5 Best Vegetable Garden Fertilizers + How and When To Use Them

Vegetable gardening can provide huge bountiful rewards, not to mention the opportunity to breathe fresh air and get some exercise in a mindful environment.

But the simple pleasure of growing produce does not happen all by itself. More often than not, it needs careful planning and preparation, the right growing conditions, and a good balance of nutrients to increase yield and promote healthy crops.

Let’s face it, even if you have great soil, a good dose of sunshine, and sufficient irrigation, your plants will be bigger, better, and tastier if they are fed regularly with an expertly blended fertilizer.

So, whether you already have a vegetable garden or are planning on starting one, we have all the insider knowledge and expert knowhow, to make choosing the best vegetable garden fertilizer as easy as shelling peas from a pod.

Vegetable Garden Fertilizer Options

Most of us rely on customer reviews when buying a product. While this is perfectly fine, it is also a good idea to understand the nutrient requirements of vegetable plants and consider what products meet your requirements before you buy a fertilizer for your vegetable garden.

N-P-K Ratio

There are two types of fertilizer, organic and inorganic and both types feature three numbers on their label, which indicates the N-P-K ratio of the product. (N) stands for Nitrogen, (P) for Phosphorus, and (K) Potassium. In most cases, a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer will provide the nutrients necessary for healthy plant growth.

Nitrogen

Nitrogen is a requirement for healthy foliage growth so it is useful in the early stages of the vegetable plant’s lifecycle and throughout the growth of leafy vegetables.

Phosphorus

Phosphorus contributes towards the development of healthy fruit, therefore it is of particular importance to vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and squash. It also plays a role in root vegetable development.

Potassium

Potassium plays a role toward the overall nutrient absorption and helps protect against disease for all types of vegetable plants.

Inorganic Vs Organic Vegetable Fertilizer

Manufacturers for both organic and inorganic vegetable fertilizers are required to stipulate their N-P-K ratio, but what actually distinguishes these two products? Both contain all the nutrients your vegetables will need, just in slightly different ways.

Inorganic vegetable fertilizers are synthetic and are manufactured with chemical nutrient compounds. They usually have little or no odor but overuse of these products can harm your plants and the surrounding area not to mention leave hazardous chemicals on your freshly grown produce.  If you do plan on using them always follow the manufacturer’s guidance when using these products and wash your vegetables thoroughly before cooking or eating them. 

Organic vegetable fertilizers are 100% natural with ingredients made up of plant or animal matter. They are kinder to the environment and will not harm people or pets provided you stick to the manufacturer’s recommendations. They do tend to have a strong and often offensive odor so beware!

While organic and inorganic fertilizers have their own advantages and disadvantages, organic is mostly preferred to keep you and your vegetable garden healthy and to avoid ingestion of any potentially harmful chemicals. For that reason, we’ve focused our top 5 best fertilizers for vegetable garden reviews exclusively on natural and organic fertilizers. Don’t worry, we’re not just doing it for an environmental reason, vegetables love organic matter and respond really well to rich soil with high organic levels.

Types of Organic Vegetable Fertilizer

Fertilizers come in different formats to suit the needs of every vegetable gardener. Typically, they are in either powder, granule, spike or liquid forms. Here’s a heads up and all you need to know about each option to help you choose what suits your gardening needs best.

Powder Fertilizer

Depending on the manufacturer’s instructions, powder fertilizers need to be sprinkled directly into the soil or diluted in water and dispersed in and around the area of your plants. This format of fertilizer is often the most economical, but they do carry a risk of root burn if overused so always check quantities versus the size of your plot before fertilizing your vegetables. so do make sure you read up and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on how often to fertilize cherry trees. 

Granular Fertilizer

Granules are a slow-release option, but results do start to show within just a couple of weeks. They provide nourishment to the soil around your plants as well as the root system and last for up to nine months.

Similar to powders, these can be sprinkled onto the soil in and around your vegetable plants and quite often they will need to be watered in to become activated.

Liquid Fertilizer For Vegetables

Liquid fertilizers are faster-acting and release the nutrients into the soil for quick absorption. This can be helpful for crops with a shorter growing season, or where they are exhibiting poor health and need fast treatment. They usually come in a concentrated formula and will need diluting in water before watering into your vegetables.


Best Fertilizer For Vegetable Garden Reviews

If you need help choosing the vegetable garden fertilizer then you’ve come to the right place. When it comes to reviewing products for your yard and garden we have it covered and always base our selection criteria on the performance of the fertilizer, what it’s made of, value for money, and the level of customer satisfaction, taking into account thousands of user reviews across major online platforms. Here’s our experts’ comprehensive review of the 5 best vegetable garden fertilizers starting with our top pick: 


1. Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed Tomato, Vegetable Plant Food 10-5-15

Vegetable Garden Fertilizer

When it comes to gardening, Miracle-Gro offers an excellent range of fertilizers. Not only does it contain specially formulated micronutrients for your plants but also an array of natural ingredients to feed the microbes in the soil. These microbes help to stimulate plant growth by producing hormones and other substances.

