Fertilizer is the secret sauce for growing plants. But it is not one size fits all. Each plant requires different combinations of nutrients at different times.

Some plants, like peas are nitrogen fixing—meaning they get their nitrogen from air, and do not need it added for their roots. Other plants like onions need copious amounts of nitrogen throughout development to grow big bulbs. While other plants like tomatoes need to be nitrogen starved at the beginning to focus on root development, and only add nitrogen when the plant is about to fruit.

When planning your garden, look up planting guides

Spinach is a cold hardy crop, and can be planted in early spring and even fall in many climates. It grows in similar conditions to lettuce, yet is more versatile in the kitchen.

To plant, direct sow and cover seeds lightly with soil. Transplanting delays the crop too much, so typically it is not sown indoors.

Fertilize with a nitrogen rich 5–5–5 fertilizer every 2–3 weeks about 6 inches from the base to avoid burning out the roots. Keep the soil neutral to alkaline. Reseed every couple of weeks for continuous harvest.

Spinach can be harvested in the “cut and…

Cloves can be planted four to six weeks before the last frost, as they require a light vernalization period of at least a month with temperatures between 32º and 50º F. Longer cold periods tend to result in better flavored shallots. Shallots are sensitive to freezing though, so higher latitudes should wait until early spring to plant. Shallots can thrive in soil temperatures from 35º to 90º F.

Provided they are regularly watered and kept in well-drained soil, they are not particularly humidity-sensitive. If you leave shallots in the ground, they will re-sprout; however, the quality is better if they…

Peppers germinate well from grocery store produce. They only need the temperature to be above 70°F, and a light cover of soil—about 0.25 of an inch. Soil should be acidic, ranging from 5.5 to 6.5 ideally.

Avoid planting peppers in soil where you’ve recently grown other members of the nightshade family — such as tomatoes, potatoes, or eggplants — as this can expose peppers to disease.

Plant with rock phosphate. Fertilize after the first fruit set with 2–5–3. Too much nitrogen produces healthy foliage but discourages fruit. …

Peas are a cool season crop that can not stand the heat, but they can stand a little frost. Plant them as early as the soil can be worked — in North America this can be as early as February in the south, March in the north. The Irish used to traditionally plant peas on St. Patrick’s Day along with potatoes, and that date should largely be considered the last day to plant them.

Pea plants can be sown indoors or outdoors, though the plants resent transplanting process and can slow their growth by 2 weeks or more. If sowing…

Onion plants are heavy feeders and need constant nourishment to produce big bulbs. At planting time, mix in some nitrogen fertilizer.

Onions are really easily started as cuttings, by simply placing the cut root end of an onion in water, or directly in the ground with a light covering of moist soil. New sprouts form within days. However, these sprouts can be difficult to get large onions from—usually they are small to medium, but produced a lot faster.

Typically, best results are with seeds or with sets, which are small onion bulbs. Sets, similar to onion cuttings have a big…

Cover seeds lightly with soil directly. Lettuce can be transplanted, although it is risky when they are young. Plants need to be hardened for 5 days before transplanting and they must be large enough to keep their leaves off the soil.

Lettuce is perhaps the best crop to consider in a counter-top hydroponic garden, like an Aerogarden. These systems frequently come with a salad starter kit, but it is massively more economical to buy lettuce seeds and blank pods and simply put them together yourself. Start all lettuces at the same time in your Aerogarden to give each plant the…

Kale is a cool weather green and tastes better when the leaves mature in cold weather. It is a biennial crop that generally takes two seasons to produce flowers and seeds. Leaves can be harvested as soon as leaves are as big as your hand.

It is best planted in early spring or late summer. In the spring, kale can be started from seed and young kale plants can be set out very early (as early as 3 to 5 weeks before the last frost). …


Sow ¼ inch deep, 3 to 4 inches apart. For multiple harvests, sow seeds about every 3 weeks. Place in good sun to reach maturity on time. If planted in less sun, carrots can take up to twice as long to mature. Note, heat can cause carrot roots to grow fibrous, so these crops are better tasting when grown in spring and fall.

Gently mulch carrots to retain moisture, speed germination, and block the sun from hitting the roots directly. Fertilize with a low-nitrogen but high-potassium and -phosphate fertilizer 5 to 6 weeks after sowing. …

Eggplant or Aubergine

Eggplants, known also as aubergines, love warmth and grow best in very sunny, well-drained locations. They are not tolerant to low light. Plant eggplant when soil temps are above 50° F and all chances of frost have passed.

Eggplants often drop their first flowers, as the plant establishes itself. Some gardeners intentionally take the first flowers off to encourage good plant structure.

Eggplants are prone to falling over when loaded with fruit, so you may want to tie plants to stakes to keep them upright. When the plants bloom and set their first fruits, they benefit from extra nutrients. Side-dress…

Stacey Schneider

Digital marketer. Love family, dogs, scuba diving, gardening and photography. #Atlanta proud. #GrandTurk strong. 🍑💪

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