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Soil Testing For A Successful Spring Garden

Spring vegetable gardens around the county are responding to the warm weather. Proper fertilizer applications will add to the yield without creating problems in the environment.

 

By Les Harrison
Wakulla County Extension Director

Residents of Wakulla County are heading out of doors to engage in the wide array of available activities. Sunshine, fresh air and there are very few insects to encounter, so far.

One traditional activity is the spring vegetable garden. While some may consider it a chore, many view it as a means to enhancing their personal health through production of high quality dietary choices.

Part of the effort is to have the soil nutrients available so the plants can produce the maximum yield. This sometime means amending the soil through use of fertilizers.

While a routine undertaking, applying fertilizer requires thought and consideration to be effective without negative consequences. It should be a deliberate and well-planned accomplishment which is science based.

The proper selection of a fertilizer should be based on a soil test. Every UF/IFAS Extension Office has supplies for pulling and submitting a soil sample for evaluation.

The results, which can come via mail or e-mail, will tell the homeowner what nutritional deficiencies exist in their garden or orchard. Based on the type of plant species indicated, the report will deliver the information on the fertilizer analysis needed for optimum plant performance.

With this information in hand, the homeowner can visit a local retailer who can provide the product which meets the plant’s needs without wasting excess nutrients. Excess soil nutrients can easily be relocated to bodies of water when storm water washes it downstream.

Home gardeners have several types of fertilize from which to choose for use on their fruit and vegetable production. Each has distinct advantages and disadvantages.

Dry blend fertilizer is usually the least expensive and is easy to find in the market place. It is a mixture of minerals and compounds which are combined to produce a particular analysis, such as 10-10-10.

This analysis is ten percent nitrogen, ten percent phosphorus, and ten percent potassium with the remaining 70 percent being micronutrients and inert carrier. Applied correctly, it can be effective at delivering the needed nutrients.

It is most effective when applied several times throughout the growing season. The vegetable plants and fruit trees will then have a continuous supply of the needed nutrients over time.

One potential problem with dry blend fertilizer is the particle size of the different nutrients. If irregular, they can separate during transportation to the retailer.

This can be easily corrected by the home gardener. Just pour the contents of the bag into a container and mix using a can or shovel.

Dry slow-release fertilizers are gaining popularity, but they are more expensive. They have a sulfur or polymer coating on the particles which allows for the slow release of the nutrients.

A single application can last for months which free the home gardener to pursue other activities with the time saved. The most common use of this product is with fruit and nut trees, but it will work with vegetables as well.

Liquid fertilizer concentrates are available, but the convenience comes at a high cost. It is easily diluted for use, but uniform application over a large area can be challenging.

No matter which form is used, proper application will grow good results. A healthy and well maintained garden and orchard leave more time for other springtime pursuits, such as thinking how to prepare the gardens bounty.

To learn more about the fertilizer for the Wakulla County landscape, visit the UF/IFAS Wakulla County website at http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/wakullaco or call 850-926-3931.