Fertilizer and Lime

The Shoestring Gardener

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Vegetable gardens will not reach their potential unless the soil is properly limed and fertilized. Liming decreases soil acidity, increases fertilizer availability and reduces certain physiological problems such as blossom-end-rot of tomatoes, peppers and watermelons. A soil test is the only reliable method of determining the optimum amount of lime and fertilizer to apply.

Instructions for taking soil samples and soil sample boxes are available at your county Extension office. The samples are sent to The University of Tennessee Soil Testing Laboratory in Nashville. The returned report indicates the amount of lime and fertilizer recommended. There is a small fee for this service.

Soil acidity is measured in pH units. Most vegetables grow best at a pH of 6 to 6.8. Once this pH is reached, it is generally necessary to check the pH only about every three years.

Lime requires time to dissolve and become be fully effective. For this reason, it is generally best to apply lime in the fall and to mix it into the soil. However, spring application of lime is better than no lime at all. The more finely ground lime is, the more likely a spring application is to produce the desired pH change.

Vegetable gardens require a "complete" fertilizer such as 6-12-12, 10-10-10, 13-13-13 or 15-15-15 for proper growth and development. The three numbers are referred to as the fertilizer analysis. The first number is the percentage of nitrogen in the fertilizer by weight. The second and third numbers are the percentages of phosphate and potash, respectively.

Figure 2. Pick up a handful of soil and roll it into a ball. If the soil sticks together and will not crumble easily it is too wet to work.

Figure 2. Pick up a handful of soil and roll it into a ball. If the soil sticks together and will not crumble easily it is too wet to work.

Soil should be worked to a depth of at least 6 or 7 inches and smoothed before planting. Seed should be planted only in moist, finely aggregated soil. Soils worked into a powdery condition are more likely to crust. Small seed planted in cloddy soil usually dry out and germinate poorly. Garden soil may be worked with farm equipment, a rototiller or spaded with a shovel.

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Organic Gardening

Organic Gardening

Gardening is also a great way to provide healthy food for you and your loved ones. When you buy produce from the store, it just isnt the same as presenting a salad to your family that came exclusively from your garden worked by your own two hands.

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