high content of organic matter. High doses of N, P, Zn promote or increase copper deficiency. Deficiency of this element can significantly reduce the yield. Copper fungicide treatment may prevent deficiency. Excess copper is manifested by chlorosis on mature leaves.
Iron plays a vital role in chlorophyll synthesis, respiration and nitrogen fixation. Deficiency appears on young leaves and on the apical parts. Leaves may become quite whitish and tend to fall off.
Iron deficiency occurs in plants that prefer an acidic or slightly acidic pH and are grown in neutral or alkaline soil. Deficiency can be prevented and corrected by applying iron-containing fertilizers.
Manganese determines the best resistance of plants to low temperatures, to drought and to the presence of salts in the soil in large quantities.
Manganese deficiency occurs in crops adapted to acidic or slightly acidic soils and grown on neutral or alkaline soils. Soil acidification causes an increase in manganese mobility.
The accumulation of manganese in the surface tissues of the stem and petiole of the leaves leads to the appearance of dark brown spots and dots.
Plants well supplied with zinc are resistant to mealybugs. This element has a depressing effect on the development of fungi. The use of Zn chelates can reduce or prevent the manifestation of virusosis in plants. With symptoms of deficiency, foliar spraying with fertilizers containing zinc is carried out.
Note! Nutrient deficiencies depend on various factors and are not always associated with insufficient fertilization. Sometimes it can be quite the opposite. An excess of macro- and micronutrients can cause deadlock. Soil pH has a great influence on the digestibility of macro- and microelements.
Liming is used on acidic soils. Soil liming is most often done to change the soil pH from acidic to slightly acidic (preferred for most plants) or close to neutral. Calcium fertilizers are one of the most important ways to improve the quality of the soil in the garden. The intake of calcium compounds into the soil not only changes its pH, but also improves the quality of humus.
The main work is done in the fall. One of the safest but slow acting fertilizers is dolomite.
Important! Calcium fertilizers require thorough mixing with the soil. Other fertilizers can be applied only after 2-3 weeks.
How to get natural fertilizer for plants?
Organic fertilizers are safe to use and very cheap (usually obtained from garden or household waste). It can be compost or even vegetable manure, i.e. crushed plants, filled with water and left to decompose.
Green manure is used as an intermediate culture. Green fertilizers can be used every year on any type of substrate. Beans, phacelia, buckwheat or rye grow quickly and form a “green mass” of stems and leaves.
About 2 months after planting, they are dug up together with the ground. As they decompose, they turn into valuable organic fertilizer and improve soil properties.
It is important to choose the right types of green manure for the type of soil. Heavy clay soils are best loosened with phacelia, blue lupine and field peas. If it is sandy, use yellow lupine or its mixture with serradella, oats or mustard.
Fertilizer is also cut grass, which is spread with a mulching function, where the particles of blades of grass decompose and fertilize the soil.
Well-decomposed compost can be spread out in the spring on vegetable beds just before planting.
Manure is the most popular organic fertilizer used in the garden. Improves the structure of the substrate, helps retain water and nutrients.
Bird droppings are a very strong fertilizer that should be used heavily diluted. Excessive concentration can burn the roots. At the same time, it is a good addition to the compost.
Compost can be used in the garden as an ineffective fertilizer that improves soil quality. Compost can be a good mulch to reduce weed infestation.
Growing plant species with high nutrient requirements can lead to excessive depletion of soil minerals.