Vine Crop Care (cont)
By: National Gardening Association Editors
Side-dressing is the application of a small amount of balanced commercial or organic fertilizer to your plants once they're four to five weeks old. It's called side-dressing because you place food a few inches to the side of the plants, where it will gradually seep down to the roots. This boost helps the plants increase production of high quality fruit, and it's especially important for vine crops.
During the plant's development there comes a time when it stands upright at a height of 12 inches or more. That's the time to side-dress. The next time you see it, it will have flopped over and the vines will start to run or sprawl along the ground as they grow. At that point, the plants put their energy into producing vines, blossoms and fruit, and they can really use the extra food.
If you're using balanced commercial fertilizer such as 10-10-10, make a shallow furrow down both sides of each row, or around each hill, about four to five inches away from the base of the plants. Sprinkle the fertilizer evenly in the furrow -- one tablespoon for each two to three feet of row, and the same amount around each hill. Cover the fertilizer with one inch of soil.
If you side-dress with bulky organic matter, such as manure, make the furrow deeper and a few inches further from the plants. Spread the manure evenly in the furrow and cover it with an inch or two of soil.
Make it your golden rule to underfertilize if there's any doubt about how much to add. It's easy to do your plants more harm than good with "one more handful for good measure."