Feeding Vegetables

To reach their fullest potential, vegetables have to grow as quickly as possible. Anything that slows their growth decreases the size and the quality of the produce as well as the yield. Lettuce becomes tough and bitter and tomatoes are small and flavorless. To achieve this quick growth, vegetables require more nutrients than any other plants in the garden.
Amending the soil before planting can help. So can regular feedings with a product like Osmocote or Miracle-Gro. Different plant foods are applied in different ways. Follow the directions on the box or bag, or follow the timing instructions in the table below.

How to feed vegetables

  • If you add at least 2 inches of compost or manure to the soil before planting, that will suffice for an initial feeding. Feed once more after 6 weeks with a concentrated fertilizer.
  • An excellent way to feed vegetables in dry climates is to add some fertilizer to the irrigation water. Add ¼ the recommended rate every time you water.
  • If you use furrow or drip irrigation, place the fertilizer between the water and the plant roots. Fertilizer spread on the surface won’t get to the plants.
  • Water after feeding to to dissolve the plant food and carry it into the root zone. You can take care of both by using a water-soluble plant food that feeds as you water.
  • Increase the amount of plant food when gardening intensively with plants spaced closely.
  • Watch your plants. If growth slows, or if the oldest leaves begin to turn yellow, give a quick feeding of liquid fertilizer on the leaves and the soil.
  • Vegetables in containers need more food than those in the ground. A regular liquid-feeding schedule works well with them.

For more information on fertilizing see About Feeding Plants.

When to Feed Vegetables

Plant Food Type Water-Soluble Granular Slow Release
Berries Every 2-4 weeks prior to spring growth prior to spring growth
Bean varieties Every 2-4 weeks when plant begins growing when plant begins growing
Cucumbers Every 7-14 days at setting out at planting
Potatoes Every 7-14 days at planting at planting
Tomatoes Every 7-14 days at setting out at planting
Watermelon Every 7-14 days when plant begins growing when plant begins growing