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In the Vegetable Patch: Helping the Harvest with the Right Fertilizer at the Right Times

by Ruth Foster

Early summer is a good time to give a little fertilizer and some special care to increase and prolong the harvest.  Be be forewarned, each vegetable has its own little preferences and peculiarities. 

Some Vegetables are Nitrogen Lovers

Lettuce and other greens need a constant source of nitrogen to grow last and be tender.  These can be fertilized every few weeks with liquid fertilizer.  Or every month or so you can give a side dressing granular fertilizer scratched very lights in to the soil about 4" from the plant.  Any standard fertilizer will do, whether chemical or organic.  

Cabbage is treated the same as lettuce, but watch for the small white cabbage moths.  To control their larvae, which eat holes in the leaves, spray weekly with non-toxic Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).

Beans are similar except they produce more when given a side dressing of chemical fertilizer.  Pick beans frequently, even every few days to keep them coming.  Once the seeds inside mature, it signals the plant to stop. 

Cucumbers are treated like beans and are best picked when small before the seeds inside mature, and before any yellow appears on the skin.  Check frequently for the striped cucumber beetle which carries will disease.  If found, spray weekly, immediately after harvesting, with a short residual vegetable insecticide that kills beetles.

Other Crops Need a More Balance Fertilizer

Tomatoes, a side of dressing of granular fertilizer is usually applied to the soil surface at planting time and again when they begin to set fruit.  Tomato fertilizer should have ample potassium plus trace elements, particularly calcium and magnesium.  It may be granular or liquid but beware of too much nitrogen which will produce tones of leaves and fewer blander tasting fruits.

As tomatoes ripen, fertilizer is withheld to produce better flavor.  Use a summer mulch (like bark) to keep the soil uniformly cool and moist.  Apply compost and organic fertilizer in the fall when preparing the bed for the following spring.

Herbs have best, most intense flavor if not fertilized at all.

Raspberries prune out the canes of the summer fruiting varieties when their harvest is finished.  Old canes are tan and peeling.  Leave the new green ones.  Rake up the leaves to control diseases, then apply a good all around fertilizer like 10-10-10 to the surface of the soil.



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