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This year we planted our first home garden. It was a lot of fun, but we need to know what to do to make it better next year. Specifically: our plants grew VERY large, but did not yield much fruit. What fruit we did get was typically small and misshapen. We did not fertilize, except some nitrogen along with dead lawn clippings last fall. What should we do this fall to get the soils ready for more fruit and less leaves next year?
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It sounds although you believe you did not overfertilize, but the "symptoms of large plantswith little fruit suggests too much nitrogen". I recommend a basic soil sample which costs $14 and require a total of 2 cups of soil randomly selected from several areas of your vegetable bed to give you a baseline on soil texture, pH, salinity, phosphorus and potassium. Then you have a basis for amending your soil appropriately.
Information on soil testing and Fertilizing for a successful garden can be found on our county website by clicking on the following link http://extension.usu.edu/saltlake/htm/horticulture/fruit-and-vegetables . Scroll down and find many great informative short (1-2 page) fact sheets on growing different vegetables and fruits.
Different plants have different nutrient requirements so it isn't always a one fertilizer fits all scenario. Peas and beans are nitrogen fixers and do not require added nitrogen, and actually are used to enrich soils and are good if you rotate crops to introduce peas and beans in the rotation for that ability to fix nitrogen. On the other end of the spectrum regarding nitrogen use is corn. It is a heavy nitrogen feeder and requires quite a bit of nitrogen. It's best to know the needs of each fruit or vegetable and fertilize accordingly. The advantage of organic composts for fertilizing is they provide slow release of nutrients like nitrogen, the buffer soil pH, and improve soil texture.
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