E- mail -- basic soil, nutrients,water/feeding schedule

Hi Dr. Myers
One of the most confusing parts (for me) is nutrients, soil and watering.

I'm not a gardening person, I'm not green thumbed so all this fertilizer numbers, ph and moisture is baffling to me. Could you please explain to me in plain terms what basic soil, nutrients, water/feeding schedule I would need?

Thanks for your E-mail.
You are right there is a lot of information to know to be a good grower. The good news is that if you just know a few basics you can be successful, and then build on your success as your knowledge grows.

I wrote a previous paper on nutrients LINK
And on how to water properly LINK
And a previous post on soil LINK
And on what containers are best to use LINK

There is a lot of information in these articles and links to others, so I will try to break things down in simple terms for you here. If any of the more advanced growers can think of easier ways to explain things please leave a comment for me.

Start with a good potting soil. You don’t need to worry about pH or even much about nutrients with a good soil. I always tell people, "Don’t even think about hydroponics or soil-less mediums until you master growing in dirt".

Start you plants in small containers and put them in bigger containers as they grow. Most plants need a minimum of ½ gallon of soil for every foot of growth. Simply put bigger containers are better than smaller but see my container article for more information
It is vital that all containers have a drainage hole. When you water it should come out the bottom of the container so that you know the soil is saturated completely. Watering is important, but usually is done too much. When growing in dirt, you should never water a plant if the top layer of soil is still moist. Containers dry from the top down so if the top is wet the whole container is too. Pick up the plants every time you water. The weight will tell you how much water is needed. Heavy pots need less, light pots are dry and need more.

There is a ton of information on nutrients.  The most basic thing you need to know is that the three numbers on any fertilizer are always describing three nutrients in the same order.  FIRST is always the percentage of nitrogen SECOND is the percentage of phosphorus and THIRD is the percentage of potassium. These (NPK) are the most important nutrients that plants need in large quantities. A general fertilizer with all three numbes the same like 10-10-10 is all you really need if you are growing in potting soil. I like fox farm products but use many others too.
  If you want to try a couple different fertilizers, instead of just a 10-10-10, many growers start off by giving young growing plants a fertilizer with the largest number the first 6-4-4 (NITROGEN). Nitrogen helps plants grow vegetatively. Then some growers switch to a fertilizer that has the highest number the second PHOSPHORUS like 2-8-4. Phosphorus helps plants make flowers and fruits. If you are growing in potting soil you don’t need to worry too much about micronutrients. Compost is one way to make sure you have micronutrients, but there are many fertilizers you can buy as well.

I hope this helps you get going. Let me know if you run into any other problems.

Good Growing,
Dr. E. R. Myers

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