You don't fuel a Jaguar with kerosene. You don't adjust a computer
with a monkey wrench. High performance items require extraordinary
care and special considerations. The same is true of the vegetable
varieties recommended by the Texas A&M Extension service.
The specific varieties that I am referring to are Tomato 444,
Celebrity and Sun Pride tomatoes, bell peppers—Capistrano—and
onions, especially the Super Sweet 1015Y transplants.
As I travel from place to place I am confronted by two categories
of gardeners who have grown these recommended varieties. There
are those who have had them for spring and fall for several
years and have produced the largest quantities of the highest
quality vegetables of any variety ever grown. Then there are
those who have tried these varieties and had miserable results.
What is the difference? The difference is high performance plant
culture expertise. Those who fail with these varieties are using
growing techniques similar to fueling a Jaguar with kerosene
and adjusting a computer with a monkey wrench.
These varieties are the first high performance types ever
introduced into this market. If they are treated badly they
will produce badly. If they are pampered and "souped-up"
they will be magnificent. What constitutes abuse of a high performance
vegetable variety? The answer is lack of consistent, persistent
Consistency of care for a high performance variety involves
a program of regular fertilization (every three weeks with ammonium
sulfate, 21-0-0), preventive fungicide sprays (chlorothalonil
products such as Daconil Fungicide or Fertilome Broad Spectrum
Fungicide) every 7 to 10 days to avoid foliage damage and/or
loss, insect control when needed and, in the case of tomatoes,
supporting the vines off of the ground in wire-mesh cages. All
of these cultural practices must be persistently adhered to
if maximum production is expected.
Of all the requirements mentioned, the most abused of them
is lack of a periodic fertilization schedule. It has often been
said that the Tomato 444 tomato is specifically adapted to heavily
manured gardens. Also, that Capistrano pepper fruit are consistently
larger and four-lobed in heavily manured gardens, and that the
largest onion bulbs ever grown were in a soil mixture of almost
pure, well-decomposed manure.
This is not a difficult phenomenon to understand when we realize
that manure is the original slow release fertilizer. Manure
consistently "feeds" plants. Most gardeners accept
the fact that three pounds of Slow-release 19?5?9 should be
added to 100 square feet of garden area before planting, but
very few realize that additional plant food is required on a
regular basis if maximum yields are to be expected. Maximum
yield insurance is called “side dressing”. The term
side dressing simply denotes an application of fertilizer, usually
one that contains nitrogen only, alongside the rows or in a
circle around growing plants. This will insure a supply of nitrogen
as the plant grows and develops and is particularly beneficial
in sandy soils or in seasons of abundant rainfall, since nitrogen
has a bad habit of being washed or leached out of the root zone
area. Side dress with a slow-release fertilizer (19-5-9) during
the growing season and water in.
Thus, side dressing offers three very important advantages.
1) Properly used, it helps prevent the delayed fruit set caused
by excessive nitrogen too early in the season. 2) It significantly
increases yields and 3) it results in healthier, stronger plants
with fewer pest problems.
The rate and timing of your side dress applications is important.
Unless otherwise specified, a full cup or one pound of a slow-release
fertilizer (19?5?9) per 10 feet of row is adequate for most
crops. Information concerning the best time to side dress specific
crops is outlined below:
immediately after the end of harvest.
2. Beans (snap, wax, lima):
after plants flower and set first fruit.
when 4 to 6 inches tall, using 1 tablespoon of fertilizer
per 10 feet of row.
when they reach 4 inches in height, with 2 tablespoons of fertilizer
per 10 feet of row. Repeat when 8 inches tall if tops pale.
5. Crucifers (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower):
every 3 weeks after planting.
6. Leafy Greens (lettuce, endive, mustard, spinach, collards,
after several sets of true leaves are formed.
3 weeks after harvesting begins.
when 5 to 6 leaves are formed.
when 6 to 8 inches tall.
10. Sweet Potates:
11. Sweet Corn:
when 8 to 12 inches tall at a rate of 1 cup fertilizer per 10
feet of row.
12. Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplants:
when first fruits are marble?size, at the rate of 3 level tablespoons
per plant, or l cup full of fertilizer per 10 feet of row. Repeat
every 3 weeks.
13. Vine Crops (cantaloupe, cucumber, watermelon, squash, pumpkin):
when vines are 1 foot long at rate of 1 level tablespoon per
plant or l cup full of fertilizer per 10 feet of row.
Whenever side dressing, avoid getting the fertilizer particles
on the plant foliage and always water in thoroughly after application.
Do not dump the fertilizer on the base of the plant but instead
evenly distribute it several inches away from the base.
This principle of moderate but more frequent applications
of fertilizer will also work wonders for your flowers and for
your new landscape plants during their first three seasons of
So if you plan to grow high performance hybrids, grow them
right or don't grow them at all!