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What Is Side Dressing: What To Use For Side Dressing Crops And Plants

What Is Side Dressing: What To Use For Side Dressing Crops And Plants


By: Anne Baley

The way you fertilize your garden plants affects the way they grow, and there is a surprising number of methods for getting fertilizer to a plant’s roots. Fertilizer side dressing is most often used with plants that need constant additions of certain nutrients, usually nitrogen. When you add side dressing, crops get an added boost of energy that takes them through crucial times in their growth.

What is Side Dressing?

What is side dressing? It’s simply what the name implies: dressing the plant with fertilizer by adding it to the side of the stems. Gardeners usually lay a line of fertilizer along the plant row, about 4 inches (10 cm.) away from the stems, and then another row the same way on the opposite side of the plants.

The best way how to side dress garden plants is by finding out their nutritional needs. Some plants, such as corn, are heavy feeders and need frequent fertilizing throughout the growing season. Other plants, such as sweet potatoes, do better without any extra feeding during the year.

What to Use for Side Dressing Crops and Plants

To find out what to use for side dressing, look to the nutrients your plants are lacking. Most of the time, the chemical they most need is nitrogen. Use ammonium nitrate or urea as a side dressing, sprinkling 1 cup for every 100 feet (30 m.) of row, or every 100 square feet of garden space. Compost can also be used for side dressing crops and plants.

If you have large plants, such as tomatoes, that are spaced far apart, spread a ring of fertilizer around each individual plant. Sprinkle the fertilizer along both sides of the plant, then water it into the ground to start the action of the nitrogen as well as to wash any powder that may have gotten onto the leaves.

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Picking the Best Fertilizer for Tomatoes

We reckon the best fertilizer for tomatoes is Miracle-Gro Tomato Plant Food, which you can buy online (clicking that link will take you to Amazon, where you can see user reviews, current prices, etc.). It’s likely one of the simplest fertilizers to use, and you only have to use it every one or two weeks. This is a water-soluble fertilizer. We also find the quality to be pretty high. Our runner-up is probably Espoma Tomato-tone Organic Fertilizer.


North Dakota State University

The greatest need for nitrogen is from the V12 stage to the corn blister stage in a corn plant’s life. Typically, corn is side-dressed at the 6 leaf (V6) stage however any time prior to V12 will achieve management goals.

Soil type heavily influences the side-dressing decision. High clay soils should have a planned split-application of nitrogen fertilizer due to the risk of nitrogen loss by denitrification. Fine-textured sandy soils also have high risk of nitrogen loss due to leaching.

Corn at 2-3 leaf staging can withstand a broadcast application of urea. Urea can used in older corn plants can cause fertilizer burn or plant death and the least favorable nitrogen choice. Urea broadcast should be limited at 60 lb actual N/acre.

By 4 leaf crop staging, nitrogen should be applied between the rows. In older corn, anhydrous ammonia can be applied if the soil will seal up. The second most desirable application method is the application of UAN (28%) with a coulter which places fertilizer at an approximate 2 inches depth. The third-best alternative is to apply UAN as a surface band using orifice nozzles between the rows. Corn injury can be reduced if a stiff hose which drags or nearly drags on the ground is configured to the stream bar.

Fertilizer placed in every other row is sufficient. Slow-release formulations should be avoided.

Resources: "Topdress and Sidedress Options for Solid-Seeded and Row Crops" , Crop and Pest Report 6/6/13, D. Franzen and "Corn Side-dress Options", Crop and Pest Report 6/16/11, D. Franzen.


Ammonium Sulfate Fertilizer

Use our Ammonium Sulfate fertilizer on your onions, garlic, elephant garlic, shallots and leeks to increase bulb size, flavor and maximize harvests. This special blend provides essential nitrogen and sulfur to improve foliage production, which will subsequently result in larger bulbs.

Our Ammonium Sulfate fertilizer is the perfect blend for growing onions, garlic, elephant garlic, shallot and leeks. These crops are heavy-feeders, meaning they require significant amounts of nutrients (nitrogen and sulfur) and water throughout their initial growth phase.

Allium species (onions, garlic, elephant garlic, shallots and leeks) generally have two growing phases throughout the life of the plant. The first phase is called the “vegetative phase.” During the vegetative phase, plants are focused on maximizing foliage or green growth. This foliage will then be used to synthesize sugars and form the bulb that will be harvested in the second stage. As such, the second stage is appropriately named the “bulbing phase.”

The more foliage that is generated during the vegetative stage, the larger the bulb that will be produced during the bulbing stage. In onions and shallots, each leaf represents a ring on the eventual bulb. Therefore it is important to provide the nitrogen and sulfur needed to get as much leaf growth as possible during the vegetative stage. This will result in large bulbs and bountiful harvests.

Ammonium Sulfate provides a fast-acting source of nitrogen and sulfur. It can be applied in granular form via side-dressing, or as a liquid formulation through injection. Side-dressing should be followed by a light cultivation so that the fertilizer is incorporated into the top couple inches of soil. Sprinkle the fertilizer to the side of the plants without getting it on the plant leaves. Because it is water-soluble, it can also be administered via injection through our EZ-FLO Fertilizer Injector. Easily dissolve the appropriate amount into the EZ-FLO injector and inject it through the drip irrigation system for quick and effective results.


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