Welcome to my guide on choosing fertilizer for raised beds. As you know, good soil is what makes for good plants. Besides adequate sun and moisture, what are you feeding the soil with ?
Are you ever lost when choosing fertilizer, like what do all those numbers on the front mean anyway, and how can you know when you are selecting the right kind. After all choosing fertilizer for veggie crops is different from choosing for flower beds. SO I want to bring about some education on the subject. Also you may have to consider and factor in the size of you beds and how many as well.
How I Chose the Best Raised Bed Fertilizers?
Well, the most important thing – experience.
Now on to my favorite brands of fertilizer and what I like about them, pros, cons and important tips!
Miracle-Gro All Purpose
I use this one most regularly – it’s a granular form that you mix with water to create the solution. You can’t go wrong with Miracle Gro on anything. Inside the box is the package containing water soluble granules and a handy measuring spoon. When combined with water the result is a light blue color. I mix a gallon of water with a heaping tablespoon of this per bed every few weeks. For my dispensing apparatus, I just use an empty washed-out milk container. You also have the option of using a proprietary dispenser (sold separately) with an attachment for your hose to make it easier.
Depending on the size of your beds, or how many, you will get a lot of uses out of this one box. The box itself contains 1.5 lbs of granule mix, which is supposedly will adequately feed 600 square feet of garden space, so based on that estimate you can measure it accordingly. A handy double-ended measuring spoon (tsp/tbs) is included for accuracy.You’ll want to keep it in a cool and dry location as the humidity where I live does cause the crystals to become clumpy. Do I recommend? Absolutely.
NPK Ratio: 24-8-16
Pros: Easy to mix and dispense, effective for variable numbers of beds
Cons: Make sure to store in a cool place – it gets clumpy.
I remember Jobes fertilizer spikes in the 80s and 90s…they were great for pots and containers, now they’ve come out with granules – which you need for beds, obviously., sticks aren’t very practical.
It’s easy to see why this brand gets high ratings…in addition to being organic, it’s got a nutrient dense makeup of bone meal (fantastic for plants, btw) potash sulfate, and protein hydrosylate., yet it’s not a high potency NPK ratio so you don’t have to worry about your plants being burned…Work it into the soil before planting. As time goes by and the steady growth is established you can use it as a side dressing. It’s more effective when used at a soil additive due to the low nutrient ratio. A recommended “dosage” of a tablespoon per 2″ seedling is the baseline for adequate use, and 1.5 cups per 10 feet square for your elevated beds.
A lot of people love this stuff, and love the results. of course, when followed correctly. The one drawback? It stinks, apparently, on overwhelmingly large amount of people say. Which is par for the course if you’re going to be dealing with organic fertilizers.
It’s also got a fresh-close bag making it easy to store the unused granules, be mindful of the expiration date on the back as this can affect its potency.
Miracle-Gro Raised Bed Fertilizer
I wouldn’t leave off a proprietary brand – this is MG’s specific Raised Bed pillar product. It is also intended for use as a soil additive prior to planting. The low potency ratio of 5-1-7 ensures you have a sustainable crop that won’t suffer setbacks from too much of the wrong nutrient combination. It is enriched with calcium and micronutrients so your beds will get a leg up through the whole growing season. After a three month period of time you can apply more granules as a side or top dressing to sustain good results.
For an approximate 2 oz bag (other options are available) you will be able to feed the soil well as recommended in 2 square 4 x 4 beds. At this rate you should be able to adjust accordingly if you have more, or differently sized, beds.
It is great for vegetables (what I focus on here, anyway,) not so much for flowers due to the low phosphate content. No comments of raunchy odors – the debate of whether or not the mixture is “organic” is debated, but it’s not confirmed for sure. Nevertheless, it’s a good mix and would recommend.
Buyers Guide to Fertilizers
There’s more to know about fertilizer than what you may have thought – there’re certainly not all created equally. The main things to be aware of are the components, whether you’re growing florals, vegetables or herbs.
Understanding the NPK Ratio
Have you ever seen a dashed number combination on a bag of fertilizer and wondered what it meant? This is called the “N-P-K ratio”. NPK stands for Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. If you’re familiar with the Periodic Table of Elements from way back in chemistry class, you probably recognize those symbols.
These three elements are the most important nutrients when determining the right combination of soil nutrients. There are others micronutrients as well that have some importance, such as iron, zinc, boron, magnesium, etc., bu these three are the most vital so a classification system has been developed around it.
All the numbers you see on brands of fertilizer will differ and are composed according to the varying needs of different crop types.
Some brands have an equal number of all three nutrients, for example, 12-12-12. This could be a good choice for some crops (many perennials) but for others it could be too strong, something like 4-4-4 would be a better choice. Also, some brands have nutrient makeups that omit one of them, these are referred to as “incomplete” fertilizers. A good example would be 10-5-0, or 10-0-0.
This would mean that the crop in question would be in greater need of phosphorus or potassium and less nitrogen. If you are unsure, it may be wise to have a soil sample test done to see what your crops really do need. The wrong ratio or one heavy in one nutrient and deficient in the other could be harmful.
Nitrogen is the elements that fuels the most of the foliage growth. It’s responsible for healthy leaves and stems on plants. People who are more concerned with their lawns are encouraged to use more nitrogen. When it comes to fruiting, focus on the phosphorus. A plant deficient in phosphorus may look healthy but is otherwise barren. The last element, potassium, helps create disease resistance.
Are Homemade Fertilizers Any Good?
You may be thinking about coming up with your own fertilizer on your own, in the hopes that it may save money, and be equally as good. This one is iffy. First off, unless you know for certain what type of soil you’re dealing with (due to a preliminary sample test) results may be sub-par. Some things work well – like broken up eggshells, or epsom salt. Water that has been soaked in banana peels is a good source of potassium.
Others, like coffee grounds – which are talked about quite often on garden forums – I wouldn’t and don’t as they are very acidic.
How to Use Fertilizers Effectively
It’s important that you distribute the fertilizer solution so it reaches the roots – not the foliage.
In the beginning, I use fertilizer once every two weeks per bed and after I see more prolific growth, I taper back a little and use it every third week.