I got something called dr earth and I was going to drop a handfull in at the bottom of the hole before I planted. Would it be beneficial for me to throw some steer manure in there as well?

I had my soil tested and they told me there was almost no nitrogen. To try and fix that i sprinkled 6 bags of steer manure and 4 bags of compost over the planting area (about 25x20) and worked it in with a rake. Will dropping some extra in by the roots when planting give it an extra kick or would it be overkill?

  • Did your soil test come with a recommendation for adding X pounds of nitrogen per 100 sq ft? What was the NPK analysis on the manure and the compost? How big were the bags? What are you planting? (That last one is important, because in my experience too much N will give you all vine and no fruit on tomatoes, whereas pumpkins seem to grow best straight out of the manure pile...)
    – bstpierre
    Apr 29, 2012 at 20:30
  • Oh, and what were the P-K values in your soil test? (And corresponding recommendations per 100 sq ft?)
    – bstpierre
    Apr 29, 2012 at 20:31
  • No recommendations on pounds per sq foot. I'm not sure what the npk analysis was but the person that did the soil test recommended the type and number of bags. I believe the compost was 3 cubic feet and the manure was 1.5 cubic feet. The bags are gone now so I can't say for sure. I am planting tomatoes, squash, zuccini, peppers, melons, corn, artichoke and bush beans. Apr 30, 2012 at 2:33

1 Answer 1


Based on your comment that the soil testing person recommended a certain type and quantity of amendment: if you assume that they knew what they were doing, then you should have good fertility in your soil.

As a general rule: don't put fertilizer in the planting hole with seeds and don't put "hot" fertilizer where transplant roots are going to touch it and get burned. In my experience, better with seeds to have fertile soil to begin with (e.g. amendments have been mixed into the soil some weeks in advance). Also better to have the entire planting area fertile instead of focused in one small area (which you've done with the manure and compost). You can top-dress throughout the growing season if needed to help keep the plants growing well. Foliar feeding with a liquid fertilizer works really well instead of top dressing.

Over the long term, adding organic matter to your soil will help retain nitrogen. The manure and compost will help with this.

If it were me, and I were doing transplants for the cucurbits, I might put a little scoop in the planting hole at transplanting time and mix it into the soil before dropping in the transplant. (Squash always seem to be really hungry. I typically give them a bucket of manure at transplanting time with decent results.) For direct seeding, wait until they come up and then top-dress after a couple of weeks. Or mix Dr Earth into the soil a week or two before planting according to the recommended application rate.

The beans will probably be ok as-is.

On the corn I'd probably top-dress every couple of weeks after it comes up -- but only if it seems to need it. If the leaves are a dark green already you probably don't need extra fertilizer. If your P-K values were high enough, I might not even use this 5-7-3 fertilizer, maybe favoring something more nitrogen-heavy like dried blood (12-0-0) or poultry manure (~ 4-2-2). Last year in weak soil I top dressed with 1-2" of composted horse manure after a month on one batch, and foliar fed the other batch every couple of weeks. Both turned out well. (The manure fed plants might have been a little bit stronger.)

On the tomatoes and peppers, I would add Dr Earth to the planting hole. You don't want to overdo the nitrogen. Did you get a calcium analysis as part of the soil test? Make sure you've got enough calcium. If you got a pH test and it was low, you'll be adding lime (calcium) anyway. If your pH is balanced and your calcium is low, you can add gypsum. Or finely crushed eggshells -- I've added a spoonful to the planting holes in the past. Then monitor the plants as they grow. If they seem to be yellowing or aren't thriving, you can top dress with Dr Earth. If you see other deficiency, a foliar feeding of something like 0-2-2 (liquid fish fertilizer or similar) can be very helpful.

I don't have any experience with artichoke.

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