When should I fertilize and mulch transplanted seedlings?

General    NJ

This is something I never seem to get right. Should I fertilize directly after transplanting seedlings to the garden or hold off to let them establish? Also when is the correct time to apply straw mulch to the plants? Thank-you!

Posted by: Beth Johnson (2 points) Beth Johnson
Posted: March 18, 2013


It would be advisable to get a soil test for your garden at the beginning of the planting year (your local extension agent can help you with that) so you know what nutrient levels to use. After transplanting is the best time to fertilize because it encourages vegetative growth. If you're growing fruits or vegetables make sure you cut back or eliminate fertilizers once flowers are starting to appear.

Mulch can be applied right away because it allows moisture to stay in the soil and buffer any severe weather conditions early on. The previous poster was right saying you don't want to crowd the stem with mulch, it can encourage the development of diseases.

Posted by: Kathryn Fiedler (72 points) Kathryn Fiedler
Posted: March 19, 2013

You will love this answer. It depends. ha

As Kathryn and Danny point out not knowing where your soil stands makes fertilizing a one size fits all approach. If you choose not to go the soil test route I would just mix a quarter buy volume of a fine screened and aged compost into the planting hole and see where that takes your plant. Where I live if you put any potassium fertilizers on the ground NPK you're a looney.

It is pretty safe to assume that if you are growing a moderate to heavy nitrogen feeder that your plant will probably desire some more than your soil can provide. Again without a soil test I would go from quarter nitrogen fertilizer (NPK) recommendation to a half then full strength depending on the plants response. I prefer blood meal and my dog does too.

Organic matter is your friend and ultimate buffer. As a mulch your talking about retaining temperatures. It will keep the soil cooler during the day and warmer at night. Also as a mulch were talking about retaining moisture. By sitting on top of the soils fairly similar particle size you greatly reduce the evaporation from water wicking up and wind drying out of the soil. Also for establishing your transplants you're putting a physical barrier (mulch) to prevent eroding the soil around your plantings from the wind and watering or rain.

Once my soil thawed out I planted and deeply mulched peas and fava beans, since I want the ground to stay cooler during the day and prevent the wind from wicking away my germination water from my seeds.

Add a comment and let us know how it goes and what you're planting!

Posted by: Wurgulf (1 point) Wurgulf
Posted: March 28, 2013

Beth Johnson commented,
Thanks for your help! I think I should finally get that test done huh?
over 9 years ago.

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