As you’d expect with Miracle-Gro, this brand knows what they’re doing when it comes to vegetable growing. This fertilizer contains calcium to protect fruit and vegetables against crop disorders which can stunt or even prevent healthy growth. Check Miracle-Gro’s latest price on Amazon.com

How to use: This product is suitable for growing vegetables in containers and in the ground. Simply scatter the required amount in and around your vegetables once every 3 months during the growing season.

I like to use this right at the start of the growing season before the real growing action gets underway. That way, the soil is primed and nutrient-rich ready to support new plant growth when it starts. I’ve even used this on my indoor Meyer lemon trees as a citrus tree fertilizer. It really helped to perk it up after a winter indoors and the lemons it produced were huge and plentiful! Don’t forget to water regularly. 

Customer reviews: This product has bagged highly satisfied 4.6/5 star customer reviews with many users who started off using this for their tomatoes and found that it’s really effective for growing bigger and better vegetables too. Some reviewers found this to be harsh on young plants and complained that the N-P-K was not stated on the packaging.

Pros

  • Can be dispensed directly from the container
  • Only requires one application every 3 months
  • Improves soil condition while fertilizing plants

Cons

  • Use cautiously on young plants

2. Dr Earth Organic 5 Tomato, Herb & Vegetable Fertilizer 4-6-3

Dr Earth Organic 5 Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer 4-6-3

Dr Earth fertilizer is made with 100% organic and natural ingredients. As it does not contain any chemicals, you need not worry about any kind of damage to your beloved crops. This one is packed with the essential nutrients that are necessary for optimum plant growth and your plants will love it just as mine do.

This fertilizer contains probiotics that are really beneficial for soil microbes. As a result, plants can better withstand any adverse environmental conditions such as a cold snap or heavy rain, making them more durable and hardy. These microbes also help plants absorb those all-important nutrients that they draw from the soil.

Buy Dr Earth from Amazon.com

How to use: Prepare in advance by adding 1 cup to one gallon of water. Allow to ‘rest’ for 24 hours before mulching into the soil around your vegetable plants. I like to use this to prepare my soil in advance of planting. Once you do start planting this fertilizer gets to work quickly and lasts for several months.

Customer reviews: This fertilizer is people and pet-safe and it does not contain chicken manure so it is less smelly than some other varieties of organic vegetable fertilizer.

Pros

  • Can be used in advance of planting to ‘prepare’ soil
  • Gets to work on providing nutrient as soon as plants are in the ground
  • Improves soil condition while fertilizing plants

Cons

  • Needs to be prepared 24 hours in advance of use

3. Miracle-Gro Organics Edibles Fertilizer 9-4-12

Miracle-Gro Performance Organics 9-4-12

This fertilizer like the other products we have so far featured on this best vegetable garden fertilizer list has zero synthetic chemicals or unwanted materials. What sets it apart from the others is it’s OMRI listed and is approved for organic gardening by the USDA.

I am a huge fan of this particular product from Miracle-Gro because it starts breaking down in the soil straight away to instantly start feeding your vegetables. It’s also suitable for use for fruit plants and I’ve had massive success with using it as a strawberry fertilizer. With relatively high nitrogen levels plants tend to put out vigorous top growth early on and the decent phosphorus ratio means you’ll see noticeably bigger fruit.

You can find Organics here online, you may pay a little bit more for this over a few of the other products on our list, but it still represents good value, with a great yield.

How to use: Simply use the enclosed scoop to dilute 2 scoops per gallon of water for a 10 sq ft area, mix briefing in a watering can, and off you go. You’ll need to apply this fertilizer once every seven days to see the best results.

Customer reviews: This product is quick and easy to use and delivers great results. Probably best for a small vegetable patch or if you’re planning a few patio containers or pots because it is expensive for the amount you get.

Pros

  • Gets to work straight away
  • Gentle formula means you can use it weekly

Cons

  • Expensive for the amount you get

4. Osmocote Smart-Release Plant Food Flower & Vegetable 14-14-14

Osmocote Smart-Release Plant Food Flower & Vegetable 14-14-14

If you’re not into fertilizing every week then give this slow-release fertilizer a try from Osmocote. It boasts their trademark formulation of fertilizer granules that are coated with semi-permeable resin that dissolves into the soil gradually and means you’ll only need to use it once every 4 months.

It also has a carefully balanced N-P-K ratio that means your plants will push out lush foliage early on, benefit from a strong root system, and you’ll get bigger and better produce at harvest time. You can even use it on your perennials. Check the latest price here.

How to use: Osmocote plant food bag is resealable and comes with a little plastic scoop. The application of this fertilizer is easy. Simply sprinkle 1 scoopful of the granules for every 4 sq ft of garden. Gently work it into the soil with a rake and water.

Customer reviews: This is a food value fertilizer that works as an all-rounder in your garden. It comes in a handy resealable bag and a measuring scoop that cuts down on waste and mess.

