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Watering and Fertilizing

Watering tomatoes

Examine your soil visually and with your hands to determine the need for additional water. Water deeply by drip, furrow, or sprinkler irrigation to encourage deep rooting. However, avoid wetting the foliage or fruit with overhead watering. If you allow water to seep through to the top few inches of your soil only, root growth will be stunted and, in some crops, may cause blossom drop. Keep adequate moisture in the deeper soil layers even when plants are small. Deep moisture is harder to replace later in the growing season without overirrigating. Proper irrigation will keep your plants vigorous and help protect them from thrips damage and sunburn.

Fertilizer Application Quick tips

Inorganic fertilizers can be sidedressed. Manures are more difficult to use as a side dressing and must be tilled into the soil. Banding: Make a small groove an inch or two deep on both shoulders of the bed, 4 to 6 inches from the plant row and band in the fertilizer. Replace the soil and irrigate.

Broadcasting: Fertilizers can be scattered along the bed shoulders. Work into the soil soon after. This is less efficient than the banding method but will be more practical when the plants are so large that the bed shoulders are inaccessible for banding.

Where sprinklers are used, fertilizer may be scattered on the soil surface between rows before irrigating. Where drip or trickle tubes are used, apply fertilizer on the soil surface near the drip tube.


Fertilizing your vegetables

Most vegetables require fertilizer for growth. Organic materials, such as manures and compost, and inorganic materials, such as chemicals, can be used to fertilize plants. Using both types of materials usually provides the best growth. Manures and compost can be used to increase soil fertility. They are usually applied at 1 pound per 4 or 5 square feet. These materials should be worked into the soil several weeks before planting in order to allow it to decompose. Manure that contains straw, sawdust, or similar materials should be applied with a commercial nitrogen fertilizer. Generally, if the soil has been properly amended with compost or manures or other organic materials, the only nutrient needed is nitrogen, if anything. Some commercial nitrogen fertilizers available are urea, ammonium sulfate, calcium nitrate, and ammonium nitrate. Apply these fertilizers at rates of 0.5 to 1 pound of nitrogen per 100 feet of row.

If manure and other organic material has not been used, apply fertilizer that contains both nitrogen and phosphorus before planting. All commercial fertilizers are labeled by the percentages of N-P-K; nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Some common mixed fertilizers are 5-10-5, 5-10-10, 8-16-16, and 12-12-12. Apply these fertilizers at rates of 1 - 2 pounds per 100 feet of row. After plants are 3 to 4 inches tall, sidedress nitrogen in narrow bands or furrows and water thoroughly after application, or apply through the drip system. Consider light but frequent applications of nitrogen fertilizer every 3 to 4 weeks. Avoid letting the fertilizer come into contact with the plant stems to avoid burning.