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

Vegetable gardening can provide huge 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, I have all the insider knowledge and expert know-how to make choosing the best vegetable garden fertilizer as easy as shelling peas from a pod.

Top 3 Vegetable Fertilizers

If you’re in a hurry, check out my top three recommendations below. The super-convenient Miracle-Gro Shake and Feed is a great all-rounder. If you want organic, then Dr. Earth has a great balanced fertilizer. For those fruiting crops, I like to hit them with a boost of Miracle Gro Performance Organics.

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

Most Convenient Fertilizer

Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed Vegetable Food 10-5-15

Easy to use and extremely effective, always producing bumper vegetable crops. Sprinkler two applications during the growing season for great results.

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

Best Organic Fertilizer

Dr. Earth Organic 5 Vegetable Fertilizer 4-6-3

Organic fertilizer containing probiotics that are beneficial for soil microbes.Water-soluble.

Miracle-Gro Organics Edibles Fertilizer 9-4-12

Best For Fruiting Crops

Miracle-Gro Organics Fertilizer 9-4-12

This high potassium fertilizer is perfectly suited for feeding hungry fruiting crops such as tomatoes, pepper, or squash. Feed them during flower.

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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 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. This number sequence indicates the N-P-K ratio of the product. (N) stands for Nitrogen, (P) for Phosphorus, and (K) for Potassium. In most cases, a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer will provide the nutrients necessary for healthy plant growth.

Numbers on Fertilizer Packaging Explained in 60 Seconds


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


Potassium plays a role in overall nutrient absorption and helps protect against disease for all types of vegetable plants. Potassium, or potash, is a key nutrient for root and tuber development, so it is useful to have a higher ratio of potash when growing crops like potatoes.

Inorganic Vs Organic Vegetable Fertilizer

Manufacturers of both organic and inorganic vegetable fertilizers are required to list their N-P-K ratios. But what actually distinguishes these two products? Both contain all the nutrients your vegetables need but in slightly different ways.

Inorganic fertilizers are manufactured with mineral and synthetic nutrient compounds. They usually have little or no odor but the overuse of such products can harm your plants and the surrounding soil. 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. But they do tend to have a strong and often offensive odor!

According to Oregon State University, organic fertilizers better support beneficial soil microbes than their inorganic counterparts. If you’re interested in sustaining your vegetable garden’s soil quality for many years to come, this is a huge selling point.

While organic and inorganic fertilizers have their own advantages and disadvantages, organic formulas are more popular in the world of edible gardening. For that reason, I’ve focused primarily on organic fertilizer throughout the rest of this article. However, it’s extremely important to remember that ‘natural’ fertilizers can also be harmful (to the environment and our health) when used irresponsibly.

Types of Organic Vegetable Fertilizer

Fertilizers come in different forms to suit the needs of every vegetable gardener. Most often, they are sold as powder, granules, spikes, or liquids.

Here’s 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 type of fertilizer is often the most economical.The formulas do carry a risk of root burn if overused, so always check recommended dosage for the size of your vegetable patch before fertilizing.

Granular Fertilizer

Granules are a slow-release option. Results typically start to show within a couple of weeks. Granules provide nourishment to the soil around your plants as well as their root systems, and can last for up to 9 months.

Similar to powders, these can be sprinkled onto the soil in and around your vegetable plants. They often need to be watered in for activation.

Liquid Fertilizer For Vegetables

Liquid fertilizers are fast-acting and release nutrients into the soil instantly for quick absorption. This can be helpful for crops with a shorter growing season, or plants exhibiting poor health and in need of immediate treatment. Liquids usually come in a concentrated state and will need diluting in water before use.

Vegetable Garden Fertilizers Reviewed

I’ve based my 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. So, without further ado, here’s my expert review of the 5 best vegetable garden fertilizers currently available: 


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


  • Use cautiously on young plants

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

As you’d expect with Miracle-Gro, this brand knows what it’s doing for 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 action gets underway. That way, the soil is primed and ready to support new plant growth. I’ve even used this on my indoor Meyer lemon tree as a citrus tree fertilizer. It really helped 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. Many users started off using this for their tomatoes and found that it’s really effective for growing bigger and better vegetables. Some reviewers found this to be harsh on young plants and complained that the N-P-K ratio was not stated on the packaging.


