Eddie Powell
Extension Horticultural Courtesy Agent I
Walton County

With spring in full swing 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. Therefore, ample 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 food supply.

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 Extension office for your soils pH results. Now 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 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 following:  to figure the correct amount to be applied to the area where you plan to grow your vegetable crops and also how to apply the fertilizer to the soil so that your plants will use it properly for an excellent crop yield.

Things to remember:

To keep your soil pH range between 6.0 -7.0 so that your crop can uptake the fertilizer properly and make sure to apply the correct amounts of fertilizer to the soil so that your plants will not suffer but produce high quality produce.