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Fertilization & Irrigation Tips For Vegetable Gardening

Jun 10, 2008
Loamy soil will help you produce a productive, healthy garden. The soil should crumble in your hands and should have a minimal clay and sand mixture. Too much water is retained by clay-like soil, which doesn't allow for proper drainage. Nutrients are lacking in andy soil, and there is little support and water retention.

Good fertilizer and the right amount of water are needed to produce loamy soil.

But before you add anything, know what you're starting with. A simple and inexpensive soil testing kit will tell you what kind of soil you have. It will test for levels of nutrients and for pH. Some vegetables like a more acidic soil, others prefer an alkaline earth. Most will do best in an intermediate range of 6.0-6.5.

Adding sulfur or lime can adjust the pH. Adding fertilizer will supply those nutrients. pH should be adjusted several months before planting. In some climates, that means doing so after the prior years harvest, before the snows start.

If you've created a compost pile, add the material to the topsoil about three weeks before planting. That will give it time to naturally leach the needed nutrients into the soil before you plant. You can speed up the process somewhat by tilling it into the top few inches. Otherwise, you can add organic or artificial fertilizer (such as NPK 8-8-8) to enrich your soil. Add that right before planting. About 20 pounds per thousand square feet is enough in most cases.

Vegetables love lots of water, unlike most herbs and some other plants, although most are not suited to sit continuously in a pool of water, which leads to root rot. Continuously moist soil, however, will aid your plants growing and support themselves.

Water is a vital chemical used to transport nutrients throughout the plant, participate in photosynthesis, and give rigidity and firmness to cell structures. About an inch of water per week is the right amount for most gardens. That works out to about 65 gallons per 100 square feet. The amount will vary slightly depending on the type of soil you have. If natural rain activity doesn't supply that amount from April through September, you'll need to supplement it.

Fortunately, it's easy to supply.

If applied in moderate temperatures, watering vegetable plants from above doesn't wilt them, unlike flowering plants. There is still common considerations to apply. Allow leaves and topsoil to dry before nighttime temperatures settle in by watering early in the day. This is one way to prevent fungus. Building an inexpensive, simple drip irrigation system is another way to accomplish the same goal. Rubber tubing that leaches water should be placed near the plant in order to supply water to the roots.

Then, only occasional water is needed to keep leaves clean and their pores open. Don't water when it's very hot, though. That defeats the purpose, since it causes the pores in the leaves to open, and they evaporate more moisture than you supplied. It can also cause burns when water droplets act like small magnifying glasses.
About the Author
Planning on planting a garden this year but aren't really sure where to start? You'll find lots of useful information on the Gardener's Atlas website. Visit http://www.gardenersatlas.com for more helpful tips & advice.
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