Feed vegetable garden first, so it can feed you more

  • May. 29, 2017 12:30 a.m.

For bigger harvests this summer, put your veggie garden on a regular diet.

Set up a monthly feeding program, starting this weekend, and keep track on your calendar. Make sure to water your garden before applying any fertilizer to prevent “burning” your plants.

Organic fertilizers offer a balance of nutrients to help feed the soil as well as the plants while cutting down on possible chemical salt build-up. Instead of high numbers (such as 20-20-20), look for a 3-1-2 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Those numbers refer to the percentage of that nutrient found in the fertilizer. Summer vegetables in particular need a little extra phosphorus and potassium for flower and fruit production; a big boost of nitrogen makes all vine and leaves and no tomatoes.

There are other benefits to organics. Compost, an example of a natural 3-1-2 fertilizer, adds needed organic material to the soil as well as those macro-nutrients, feeding the soil’s microorganisms as well as the vegetables. Bone meal, a great source of phosphorus, can prompt more flowering and fruiting on tomatoes, peppers, squash and eggplant.

— Transplant tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and squash seedlings. Do this early in the day before temperatures rise. They’ll need extra water their first few weeks; rising heat and excessive wind can dry soil out quickly.

— Plant seeds for melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes and annual herbs such as basil. Keep soil moist (not wet) and they’ll sprout quickly.

— In the flower garden, plant seeds for salvia, sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, marigolds, celosia and asters. You also can transplant seedlings for many of those same flowers.

— Harvest fava beans, radishes, carrots, cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

— For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering shrubs and perennials.

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