How Should I Fertilize My Garden Soil Before Planting?


Plants require 16 to 20 nutrients to develop strong roots, build an effective immune system and perform specific functions, such as blooming and producing food. Of those elements, nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are needed in large quantities. But trace minerals, such as iron, zinc and boron are also vital for a plant's health. While they absorb some nourishment, such as carbon and hydrogen, from the air, vegetation gets most of its sustenance from the ground. As preparation for planting a garden, get your soil tested. Follow the fertilization recommendations the lab report provides, as well as a few general guidelines.

Things You'll Need

  • Hoe
  • Pickax
  • Shovel
  • Rototiller, as needed
  • Manure
  • Recommended fertilizers
  • Spreader
  • Rake
  • Remove weeds, grass and rocks from the planting site. Break the ground to a depth of 6 to 9 inches with a pickax and shovel. Use a rototiller over large areas.

  • Spread a 2= to 3-inch layer of manure or other organic matter over the turned soil. Till it 6 to 9 inches into the soil. The amendment improves water and air circulation underground. It also stores nutrients in the soil particles for slow release to the plants.

  • Broadcast the fertilizers recommended in your soil test report over the planting bed. Use a spreader for fertilizer applications. In the absence of a soil test, apply 2 to 3 lbs. per 100 square feet of a formula designed for the crop you are growing. Salad greens need high doses of nitrogen, for instance. Give them a feed with a 15-15-15 analysis. Then numbers indicate the percentage of the macronutrients nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium present in the product. Work the fertilizer into the soil.

  • Rake the bed surface to smooth it out for planting.

Tips & Warnings

  • Check specifics for the plants you are using before fertilizing. Some trees and shrubs, for instance, do not require fertilizer at planting time.

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