What's the best fertilizer for a vegetable garden? 9 top feeds to boost your harvests (2024)

Using fertilizers in a vegetable garden helps to increase your yield and have strong, healthy plants that have better resistance to pests and diseases.

Fertilizers can be organic and inorganic, however using feeds is not a one-size-fits-all tactic. It is important to know what you are targeting when you choose the best fertilizer for a vegetable garden. Know what nutrients each crop wants and which fertilizers will provide that.

Feeding your crops is going to be key to any successful vegetable garden ideas. Whether you use compost, manure, homemade fertilizers, or store-bought feeds, they all offer advantages to certain crops. We look at 10 of the best fertilizers for a vegetable garden to see what nutrients they offer and what crops they are best for.

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How to choose the best fertilizer for a vegetable garden

All fertilizers contain the three important nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and these are all evident as plant fertilizer numbers. Their make-up in the feed is outlined by three numbers, for example 10-10-10. Each nutrient is important for differing reasons, such as nitrogen promotes leaf growth while potassium is great for flowering and fruiting.

Choosing the best fertilizer means knowing the nutrients required for a great crop. Feed plays a big role in getting the best harvests and not fertilizing crops is a common vegetable growing mistake to avoid. It is always recommended to get your soil checked, to understand your soil type, soil pH, and nutrient make-up, as this can show any nutrient deficiencies that feeds can help target.

Great soil health is a combination of structure, water retention and availability of nutrients. It is a continual process to develop and maintain your soil for the benefit of crops, and using fertilizer is an important part of that.

Choosing the best fertilizer for a vegetable garden is essential for you to get the most from your crops. Your main choices are between organic and inorganic fertilizers.

Organic feeds come from natural plant sources, or from animal origins, and include the likes of compost, manure, and plant-based fertilizers. These are often slow-release feeds that provide nutrients to the plants over a long period of time and many can be made at home.

Inorganic feeds are more synthetic forms and include the likes of tomato feed and also granular fertilizers that are sprinkled around the plants. They are more concentrated forms of fertilizers that give a quicker hit of nutrients to plants than organic feeds, but do need to be regularly applied over the course of the growing season.

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1. Compost

Being able to use homemade compost is the dream of all vegetable gardeners, though compost can be easily bought in to use on the vegetable garden. Good quality compost is made by the decomposition of a wide range of garden materials, including leaves, plant debris, vegetable scraps, organic kitchen waste, or grass clippings from mowing a lawn.

Compost has all the vital nutrients required for strong vegetable growth and releases it to the plants over a long period of time. The material also helps with soil structure and water retention. Compost can be dug into the soil or put on the surface as a mulch, and it is recommended to mulch a vegetable garden annually. It is also commonly spread on the surface of a vegetable garden as part of no dig gardening techniques.

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2. Manure

Manure has been used in the vegetable garden for many years, commonly dug in during the fall and winter months as a way of preparing garden soil for spring. Animal waste tends to always be mixed with soil in the garden and must be well-rotted, as fresh manure has the potential to harm plants.

Manure from various animals can be used, but the most common are chicken manure, which is high in nitrogen, and cow or horse manure, both of which are lower in nitrogen and more all-round in values of NPK. Animal manure is a good method if you want to add phosphorus to soil.

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3. Blood meal

Blood meal is a product made from dried animal blood and comes in a powdered form. The main benefit of blood meal is that it is high in nitrogen. That makes it a useful feed for leafy greens and it can be used to replenish vegetable beds that have been drained of nitrogen over a period of cropping.

Any vegetables that show signs of nitrogen deficiency, including yellowing leaves, could benefit from the addition of blood meal. The use of blood meal can also help to make soil more acidic, with vegetables such as carrots, cauliflower, squash, and pumpkins doing well in mildly acidic soil. You can buy blood meal from Burpee.

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4. Bone meal

Bone meal is a by-product from the animal processing industry and the animal bones are washed and ground into a powdered form. Bone meal is low in nitrogen and potassium but very high in phosphorus.

As phosphorus is a valuable nutrient for root development, that makes bone meal a great feed when growing carrots or growing parsnips.