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


  • Needs to be prepared 24 hours in advance of use

Dr. Earth fertilizer is made with 100% organic and natural ingredients. It’s packed with essential nutrients that are necessary for optimum plant growth. I’m sure 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 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 of fertilizer to 1 gallon of water. Allow to sit 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. It does not contain chicken manure, so it is less smelly than some other varieties of organic vegetable fertilizer.


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


  • Expensive for the amount you get

This Miracle-Gro fertilizer has zero synthetic chemicals or unwanted materials. What sets it apart from the others is that it’s OMRI-listed and approved for organic gardening by the USDA.

I am a huge fan of this particular product because it starts breaking down in the soil straight away to instantly feed your vegetables. It’s also suitable for use on fruit plants. 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. 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 my list but it still represents good value for 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 briefly in a watering can, then off you go. You’ll need to apply this fertilizer once every 7 days to see the best results.

Customer reviews: This product is quick and easy to use and delivers great results. It’s 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.


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


  • Expensive for the amount you get

If you’re not into fertilizing every week, give this slow-release fertilizer a try from Osmocote. It boasts a trademark formulation of fertilizer granules that are coated with semi-permeable resin that dissolves into the soil gradually. This 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: The 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 great 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.


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


  • Smelly

Last but by no means least is this fast-acting 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 the USDA, so there are no synthetic chemicals incorporated in this product.

As with all Jobe’s fertilizers, this one contains their trademark Biozome. 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 improved soil quality. The formula also helps plants withstand unfavorable conditions and boosts disease resistance.

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. 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 noticeably improved thanks to the high phosphorous ratio in this fertilizer. Some users were put off by the smell of this one!

When To Fertilize Vegetable Garden

The routine application of fertilizer will keep plants healthy and productive. With that said, the best time to apply fertilizer to vegetable varieties is in the spring. This practice nourishes the soil before planting and then supports strong growth throughout the season.

I also recommend applying fertilizer if vegetable plant leaves start turning yellow. This is often an indication of a nutrient deficiency — nitrogen is most commonly to blame. An updated soil test is usually needed to diagnose other nutrient deficiencies in the soil.

Some plants will need an extra boost as the growing season progresses. For instance, corn and tomatoes are heavy nitrogen consumers that require fertilizer even in the peak of summer.

Stick to fertilizing in the morning or later in the day. Avoid times when the sun is hottest. If you are applying fertilizer to the leaves, do it in the morning when there is minimal heat and direct sunlight to prevent burn damage.

Above all else, it is always best to follow the directions provided on the fertilizer label.

How Often Should You Fertilize a Vegetable Garden?

The types of vegetables and the natural soil composition in your garden will ultimately 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 which nutrients are lacking in your soil and 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. Their growing season is shorter and the fertilizer won’t reach full efficacy during the time 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 provide food for soil-borne organisms. Soil-borne organisms — e.g., worms — break down organic matter and keep the soil aerated. As a result, the environment becomes favorable for plant growth, allowing 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.

When applying fertilizer, it’s very important to stick to the amounts mentioned on the fertilizer label. Follow the directions carefully to prevent under- or over-application.

Verdict: Best Fertilizer for Vegetables

If you want overall performance and convenience, you should pick up a bottle of Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed. It’s easy to use and packed with nutrients to produce a potential bumper crop. If you prefer to go Organic, then Dr. Earth Organic Vegetable Fertilizer will also give you a yield worthy of a harvest festival.

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

Most Convenient Fertilizer

Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed Vegetable Food 10-5-15

Easy to use and extremely effective, always producing bumper vegetable crops. Sprinkler two applications during the growing season for great results.

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

Best Organic Fertilizer

Dr. Earth Organic 5 Vegetable Fertilizer 4-6-3

Organic fertilizer containing probiotics that are beneficial for soil microbes.Water-soluble.

Miracle-Gro Organics Edibles Fertilizer 9-4-12

Best For Fruiting Crops

Miracle-Gro Organics Fertilizer 9-4-12

This high potassium fertilizer is perfectly suited for feeding hungry fruiting crops such as tomatoes, pepper, or squash. Feed them during flower.

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 be harvested?

I hope you enjoyed my picks of the best fertilizer for vegetable gardening. Wishing you all a bountiful harvest!

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