The kind of fertilizer used with your garden will have a marked influence on the taste and quality of the vegetables it produces. In the garden, only fertilizers specifically prepared for use with food crops should be applied. Organic fertilizers, such as those made with barnyard manure, should be fully fermented (or rotted) before being used.
For vegetable garden crops, there is no fertilizer that compares to good, well-rotted barnyard manure. In locations where you don’t have a ready supply of manure, you can still acquire commercial versions that do just as good a job as the stuff from the local horse farmer.
When choosing manure for the vegetable garden, especially “home-grown” manure, consider any additives that might be included in the manure that would be harmful to, or change the character of, the soil. Too much sawdust or wood shavings, often used in animal bedding, can produce sourness in the soil. Chicken, pigeon or sheep manure is ideal for fertilizing your veggie garden. The value from these is considered comparable to that of commercial, chemical fertilizers. The manure from fowls is especially adapted for dropping in the hills and rows of plants.
As an aside, I’ve grown some of my best gardens in raised beds filled only with a variety of barnyard manure — so don’t knock the effectiveness of this fertilizer until you’ve tried it.
Commercial grade chemical fertilizers can be tricky to work with. Because their application needs to be more specific to the plant or plants being fed, it’s more difficult to get it right for each vegetable you’re growing. Make sure you select a fertilizer that indicates it is specific for vegetables, and read the packaging thoroughly to make sure you understand the directions. You may want to test the fertilizer out in a small area before applying in more broad strokes.
Also, start small. Add a little bit of fertilizer, and measure your plants reaction to the application. Then, increase or decrease the “dose” based on their response.
There’s also a little bit of magic — the success of your vegetables isn’t only dependent on their having the appropriate nutrients available. Even when the right nutrients are available, if weather conditions are imperfect (and aren’t they always), watering or precipitation is inadequate, these will all impact the results of your garden.
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