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KitchenGardener
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Location: Northern California; Hardiness Zone 10a, Climate zone: 17

Adding Fertilizer and Nutrients Now

I have a great garden patch probably 5x6, that I cram way too much into, but I'm happy with what I get. It largely feeds me (and some friends) throughout the summer. I pull up everything at the end of the year, and work in tons of compost, chicken/steer manure, and other good things like worm castings, bat guano, bone meal as I have them. But I notice every year, as the summer goes on (our summers here stretch through October) that things are getting tired, powdery mildew starts overpowering plants, even newly planted ones and things generally - even new plants - don't seem to be growing with same vigor they would in early spring. I water deeply once a week, typically followed by fertilizing with fish emulsion.

Question: I want to add a mid season boost of fertilizer and nutrients, so how do I do it? I'd like to mix a big bucket (maybe 4 gallon?) with aged manure, homemade and store bought compost, worm castings and some soil amendment/potting soil and then spread it around all the plants now. Is there any reason not to do this? I would let it stay on top and then work it in at the end of the season, with whatever else I amend the soil with at that time. Is there anything else I should add in? Perhaps more nitrogen containing material where the lettuce and peas were (and where the tomatoes and squash are now)? I also have organic tomato and vegetable fertilizer, and probably various other things lying around - trying not to buy anything more.

On the other side, I have broccoli and various peppers (mainly Padron) planted and competing for space (the broccoli was supposed to be gone by now but the side shoots have been great). Anything specific you recommend for them? Onions around the sides are doing fine and will be finishing up and out soon. The only thing new I plan on introducing is one more of each pumpkin and acorn squash, which will be planted on one side where peas were just pulled (or in center where nothing has been planted as its kind of my pathway).

Thanks for any thoughts you have.

Ksk
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Re: Adding Fertilizer and Nutrients Now

I too am zealous and have planted my garden too dense in the past. This approach can really spread mildew and bugs. Try to thin even though I know it is hard to choose what to sacrifice. I water very early in the AM. Watering at night, in particular if you water the leaves, can also spread mildew and other pathogens and allow vectors to multiply quickly. This problem is multiplied when you put plants close together as there will be little air flow. You can fight the mildew but need to get on it quickly and a jungle makes this difficult. Weak plants late in the season will more easily die from this stress.

As far as your soil being depleated, be aware that some crops like corn are really heavy nitrogen hogs. It is good to identify these types of plants and plant a different crop like beans and peas fix nitrogen back into your garden. If there is too much nitrogen you won't get as much fruit but more green leaves. Your garden is small so it is difficult to rotate plants but you could also amend with compost top dressing continually throughout the summer as it takes time.

I have heard it is best to fertilize every two weeks. I don't see any reason not to fertilize as you describe, but I recommend you check the manure to make sure it is not still "hot." That being said plants need many trace nutrients beyond straight fertilizer (NPK). I have found that watering with an organic source of trace nutrients will really maximize the health and production of a second crop. Go to your organic garden store and ask them for a fertilizer with trace minerals. See if you have some on the shelf. Your first plants may have depleted these nutrients resulting in weaker plants on your second planting. Common example: A lack of iron for example results in pale leaves with dark veins just as an example. People start putting nitrogen in and it is not the problem. Have fun!

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KitchenGardener
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Location: Northern California; Hardiness Zone 10a, Climate zone: 17

Re: Adding Fertilizer and Nutrients Now

Thanks for your response - anyone else have thoughts on my plan of adding down a layer of compost/manure and delightful things?

bri80
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Location: Portland, OR

Re: Adding Fertilizer and Nutrients Now

Anytime you grow a bed intensely planted like that, extra water and fertilizer is required for optimum growth. Your plan is sound, but personally I would use a seedmeal-based organic fertilizer (google Down to Earth fertilizers) mixed in with your compost to side-dress with. I don't like using manure, and you definitely shouldn't use manure if it's not fully composted.

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KitchenGardener
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Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2016 12:30 am
Location: Northern California; Hardiness Zone 10a, Climate zone: 17

Re: Adding Fertilizer and Nutrients Now

Thank you bri. Very helpful.

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applestar
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Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: Adding Fertilizer and Nutrients Now

Yep same thought that manure shouldn't be used while the garden is actively growing. Although I have heard that rabbit and guineapig "manure" can be used.

Also, you need to balance what you add. Fish emulsion is considered N-source. Fruiting plants shouldn't be given too much extra nitrogen, but benefit from more phosphorus and potassium -maybe go with kelp meal, heat or sun-dried and powdered egg shells (old coffee grinder or blender), definitely finished compost that is heavy on fruit and veg scraps if you have some (or plan on having some), earthworm castings, and AACT full strength drench.

Few other thoughts
-- in your zone, don't you grow a winter garden?
-- if you are leaving the garden bed fallow/rest for the full winter, I don't think your should add so much nitrogen source in the beginning since N is the first thing to go -- disappears as gaseous nitrogen ... but then maybe your "winter" isn't that long (mine lasts for 6-7 months although I'm still growing stuff in the beginning/late fall-early winter and start planting the very early spring stuff in late winter).
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

imafan26
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Re: Adding Fertilizer and Nutrients Now

Actually, most plants look tired in July and August. It is usually too hot for most plants. In warm zones 10 and up. It is the best time to consider taking everything out and solarizing to kill off weeds and disease. Go on vacation or to the beach for a few weeks. In frost free zones we plant again around September-October.

That being said, a lot of us are probably guilty of over planting. The main thing is that you grow plants that complement one another and that you have enough nutrients to support them. Usually, I would work compost in the soil when I plant but I have alo used compost as mulch in my permanent borders since they cannot be tilled. You can always use AACT compost or manure tea, fish emulsion and kelp meal as a supplement to an organic garden. Organic nutrients are released slowly over time, but if your garden is still growing well, then I would not worry about it too much.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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