User avatar
TheWaterbug
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1068
Joined: Mon May 02, 2011 9:15 pm
Location: Los Angeles

Frequency of fertilizer application?

I apply liquid fertilizer via an injector and my drip system, and occasionally with a watering can when I don't have the drip system in place yet.

Whenever I read a fertilizer bottle/package/instructions it typically says to apply once or twice a month.

Is this because plants need a jolt of fertilizer and then a "rest" period? Or is it because the writers assume people won't make the effort more than once or twice a month?

Would plants prefer a continuous stream of less-concentrated fertilizer if it were available?

BTW I'm asking mostly with regard to vegetables.
Sunset 23/USDA 11a, Elev. 783', Frost free since 8,000 BC. Plagued by squirrels, gophers, and peafowl, but coming to terms with it!

User avatar
Gary350
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 4886
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2009 5:59 pm
Location: TN. 50 years of gardening experience.

Re: Frequency of fertilizer application?

Be careful if you use too much fertilizer you can not take it back. It is best to be a little stingy with the fertilizer to see how it goes you can always give the plants more. Fertilizer soaks into the soil like water soaks into a sponge. When the fertilizer is used up add more.

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: Frequency of fertilizer application?

I certainly agree with Gary that you don't want too much. Some things like tomatoes and peppers are more productive when a little bit stressed for water/nutrients.

OTOH, I doubt "jolt and rest" is a natural cycle. I expect that naturally plants are continuously taking what they need from the soil. That is the point of compost and other "slow release" ways to add nutrients to the soil. If you can mimic that, your plants would probably like it.

For fruiting plants, again like the tomatoes and peppers, you want low nitrogen, not balanced, fertilizer. I don't know if you have any way with your drip system to give different mixtures to different parts of your garden.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

User avatar
TheWaterbug
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1068
Joined: Mon May 02, 2011 9:15 pm
Location: Los Angeles

Re: Frequency of fertilizer application?

I probably should have worded the original question better. Given the recommended application rate of fertilizer, e.g. X lbs/acre/month or whatever, it is better given continuously or in a more concentrated burst?

I'm guessing the former, but I'm hoping to get some insight from folks who have been doing this far longer than I :D

Regarding my existing system, I have a two-zone timer and a drip system that I reconfigure throughout the season as I plant new areas. I have another two-zone timer and a single zone timer that I can put in whenever I want. I also have two 1 pint injectors, so I can put the fertilizer where I want to.

But the 1 pint injectors empty in approximately 35 gallons, and my watering schedule dumps many time that amount each week, so each fill is less than a full "dose." So I'm wondering if I should just fill it up every week.
Sunset 23/USDA 11a, Elev. 783', Frost free since 8,000 BC. Plagued by squirrels, gophers, and peafowl, but coming to terms with it!

Dillbert
Greener Thumb
Posts: 955
Joined: Sun Apr 04, 2010 7:29 pm
Location: Central PA

Re: Frequency of fertilizer application?

as Joan says . . . can we talk?

excepting hydroponic systems - - - -

you put some fertilizer "down" - whether that's granular, powdered, liquid, in solution, foliar feeding, not the issue.

for "optimum" - however one can define that - plants like to eat daily. they got roots for that.

"fertilizer" does not "go down" and twenty seconds later "disappear" - there is a persistent factor which varies "wildly to the nth degree" based on chemical source, "organic source" - solid - slow release/not slow, liquid, etc.

basically by whatever 'method' you're tossing some NPK into the soil. the plants uses some, some leaches away. how fast the NPK is available / leaches depends on the NPK source. which is why the organic crowd goes with the manure bit - sits there, releases 'slowly' over weeks.

pellets of Miracle Grow 30-30-30 tossed on the surface work fast; and probably leach away in a couple days - perhaps stretched to 2 weeks - depending on how much water / irrigation / rain / slope / run-off is "involved" in your specific situation.

all of the above serves to discount the "burst then starve" theory. there's no even chem-to-the-max fertilizer I'm aware of that "disappears" in 24 hours - so if you've got plants in dirt, daily fertilizing is not indicated.

admittedly, this is a very complex question involving a lot of factors - the hydroponic crowd feeds constantly - why? because the roots are not in soil - and the nutrient mix drains away.

Return to “Vegetable Gardening Forum”