I hope that I am not alone in the puny garden department this year. It seems as if the tomatoes, which were planted May
31, haven't put on much growth.
Seeds sown at the first of the month still haven't germinated. And even my cool-season crops - lettuce, radishes and
carrots - that were seeded in early May are only now starting to show signs of life.
I sometimes feel that if Charlie Brown had a vegetable garden, he would choose mine.
Now, I realize that I have high expectations for my garden. I figured that if I tell people how to garden, then I
should probably lead by example. So when mine isn't where I think it should be, I get nervous. And frustrated.
Because our growing season can be as short as 90 days, I don't have time for vegetables that have decided to take
their own sweet time.
In order to try to expedite the growing process, I have put an emphasis on my early and mid-season fertilization
Often times, gardeners think that if you fertilize the garden, then you will be improving the soil tilth (suitability
of a soil to support plant growth). Not necessarily true. For example, compost or manure may be added as a soil
amendment to improve tilth; however, they will add a nominal amount of plant nutrients. A manufactured fertilizer may
be added to supplement soil fertility levels, but it will not improve a soil's tilth.
If you want to follow organic standards for your vegetable garden, you have multiple fertilizers to choose from.
However, sometimes sourcing the products can be challenging (check with local nurseries), and is frequently more
expensive than manufactured fertilizers.
Some examples of organic fertilizers that have readily available nitrogen (can be taken up by the plants quickly):
bCorn-gluten meal. Do not apply to areas where you want seeds to germinate. Till in 20 to 40 pounds per 1,000 square
Blood meal. Made from dried slaughterhouse waste, it is one of the highest synthetic sources of nitrogen. Till in 5
to 10 pounds per 100 square feet.
Fish emulsion. Not as much nitrogen as the other options, but it can be mixed with water for application. Super
If you would rather use manufactured fertilizers, then I would recommend following the standard annual application
rate of 2 pounds actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. However, different crops have different nutrient needs, so do
some research about the nitrogen needs in your garden.
The amount of the fertilizer product needed can be calculated by dividing the pounds of nitrogen needed by the
percent of nitrogen in the product (on the bag you will see three numbers in this ratio: nitrogen, phosphate and
For example, if you need one-half pound of nitrogen for a given area use blood meal (15-1-1), divide 0.5 (one-half
pound) by 0.15 (the percent of nitrogen in the product). The result indicates 3.33 pounds of blood meal are needed to
apply one-half pound of nitrogen.
So hopefully if Charlie likes my garden then Linus' Great Pumpkin will soon follow.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County