Friday, December 21, 2012

The Importance of a Balanced Diet

Doesn’t the garden look lush and green? It’s a delightful sight.


But if you look closely, you’ll find that it’s all leaves and stems – no fruit.
broccoli plants

In the past I didn’t use plant food on my vegetable garden, I always just relied on the compost to provide nutrients. But for some reason, I got it into my head a few weeks ago that the plants were struggling, so I found some all-purpose plant food in the garage (who knows how old it was) and watered all the beds thoroughly with a solution. The very next day, the plants were green and perky, but by the next week, they were looking like mutants from a horror film.

Checking the fertilizer label – a bit late, obviously – I discovered that it was obscenely high in nitrogen, 20-4-1, and meant mostly for lawns. “All-purpose” apparently means you can use it for all your plants, not that you should.

So now my poor plants look like bulked-up body builders who only ingest protein shakes and steaks – it’s a very unbalanced diet. 
four-foot pea plants

According to the sources I've been reading, it is not easy to get rid of excess nitrogen. You can grow heavy feeders like squash and corn in the soil for a season, and they will use up a lot of nitrogen. But, since I already have a garden full of plants, I was looking for more of a short-term solution.

One way to encourage flowering and fruiting is to add phosphorus, which is the main component of flowering plant foods (Big Bloom, Bloom Booster, etc.). After my last experience with manufactured plant food, I would really like to try a more organic approach if at all possible. One thing I read suggested bone meal as a source of phosphorus, so I will probably try that. I just hope it doesn’t throw things off balance in some other direction.

In the meantime, at least we have lots of leafy lettuce!



  1. I am still jealous that you have a garden this time of year even if it doesn't bear fruit!

  2. Amazing for us to see all this produce growing in December. There's been no sun here for 5 days - constant rain and mist. Certainly no salad leaves growing but there are some snowdrop bulbs showing green around the birch tree. Nothing chewable for months yet!

  3. Your pictures are amazing, especially to those of us in the Midwest! My plants are gone and the trees are bare! Enjoy yours, I can't wait for mine to return. I hope that 2013 will be an outstanding year for you! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  4. Let me get this straight you did exactly what I would have done and got bulk to boot, as I still would have gotten,what's the term? Great minds think a like!.... lol, and your garden by the way is lush and incredible, and Yep!I still have a mess... Yea, jealous here! LOL... Well it looks like that you will have the oops handled like a pro and you will get some veggies along with lots of leafy lettuce yummmm....