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Learn Good Vegetable Garden Fertilizing Basics any Beginner and Master veggie Gardeners Should Know about Fertilizer

Updated on February 2, 2015

Basic Vegetable Gardening Facts

Beginner and master vegetable gardeners have one thing in common. We both share that one undeniable dirty little secret. Known as the gardener with a green thumb, oh yes it is true, not only do we want the coveted green thumb award bestowed upon us. We want to earn the admiration and respect of our gardening friends, family and most importantly our friendly neighborhood gardening rival. Having the first vine-ripened tomato before July 4, the sweetest burpless cucumbers, sweet corn and sweet pees in spring all earn us bragging rights. As any self respecting vegetable gardener, we simply gotta love that, right. Which begs the question, how do we make that happen? Easy, first we learn vegetable garden fertilizing basics beginner and master gardeners should know. Then we use what we learn to grow the best fruits, veggies, and herbs possible in our vegetable gardens.

Garden Plants need Food to grow

Vegetable gardeners like you and I must routinely use fertilizers to replace minerals and other nutrients in our vegetable garden soil. Nutrients and minerals that plants use as food, leach from our garden soil and run off with heavy rainfall, or simply evaporate into the atmosphere. To best use fertilizers however, we must first understand a few closely guarded vegetable gardening secrets.

First, rare thinking gardeners like us. Should know what elements our favorite vegetable plants require to grow and produce beautiful nutritious great tasting fruits and vegetables. The good news, for the most part, all but three of the elements vegetable plants require, are available in adequate levels in the air and garden soil.

Quick and easy way to test garden soil PH

Elements Plants Require to grow

Healthy plants require large amounts of these three elements fertilizers provide

1. Nitrogen

2. Phosphorus / phosphoric acid

3. Potassium / potash

Chemical vs Organic fertilizer

There are two classifications of fertilizers.

1. Chemical also referred to as inorganic or commercial fertilizers, manufactured using a chemical process.

2. Organic fertilizers, derived from decomposed animal waste and plant materials.

Chemical Fertilizers

Many home gardeners use chemical fertilizers that contain nutrients required for a specific variety of vegetable, herb or fruit bearing plants. Chemical fertilizers are easy to use, contain essential nutrients our plans need and store easily in the garage, or garden shed.

These inorganic commercial fertilizers quickly release known nutrients into the soil where vegetable plants absorb them, grow healthy, and produce a bountiful harvest. The numbers on the packaging represents the composition of the fertilizer. For instance, the inorganic fertilizer 5-10-5 commonly used as a starter fertilizer for tomatoes, is made up of 5 percent of its weight as nitrogen, 10 percent of its weight in phosphorus / phosphoric acid, and last but not least, 5 percent of its weight in Potassium / potash. That leaves eighty percent of commercial fertilizer weight as nothing more than some sort of filler that contains no nutritional value to plants.

Using Chemical Fertilizers

An important thing to remember, using only chemical fertilizers will cause the soil to harden over time. You see, chemical fertilizers do not contain organic matter necessary for the survival of earthworms, and other beneficial microorganisms that live in healthy garden soil. Suffice it to say, the practice of routinely adding organic matter back to our garden soil provides earthworms and nematodes with plenty of food. Where the earthworms through their castings, convert organic materials into nutrients plants use as food, and the earthworm activities lessen soil compaction, and aerate the soil which makes it much easier for our vegetable plants to develop a strong root structure in the process.

Easy composting with red wiggler earthworms

Worm composter is the master gardeners best friend


Vegetable gardeners should know the nutrients different plants require

Nitrogen is used by plants to produce green leafs. Since leafy vegetables have many green leaves, they use more nitrogen than either Phosphorus, or potassium. Subsequently each time we harvest our lettuce, spinach and our other favorite leafy vegetables, we remove nitrogen from our garden soil. For this reason, we replace nitrogen in our garden soil by using nitrogen rich fertilizers. To make it easy to identify the Nitrogen content in fertilizers, look at the first number on the package, (5)-10-five in this case the number 5 represents the percentage by weigh of nitrogen in a particular plant food or fertilizer.

Nitrogen deficiencies cause the leaves of vegetable plants to first turn yellow, then drop off, starting with the bottom leaves. On the other hand, too much nitrogen will cause fruit producing plants, such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplants to grow many beautiful leaves, as a result fewer and generally smaller fruits and veggies.


Phosphorous is essential for the development of good healthy vine stems and roots, fruit and seeds. In proper quantities phosphorous helps our vegetable plants resist many diseases. When plants do not get an adequate amount of phosphorus, they will not grow well or survive the stress of disease. Left unchecked, starting with the lower stems and leaves of the affected plants, stems, and leaves, will first turn a reddish color, drop off and then the plant will die.

For the best results in the garden, keep in mind, your soil PH is extremely important, it should be between six and six point five for green leafy vegetables and your tomatoes. Phosphorous dissolves slowly in water, working it into the soil a few weeks before planting is your best bet. Look to the middle number 5-(10)-5, 10 representing the percentage by weight of phosphorous contained in a particular fertilizer


Potassium, last in the list of nutrients in fertilizers on the package, but certainly not least in importance, potassium is also important for healthy plant growth and plants ability to both tolerate, and ward off diseases.

Root crops such as beets, potatoes, radishes, and carrots all require the proper amounts of potassium in the soil to grow and produce healthy great tasting produce our friends and family enjoy.

The most common tell tail sign plants are suffering from low potassium levels, you will notice the edges of your vegetable plants leaves turning brown. This is a good indication you should check the PH of your garden soil to first determine how much potassium your garden soil needs, then use the appropriate fertilizer to maintain a healthy balance of nutrients in your garden soil.

Which are the best fertilizers vegetable gardeners should use, I think you will agree, after reading the article learn vegetable garden fertilizing basics beginner and master gardeners should know. Using the proper fertilizers, at the right time in our vegetable gardens, is much easier than we once thought.

Best wishes and happy gardening, Mike

The author of this publication, Mike Teddleton owns the copyright to Learn Good Vegetable Garden Fertilizing Basics any Beginner and Master veggie Gardeners Should Know about Fertilizer. The rights to publish this article in print or online can only be granted by contacting me the author in writing. You may use the intro and link back to the article directing the reader back to my post here at HubPages where they may find the story in its entirety

Thanks for your Comments on using fertilizers and vegetable gardening

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    • Teddletonmr profile image

      Mike Teddleton 6 years ago from Midwest USA

      howcurecancer glad you like my hub, Learn vegetable garden fertilizing basics beginner and master gardeners should know.

      I hope you give organic vegetable gardening a try, happy gardening. Mike

    • howcurecancer profile image

      Elena@LessIsHealthy 6 years ago

      Great learning tips.

    • Teddletonmr profile image

      Mike Teddleton 6 years ago from Midwest USA

      Minnetonka twin great to hear from you, best wishes and I hope you enjoy your vegetable gardening this season.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 6 years ago from Minnesota

      I can't wait to get going on my veggie garden. This was such a long winter in Minnesota. Thanks for the great tips. I will be bookmarking this hub:)