Side Dressing Fertilizer in the Home Garden

June 08, 2010 | 7:06 am

Side Dressing; isn’t that a funny name? I recall my Dad talking about side dressing his field corn. Before I knew what he was talking about, I thought he was putting salad dressing in the field.  Silly me! Later, I learned that he was applying plant food, nitrogen fertilizer, to enhance the overall health and productivity of the corn.  As gardeners, we can benefit from side dressing as well.

Side dressing is the process of giving your plants an extra boost just before or during the production of fruit. To side dress, apply plant nutrients (fertilizer) alongside your plants. Usually it is in a granular form.

Here are a few helpful steps to successful side dressing:

  1. Follow label directions. Over-application of a fertilizer will burn and possibly kill your plant.
  2. Dig a small trench about 5 inches away from the base of the plant.
  3. Sprinkle fertilizer in the trench, cover with soil. It’s important to incorporate the fertilizer into the soil. This will prevent the fertilizer from splashing onto the leaves. I use a generic 10-10-10 granular fertilizer.
  4. Thoroughly water afterwards.
  5. There are vegetables that require more plant nutrition than others and benefit most from a side dressing of fertilizer. We refer to them as heavy feeders. These include: cabbage, tomatoes, sweet corn, beets, carrots, onions, celery and potatoes.
  6. Annual flowers can also benefit from side dressing every 4 to 6 weeks, especially during a rainy summer or for flowers grown in an irrigated flower bed. The extra water washes away the plant nutrients.
  7. After fertilizing, keep an eye on your plants. You should see new growth and the leaves should be a healthy lush green color.

Just remember; when using fertilizer, it is important to choose the right fertilizer product and apply it at the right rate, right time and right place.

Happy Gardening!