Give your plants a balanced diet
Just like people, plants need a range of nutrients to thrive. If you make your own compost, the leftovers from your own balanced diet become food for your garden but your kitchen compost is limited to the range of what your household commonly eats. Many gardening advisers recommend using at least five different sources of compost: for instance, your kitchen compost plus four different bags from a garden store. In addition, supplementing any known imbalances with targeted amendments leads to great rewards at harvest time.
An all-purpose organic fertilizer is the simplest way to go for the beginning gardener, but armed with the results of your soil test, you may want to fine-tune your beds. Essential nutrients for all plants include:
- Nitrogen: Provided abundantly by leguminous cover crops, composted manure, fish fertilizer or alfalfa meal.
- Phosphorus: Rock phosphate and bone meal are both good sources.
- Potassium: Kelp meal or greensand are long-lasting potassium releasers.
- Calcium: Commonly supplied by gypsum or lime. Glacial rock dust provides calcium and other minerals while raising the pH of acidic soil.
- Magnesium: Epsom salts will raise magnesium without affecting pH, while dolomitic lime will raise both pH and magnesium.
- Sulfur: Generally required only in alkaline soil. Adding sulfur will slowly lower pH through microbial action.
Gardening for years with a nutrient deficiency can be so discouraging that it’s hard to stay enthusiastic. Though in the excitement of spring, it may be tempting to rush into planting with whatever dirt you have on hand, take your time. All your labor will be in vain without the appropriate soil foundation. Take steps now to ensure some positive reinforcement for your efforts!