Pros

  • Nutrients are released gradually into the soil
  • Only one application per four months is required
  • Works on perennials too

Cons

  • Expensive for the amount you get

5. Jobe’s Organics Tomato & Vegetable Fertilizer 2-5-3

Jobe’s Organics 9026 Fertilizer 2-5-3

Last but by no means least in our best fertilizer for vegetable gardens listing is this fast-acting organic vegetable fertilizer from Jobe’s Organics. It can be used for soil preparation of vegetable gardens or containers, on tender vegetable seedlings and throughout the growing season. It is also OMRI listed for organic gardening by USDA, so there are no synthetic chemicals incorporated in this product.

As with all Jobe’s fertilizers, this one contains their trademark Biozome, and for those that are new to Jobe’s, this is their blend of microorganisms that help to break down the fertilizer ingredients into the soil so that the roots of your vegetable plants can absorb it quickly. This results in faster growth and improves soil quality. Their formula also helps plants withstand unfavorable conditions and susceptibility to disease.

Find Jobe’s online here

How to use: Follow the instructions on the packaging as the amount you need depends on what growth stage your plants are at. You simply scatter the fertilizer in and around the soil, work it in gently with a rake and then water it in.

As the ingredients in this fertilizer promote root growth, nutrient absorption, and soil quality, it is one of the best fertilizers to take your vegetable garden to the next level.

Customer reviews: The quality and size of vegetables were highly noticeable thanks to the high phosphorous ratio in this fertilizer. Some users were out off by the smell of this one!

Pros

  • Perkier looking plants in under 2 weeks
  • Bigger and better produce

Cons

  • Smelly

When to Apply Fertilizer to Vegetable Garden?

Although the regular application of fertilizers will keep the plants healthy and productive, the best time to apply fertilizer to vegetable gardens is in the spring to nourish the soil before planting and then support strong growth.

You should also apply fertilizer when the plants start turning yellow as this is an indication of nutrient deficiency in vegetable plants. If they are green and healthy, take extra time before applying more fertilizer.

In addition to most plants requiring fertilizer in the spring, some plants will need an extra boost as the growing season progresses. For instance, corn and tomatoes are heavy nitrogen consumers that require fertilizers even in the summer.

Stick to the morning or late in the day to apply fertilizers and avoid times when the sun is hottest. If you are applying fertilizer to the leaves, do it in the morning when there is not much heat to prevent the leaves from burning.

If you are using slow-acting fertilizers, it’s far better to apply them between fall and early spring so that the fertilizer can get to work in the soil and will then start to act once plants are in the ground. For fast-acting fertilizers, apply them in the morning or late in the day.

To sum up, it is best to follow the directions mentioned on the fertilizer label to get healthy vegetables.

How Often Should You Fertilize a Vegetable Garden?

The type of vegetables you grow in your garden, and the soil composition are two factors that determine how often you should apply fertilizer. Testing the soil with a soil pH test kit in the Fall is an excellent way to determine the nutrients that are lacking in your soil and will give you a chance to adjust the pH levels before the start of the next growing season.

In the case of fall crops, apply fast-acting fertilizer every few weeks. Slow-acting fertilizers are not ideal for the growth of summer and fall crops as their growing season is shorter and the fertilizer just won’t be effective during the time they grow.

If the summer is very hot and dry, it’s a good idea to provide a further dose of fertilizer to your garden especially one that contains ingredients that help with drought conditions. Your vegetable plants will thank you for an extra boost as they grow.

Once you have harvested all the vegetables, start with the slow-acting fertilizer once again to reintroduce lost nutrients to the soil and to provide food for worms. Worms break down organic matter and keep the soil aerated. As a result, the environment becomes favorable for plant growth, allowing the roots to penetrate deeper into the soil for extra moisture and nutrients.

For winter crops, stop fertilizing when there is frost. This is because your plants will not be able to take up too many nutrients due to the cold temperature.

One final point, whatever you do, when applying fertilizer, it is vitally important to stick to the amounts mentioned on the fertilizer label. Also, follow the directions carefully to prevent under and over-application.

Best Fertilizer For Vegetables Conclusion

So there we go, a full-stack overview sharing our best vegetable garden fertilizers, so let’s take a quick recap. If you want overall performance and convenience then you should pick up a bottle of Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed, its easy to use and is packed nutrients to produce a bumper crop. If you prefer to go Organic then Dr Earth Organic Vegetable Fertilizer will also give you a fantastic yield worthy of a harvest fayre.

Remember, the nutrients vegetables require in the highest quantity are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). However, too much of these nutrients can damage the soil, resulting in reduced plant growth. That is why it is so important to choose the right fertilizer for your garden.

Test your garden soil, check if there is any nutrient deficiency, and choose a fertilizer that has the nutrients that your soil is lacking. Moreover, ask yourself these questions before buying a fertilizer: what kind of crops am I planting? Which seasons do they grow in? How often will they need harvesting?

It is important to follow the directions for use mentioned in the fertilizer label to prevent damage to the crops and to apply the correct amount of fertilizer in your soil to avoid over and under-application. I hope you enjoyed my picks of the best fertilizer for vegetable gardening. Wishing you all a bountiful harvest!

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