Other great uses for bone meal in the vegetable garden come when growing alliums, as it helps boost growth when growing garlic and is also a top choice when fertilizing onions. You can buy bone meal from Burpee or try this Organic Healthy Grow variety from Walmart.

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5. Comfrey feed

If you want to make plant fertilizer, comfrey is one of the best homemade fertilizers for the vegetable garden as it contains high levels of NPK nutrients as well as other valuable trace elements.

To make comfrey fertilizer, simply cut down comfrey and add it to a bucket of water to brew for a few weeks. The resulting tea is diluted with water and then applied to the plants. In the vegetable garden, if you are growing tomatoes, growing cucumbers, or growing peppers, then these fruiting vegetables will all benefit from the addition of comfrey feed.

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6. Tomato feed

A feed that is higher in phosphorus and potassium is essential for fertilizing tomatoes as they grow, however they can offer benefits to other vegetables too. A dedicated tomato feed, such as the Neptune's Harvestavailable at Walmart, helps plants to both produce flowers and ripen fruit.

As well as boosting tomatoes, such a feed can also be used when growing eggplant, beans, peppers, chillies, and squash. Tomato feed can even be used to fertilize potatoes. Use tomato feed to boost fruiting vegetables, however do not use it when growing lettuces or other leafy vegetables as it does not offer the high levels of nitrogen that such crops require.

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7. Sulphate of potash

Sulphate of potash is a feed that is very high in potassium and can promote the ripening of vegetables and fruit. It is applied in spring and summer to the vegetable garden and can be beneficial when growing potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, parsnips, peas and beans.

A high-potassium feed such as sulphate of potash is also recommended for fertilizing garlic during the growing season. This Hi-Yield Potash variety from Walmart would be suitable.

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8. Sulphate of ammonia

Sulphate of ammonia is very high in nitrogen and therefore a great feed for vegetable plants that want to put on leafy growth. It is very beneficial for brassicas, as well as growing spinach, lettuce, onions, or leeks.

Sulphate of ammonia should be worked into the top surface of the soil and watered in. It is important to not get any of the feed on the leaves or stems as it could burn the plant due to its high level of nitrogen. This Ammonium Sulphate granular fertilizer from Walmart has an NPK number of 21-0-0.

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9. All-purpose plant food

There is a range of inorganic all-purpose plant food available in stores and online. They come in either granular or liquid soluble form and tend to contain all three of the essential plant nutrients. These products all offer vital nutrients to plants and will help them grow.

One example is the Expert Gardener All-Purpose Water Soluble Plant Food available from Walmart. This feed comes in liquid form and is mixed with water to be added to vegetables. It has an NPK of 24-8-16 and offers all the vital nutrients vegetables need to grow strong and healthy. The high nitrogen and potassium content makes it a great option for many vegetables and fruit, particularly the likes of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, and pumpkins.

A granular example of an all-purpose feed that is ideal for the vegetable garden is the Miracle Gro , which is scattered on the surface and mixed into the soil. This fertilizer has an NPK of 10-5-15, so it offers a lot of nitrogen and potassium to crops and is also ideally suited for use on any fruiting vegetables.

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FAQs

When is the best time to fertilize a vegetable garden?

When you are starting a vegetable garden and making your plans for each year, it is important to remember that the best time to fertilize is in the winter or spring before each growing season commences.

Traditionally, growers would add manure or compost to their beds at the end of one season, ready for the next. This can be done as soon as late fall or early winter. When it comes to using fresh manure, for example, adding it in the winter allows the material to break down over the months and be in the best condition ready for when you plant vegetables.

Feeding the soil in spring means that the essential nutrients are available to young crops when you plant vegetables in spring and early summer. Though spring is the best time for major rejuvenation of the soil, many fertilizers can also be added when the vegetables are planted and throughout the season as and when required. That applies to lots of the inorganic and liquid feeds, such as tomato fertilizers, that are mixed with water and applied when watering plants throughout the growing season.

There is a large variety of fertilizers that are suitable for any vegetable garden or kitchen garden. However, there is no need to feel daunted by the range. A simple bit of research can reveal the nutrients required by each crop you are growing. When armed with that knowledge, it makes it easier to pick the best fertilizer. Many of the feeds listed above can be beneficial for multiple crops, so it means you need not end up with a garden shed or store room full of lots of different fertilizers.

