Basics of Fertilization


When God created the world, He put all good things in it for our benefit. In Genesis, we learn that the Lord God created the earth and saw that it was good, and He then rested for a space. As we garden, we learn that although God created a world of bounty, we must build upon the good things He provides.

In Hebrews 6:7-9, 12, we read:

“For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessings from God; But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. But beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promise.”

From a spiritual standpoint, this scripture admonishes us to work a little harder and be more faithful. From a temporal perspective, we can apply this scripture to gardening. The Lord gives us soil, water, sun, and seeds. Our contributions are not only valued, but necessary, for an abundant harvest.

Building good soil is one of the most important tasks you’ll undertake as a gardener. This task isn’t a one-shot-and-you’re-done sort of thing. Building soil requires thoughtful observation to learn about the nutrients and amendments your soil needs. Fertilizing needs vary, depending on your region’s soil and growing conditions, but some general concepts apply to most gardening situations:

• Build soil through annual applications of well-rotted compost and manure. Spread three to four inches in the fall or early spring and till to a depth of at least eight inches. Do not put fresh manure on the garden because it will burn your plants. Manure that hasn’t been composted thoroughly can also harbor pathogens, such as E.coli, that can cause disease.

• If you’ve spent the time to build good soil prior to planting crops, you probably won’t need to apply fertilizers until later in the growing season. In fact, fertilizers applied too early can reduce your harvest. Nitrogen fertilizers encourage vigorous leafy growth. Wait until after flowering vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, melons, and beans have begun producing flowers before you fertilize. If you fertilize earlier, the plants will expend their energy on producing foliage.

• Learn to observe your plants for signs of nutrient deficiency. Pale or light green leaves and slow growth are usually signs that a shot of fertilizer is in order. Over-fertilizing your plants wastes resources and can lead to soft, spindly growth that encourages insect pests and disease.

• Use organic fertilizers whenever possible, including manure, compost, fish emulsion, rock phosphate, and even wood ashes, which are an organic source of potassium. Use the resources you have available locally – or better yet, within your own yard—first.

• Don’t fertilize perennial food crops such as orchard fruits and grapes late in the season. Doing so is usually unnecessary and encourages soft growth that will likely die come winter.

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