Ensure you have the correct nutrients in your garden soil

April 2, 2014

eddieUniversity of Florida Extension Office will test your soil

As spring approaches, many Florida homeowners are gearing up to grow their own vegetables. The most frequently asked question this time of year is, “why do I need to fertilize my soil?” The answer is simple – not all nutrients are present in the right amounts to support good plant health.

North Florida is a prime example of an area lacking certain nutrients, since the soils in this area are generally infertile and acidic. Especially with all the rain from this past year! Therefore, soils must be tested and appropriate amounts of lime and fertilizer must be applied to the soil for adequate plant growth. If this is not done then the crops will suffer from inadequate plant growth and yield will suffer.

Most vegetable crops grow and perform best at a pH range, 6.0-7.0. A soil sample must be taken to determine soil pH. Feel free to bring one of those samples by your local University of Florida IFAS Extension office for your soils pH results.  If the pH extends far below or above this range, then crop productivity will be significantly reduced. This happens because the crop cannot utilize the fertilizer properly. In other words, this causes the plant to use too much of some nutrients (like manganese, zinc, and iron) that are required in very small amounts and too little of some nutrients (like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) that are required in larger amounts. The plant system becomes upset so to speak and does not function well and some plants may even die.
To avoid having your crop suffer because of a lack of fertilizer, contact your local University of Florida IFAS Extension Agent and ask he/she to help you select the best kind of fertilizer for your crop. After you have selected the correct fertilizer, make sure to ask your  agent to assist you with the following:

• Be aware of  the correct amount to be applied to the area where you plan to grow your vegetable crops

• Understand how to apply the fertilizer to the soil so that your plants will use it properly for an excellent crop yield

Points to remember:
• For vegetables, keep your soil pH range between 6.0 -7.0 so that your crop can uptake the fertilizer properly
• Make sure to apply the correct amounts of fertilizer to the soil so that your plants will not suffer but produce high quality produce.

For more information contact Eddie Powell, Extension Agent at Eddie Powell – pep5@ufl.edu. Powell is the residential horticulture agent who educates the residents of Walton County unfamiliar with growing certain landscape and vegetable plants that grow in north Florida. He provide homeowners with information about why a good looking healthy lawn is important. Teaching proper fertilization and irrigation practices for successful backyard gardening and container gardening.