What's the best fertilizer for a vegetable garden? 9 top feeds to boost your harvests (2024)

FAQs

What is the best overall fertilizer for a vegetable garden? ›

Organic fertilizers like compost, manure, or bone meal are great for vegetable gardens. These are slow-release fertilizers that add beneficial nutrients to the soil and feed the beneficial organisms in the soil. They are also very affordable and easy to find.

How do I apply 10-10-10 fertilizer to my vegetable garden? ›

Liquid 10-10-10 fertilizer is typically a concentrate that you dilute and spray onto large areas with a garden hose or sprayer or pour directly onto the soil in a container.

Which fertilizer makes plants grow faster and healthier? ›

High-nitrogen blends (such as 29-3-4), for instance, help keep lawns green and growing quickly. Higher-phosphorus mixes (6-10-4, for example) are intended to promote flowering and fruiting. Other packaged fertilizers are formulated for particular types of plants.

What's the best fertilizer for tomatoes? ›

High quality compost—material that is well-decomposed, dark in color, and crumbly—is the best tomato fertilizer to use regardless of the soil you're working with. Not only does an annual application of compost boost the nutrients available in the soil, but it also improves soil structure.

What is 10-10-10 fertilizer good for? ›

10-10-10 is called an all-purpose fertilizer because it can be used on almost any type of outdoor plant, including vegetables, shrubs, trees, flowers, lawns, and houseplants. Generally, it can be applied to any plant that doesn't need one of the three macronutrients in higher amounts.

What are the top 3 fertilizers? ›

Nitrogen helps produce green leaves and stems, phosphorus helps produce root development, and potassium helps the plant withstand stress from heat or cold. A good all-purpose fertilizer would be a 10-10-10 NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium).

What is the best fertilizer for rapid growth? ›

Good quality Epsom salt fertilizers can be a great choice to make them grow faster, bushier and bigger. These can improve their overall health and enhance the output and flavor of fruits and veggies. Onion peel, banana peel, or seaweed-based fertilizers can also help significantly increase the pace of growth.

What is the best fertilizer for all types of plants? ›

OrganoMagic Liquid Soil Booster | NPK | Immunity & Growth booster for all plants| Organic Manure for home garden | Indoor and Outdoor Garden fertilizer| 5 Ltr
  • plant fertilizer for pot plants.
  • plant protein.
  • neem oil for plants.
  • plant food.

How do I lay out my vegetable garden for a higher yield? ›

Design in Rows

Additionally, arrange the plants in such a way that the tallest ones are at the north end of the row, followed by medium-height veggies, and finally, the shortest ones at the south end. This arrangement maximizes sunlight exposure for all the plants.

How to get big harvest? ›

Frequent watering and feeding are some of the most important parts of encouraging a big harvest. Keep watering and feeding even when your plants start to be ready to harvest. Plants like tomatoes and beans need lots of water and nutrients. This will increase crop quality and yield.

What makes vegetables grow big? ›

There are several general things you can do to help increase the sizes of many common household crops. Provide your vegetables with plenty of everything. This means, full sun, plenty of water, well-draining and organic matter-rich soil, and lots of food.

What is the best all around fertilizer? ›

A good all-purpose fertilizer would be a 10-10-10 NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium). This type of fertilizer will work well for most plants and soil types.

Can I use the same fertilizer for all my vegetables? ›

There is many kind of fertilizers available on the market: For tomatoes, vegetables and fruits, for flowers and multi-purpose, for example. They each have a unique NPK ratio (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium). As often as possible, you should use a fertilizer dedicated for the type of plant you're growing.

What is the best fertilizing schedule for your garden? ›

Early spring is ideal for a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer to kickstart growth. Mid-summer benefits from a slow-release formula to sustain plants during peak growth. Fall is a great time for a nutrient-rich fertilizer to strengthen plants before winter dormancy.

What is the fertilizer recommendation for vegetable crops? ›

A fertilizer with the analysis 5‐10‐10 would contain 5% N, 10% P2O5, and 10% K2O. Recommendations for most vegetable gardens are for a complete fertilizer meaning that it contains the three major plant nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

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