Vegetables need a combination of nutrients to grow into large, healthy plants. Have your soil tested to determine if you need to fertilize your garden. Then, follow these simple steps.

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Fertilizing the Garden

Whenever you fertilize a garden, it’s important to know what your fertilizer levels are to start with. Because if you don’t know that, you won’t know what type of fertilizer you’ll need to use. For example, on this garden, I have plenty of phosphorus and potassium, which are two of the three nutrients you normally need in a garden. So, I don’t need add any of those two nutrients, but I will need to add nitrogen.

Nitrogen does not stick to a soil, and therefore you normally have to use nitrogen every year. That’s all I’m going to be using on this garden for this year. And, in this case, I’m going to use urea, which is a 46-0-0. That first number is always a percentage of nitrogen. When it says 46, it means that it’s 46 percent nitrogen. That means, that about half of the fertilizer is nitrogen.

What I have in here is enough to cover this whole garden. And, that will put down about a pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet. Again, that’s all I need for this garden for this year, unless I do some side dressing later in the year.

This is just nitrogen. And, nitrogen will dissolve in water. Therefore, once you have it down, all you need to do is water it in, and it will be in the soil. If you also added phosphorus and potassium – those two nutrients need to be tilled in because they do not move in the soil well. Once you’ve applied those, it’s a good idea to roto-till those in, so you can get them down to where the roots will be more likely to contact the fertilizer.

Now, I’m going to start a few feet back from the beginning of the garden because it will throw it out in front of me. And, I don’t want to have a skip right at the beginning of the garden. I’ll also stop before I reach the end of the garden for the same reason. I don’t want to fertilize past the end of the garden. Normally when you do this, when you fertilize a garden that is this small, you’ll want to go over it more than one time. I still have fertilizer left in my fertilizer spreader, so I can hit this about twice. That will even out any irregularities in my application procedure. So, I’m going to go the opposite direction that I did before, and try to even everything out. So, here we go…

This feature story prepared with Ward Upham, Kansas State University Research and Extension Research Assistant. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at

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