A Better Way to Fertilize Your Gardens and Crops
The basic life cycle of a plant can be broken down into four major stages:
- An emergence from seed.
- A growth stage.
- A production stage where buds, flowers and fruit/seed form.
- And finally, a maturation stage where fruits/seeds ripen.
Even perennials, berries and tree crops go through these cycles annually beginning each year with a growth stage. Aside from the need for appropriate temperature, sunlight and water, at each stage of its life cycle the plant will have different nutritional requirements.
If plants do not receive the right nutrients at these critical stages of it’s development, they will produce less and quality will be poorer. They will also be more susceptible to diseases and insect attacks.
THE PROBLEM: Most growers and home gardeners apply fertilizer to the ground early in the season and hope it will all be absorbed by the plant roots as needed throughout the year. But poor soil quality (clay, compacted, sandy, sterile), lack or excess water, and temperature or climatic extremes all can reduce fertilizer availability in the root zone at critical times. Insufficient fertilizer uptake at these critical times will cause poor yields and weaker plants with lower survival rate.
THE SOLUTION: Begin Foliar Feeding your plants with the right nutrients for the stage of growth that they are in. Foliar Feeding inexpensively and immediately gives the crop the right nutrients at the time they are needed. That, combined with nutrients already in the root zone, will help your garden have better quality and much greater quantity than you’ve most likely ever experienced before.
Foliar Feeding is simply coating the leaves with a fine mist spray containing a light liquid solution of nutrients and water. You can use a simple plant mister or pump sprayer for foliar spraying. Plants have tiny breathing openings, mostly under the leaf, called the stomata. The stomata take in nutrients right into their vascular system where the plants can move them around quickly. Try to get the spray on the underside of the leave where possible.
Years ago, in research funded by the Atomic Energy Commission, the value of Foliar Feeding was brought to light. Tests proved that it was 8-10 times more effective to foliar feed a plant as far as the amount of nutrients required and the speed with which those nutrients were utilized. A healthy plant after a foliar spray will show that the nutrients have moved throughout the whole plant, from the uppermost leaves all the way into the roots tips.
In our 4 Step Garden Fertilizing Program below, you begin foliar feeding when plants are in the Growth Stage, which is Step 2.
4 Step GARDEN FERTILIZING PROGRAM
Step 1. BED PREPARATION for Seeds or Transplants
Apply a nutrient-balanced Organic Garden Fertilizer (granular or liquid) to your beds pre-planting. Organic, or Organic-based fertilizers are preferred since they will not only feed the plants, but will help improve the soil quality as well. Garden fertilizers contain a higher percentage phosphorus than lawn fertilizers in order to help with fruit and flower formation, and rooting too. Mix or till the fertilizer into the top 2-6 inches after applying. Deep-rooted plants or root crops should have fertilizer mixed down to about 8 inches.
- Typically, the NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) numbers on a true organic fertilizer will be low, with something like 4-3-4 on the label and directions will be to apply anywhere from 3-6# per 100 sf. Do not skimp.If you want to use a liquid organic fertilizer for bed preparation, you’ll find none better than the 2-4-1 Fish Fertilizer (Neptune’s Harvest) . If you want to use a granular type, we suggest the 5-4-3 Organic Pelleted Compost, or something similar that you might find locally. If seeds or plants are already in the ground, apply fertilizer to the surface of the soil and carefully scratch in where possible.If your soil is lacking in organic matter or sandy, we recommend applying compost at this stage, or Nature’s Magic – Plant and Soil Activator. Nature’s Magic is somewhat like a liquid compost. It gives you instantly available organic matter and trace elements and it will also encourage rooting, mycorrhizae and beneficial microbial activity.
2. GROWTH STAGE FERTILIZING
For any young or established plant that needs to grow more before flowering. Or for continual use on lettuce and greens throughout their growth cycle. Also can be used initially on berries, vines and tree crops that leaf out and grow each year. In this stage the plant is in the growth mode, and it continues until the plant starts to bud or flower. Nitrogen is needed to aid the plant in this stage, along with a proportionate combination of Phosphorus and Potassium.
- (N) NITROGEN – Growth Stage – Use 16-4-8 Bio-Enhanced Fertilizer, 5-1-1 Fish Hydrolysate (for Certified Organic), or 10-8-8 Bio-Enhanced FertilizerBy supplying the plant with extra Nitrogen via foliar sprays every 7-10 days you are helping the plant grow faster move into the next stage more easily. Begin spraying transplants after they have settled in for a week and are actively growing. Start out at half-rate on the fertilizer until plants are hardy. For seeded plants, wait until they are hardy, and actively growing before beginning to spray. Again, a lighter rate until plants are well established. You can also apply our Liquid Calcium / Liquid Lime (which also contains 6% Nitrogen) during this phase to help with stalk and stem strength and color. It will also help with fruit quality and blossom end rot.Other applications you can make at this stage and the next are Organic MicroNutrients and Seaweed, (organic) both of which supply a lot of secondary and trace nutrients.
3. PRODUCTION STAGE FERTILIZING
In this stage of the plant’s life, it is ready to produce buds, flowers and fruit. Growth is usually slowing down or completed. This is where we change from a high Nitrogen fertilizer to a higher PHOSPHORUS fertilizer (along with the right type of nitrogen and potassium). Do not switch to these fertilizers for green leafy plants that you do not want to flower or go to seed.
- (P) PHOSPHORUS – Production Stage – Use 6-14-6, or for certified organic crops use Neptune’s Harvest 2-4-1 Fish Fertilizer. Our 6-14-6 fertilizer, Bio-enhanced with Humic Acid and Kelp will help produce an enormous amount of buds and flowers, which will lead to more fruits/vegetables in the garden. The Neptune’s Harvest 2-4-1 gives you phosphorus and the numerous other benefits fish fertilizers provide. Spray every 7-10 days.Phosphorus, along with Calcium*, will also encourage the fruit cells that are being formed to fill in with body, giving more weight and mineral value.
(C) CALCIUM For firmer, healthier fruits and vegetables. When fruits are beginning to form, we recommend 1 or 2 foliar sprays of Liquid Calcium/Lime 1-2 weeks apart. Continue every 2 weeks for ever-bearing plants. This will help prevent soft or hollow fruits, cracked/deformed pits, and diseases like blossom-end rot in tomatoes. Applying lime during the Bed Preparation Step 1 would also be very beneficial for most fruits and crops prone to these problems.
4. MATURATION STAGE FERTILIZING
For FRUIT & FLOWER QUALITY – Potassium
- Once your plants have produced fruit and that fruit begins to mature, high POTASH with high PHOSPHORUS is needed with just the right combination of Nitrogen. This will “finish off” the crop and help build quality, including higher sugar and more dissolved solids. If you foliar spray the leaves it will get absorbed and move into the fruits.(K) POTASH – Maturation Stage – Add Kelp/Potash 0-0-15 to your favorite Phosphorus fertilizer (above) either alternating every 7 days, or mixing together. The Kelp/Potash supplies potassium as well as numerous micro-nutrients. Due to the dark color of seaweed you should avoid spraying onto commercial flowers that are opened up and nearly ready for cutting. Spray on leaves or soil instead. Or, simply switch to our 3-18-18 Bio-Enhanced Fertilizer. This is a clear fertilizer and will not discolor flowers.For Fruits and Veggies, start the Potassium fertilizers after fruits have formed and are beginning to change color or mature.
For Flower Crops use the 6-14-6 or 2-4-1 Liquid Fish to promote initial budding and flowering, then start the potassium fertilizers to obtain higher quality, longer lasting cut flowers.
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