Published in the November 8 – 21, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life
Odds are high that you reuse the same garden beds and containers season after season. Over time, the nutrients in those areas get used up. You can replenish your Morgan Hill soil by incorporating aged compost, blood meal, cottonseed meal, or commercially prepared fertilizers. These materials are normally applied as a top dressing, and allowed to work their way into the soil naturally. Banding takes this idea one step farther.
Benefits of banding
Banding refers to the practice of creating a band of fertilizer that runs alongside and a little below your rows of seeds. Banding your seeds with these “starter fertilizers” makes valuable nutrients available to early roots, helping seedlings to grow faster and bigger. This gives them an advantage over weeds. Also, placing nutrients within easy reach means less is wasted.
Before you start banding
Before jumping on the fertilizer bandwagon (Sorry, I couldn’t resist), you need to learn what is in your soil. You can’t know what to add if you don’t know what is missing. Most Morgan Hill soil already has an abundance of phosphorus, but yours might not. Adding more could be detrimental to your plants, and it’s a waste of money.
Adding any unnecessary fertilizer also puts the environment at risk. Before adding fertilizer to your soil, find a reputable, local soil test company and submit samples for testing. The results are fascinating and useful. (Over the counter soil test kits are not. Yet.) If your soil already has plenty of everything, banding is unnecessary. If your soil is lacking any of the big three plant nutrients, banding can help your seeds overcome this handicap.
Choosing the right fertilizer for banding
All fertilizers are required to provide information about the percentage by weight of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K). This means that a 10-pound bag of 10-20-10 fertilizer contains 1 pound nitrogen, 2 pounds phosphorous, 1 pound potassium, and 7 pounds of filler. After you have gotten the results from your soil test, you can select the best fertilizer for your crop.
Banding at planting time
After removing summer’s bounty and preparing your garden for cool season crops, make two rows for each row of seed, instead of one. One row is for the seeds and should be the recommended depth, depending on the type of plant. The row next to it should be two inches deeper and two inches to the side. Lightly apply fertilizer to the deeper row and plant your cool season crops in the shallower row. Cover both rows with soil and add a little water.
Before you know it, your cool weather crops will be thriving, all thanks to good information and a little banding.
You can learn more about feeding your cool weather crops at the South County Teaching and Demo Garden, found at St. Louise Hospital, 9400 No Name Uno, in Gilroy. You can learn more at www.mgsantaclara.ucanr.edu/demonstration-gardens/south-county-teaching-and-demonstration-garden. Classes are regularly offered to the public. For more information, check our events page at www.mgsantaclara.ucanr.edu/events/ or call (408) 282-3105 between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Kate Russell is a UCCE Master Gardener for Santa Clara County.
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