There’s nothing as rewarding as an abundant vegetable garden in the summer. Fertilizers allow us to improve our plant’s health and make up for what nature or our native soil can not provide. Fertilizer is also a great way to encourage bountiful production, but how soon can you eat those vegetables after fertilizing?
You should wait to eat vegetables for up to two weeks after applying a chemical fertilizer to your vegetable garden. When using organic, chemical-free fertilizer, vegetables are generally safer to eat immediately—but manure-based organic products also pose health risks.
The rest of this article will explain the effects of fertilizer on vegetables in a garden and how to know when it is safe to consume fertilized vegetables. I will also share some alternatives to chemical fertilizer that will have you enjoying the fruits of your labor much quicker and without chemical exposure.
How Fertilizing Your Garden Can Affect Your Vegetables
Fertilizing your vegetable garden at the right time can encourage healthy, bountiful growth, leaving you with various delicious vegetables to enjoy and share. After planting your vegetables, you should give them a chance to establish themselves in the soil before fertilizing. A good rule of thumb is usually about two weeks after planting.
Regular fertilizing will help create a consistent schedule of nutrient deposits, allowing your vegetables to thrive throughout the season. Liquid fertilizers are a popular choice for vegetable gardens because of their ease of use. A light dose of foliar spray is an easy yet effective way to fertilize your vegetable plants.
If you choose to use a chemical fertilizer, you cannot consume the vegetables immediately. The reason is that they often contain chemical compounds that can cause adverse reactions when touched or ingested by humans.
Some of the effects of touching or ingesting chemical fertilizers are:
- Skin irritation or rashes (when it comes into contact with bare skin)
- Stomach, mouth, or throat irritation (when ingested)
Synthetic fertilizers and their runoff into drinking water supplies may cause concentrations of dangerous chemicals in the human body. A study at Brown University linked the consumption of additives in synthetic fertilizers such as nitrosamine—which may be causative in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Diabetes Mellitus.
Synthetic fertilizers have the incredible ability to provide abundant nutrients to your vegetable plants that will indeed have them thriving and producing at a high level. It is also necessary, however, to keep in mind the potential hazards of long-term consumption of synthetic fertilizer-based chemical contaminants.
How To Know When It Is Safe To Consume Fertilized Vegetables
Before consuming any vegetables with chemical or synthetic fertilizers, you must give the fertilizer time to thoroughly soak into the vegetable plant and allow the plant time to absorb and use all the nutrients provided.
As a general rule, you should follow these guidelines before eating garden vegetables that you have fertilized:
- Make sure your fertilizer is suited for use on fruits and vegetables. Before fertilizing your vegetable garden, it is crucial to ensure the fertilizer you have chosen is suitable for consumable plants. It should indicate on the label the intended purpose of the particular fertilizer. It should also clearly state whether the fertilizer suits fruits or vegetables.
- Wait at least two weeks after fertilizing to eat any garden vegetables. Once the vegetable plant has absorbed the fertilizer, you may safely pick, eat, or serve others the fruit. Usually, this timeframe is at least two weeks. You should never consume vegetables that have been freshly fertilized or still have fertilizer on them.
- Wash the vegetables thoroughly before preparing them. Even if you have reached the two-week mark, you must wash any vegetables before eating them. Be sure to thoroughly scrub down to ensure you remove any remnants of fertilizer or other undesirables.
The use of synthetic fertilizers in vegetable gardens is widespread. Most commercial agricultural companies use them regularly because they are so effective. You get quick, impressive results with synthetic fertilizers—if you have reached the two-week waiting period. If you thoroughly wash the vegetables, they are said to be completely safe to eat.
However, many people stick with organically grown vegetables to reduce potential exposure to chemical additives that may have erroneously remained within the vegetable. Because of this, organic farms have grown in popularity, choosing to fertilize their produce with only all-natural, organic materials.
When vegetables have been grown organically without any exposure to chemicals, they are safe to eat as soon as they are ready to be picked, regardless of when they were last fertilized. However, they should be washed thoroughly before consumption, like synthetically fertilized plants.
Is It Safe To Eat Vegetables Fertilized With Organic Fertilizer?
One of the most significant benefits of using organic instead of synthetic options is consuming your vegetables immediately instead of waiting weeks for the harmful chemical compounds to dissipate. However—this does not mean that organic fertilizers don’t pose any health risks.
Some studies have raised concerns about manure-based organic fertilizers that contain antibiotic residues from their animal originators. The ingestion of consumable produce containing these antibiotics may lead to antibiotic-resistant strains of potentially harmful organisms.
Organic fertilizers may also contain bacterial pathogens of viral and parasitic origin, so although they are natural—you should take care when handling these products. You should also ensure you wash the produce thoroughly before eating your fruit and vegetables.
With the above information in mind, you may choose from many different forms of organic fertilizer, including:
- Compost tea
- Fish emulsion
- Epsom salt
The above are just a few examples of organic fertilizers made of natural ingredients that you may use on your edible plants. If you wish to learn more about organically fertilizing your vegetable garden, head to my other article: How to Organically Fertilize a Vegetable Garden
Organic compost does take a bit more time and effort to apply, which is why synthetic options have become so popular. However, if you wish to eliminate chemical additives from your soil and vegetables, using organic compost is a great way to achieve that goal.
What Fertilizers Make My Vegetables Safe To Eat Quickly?
Before applying fertilizer to your growing veggies, check out these three fantastic, organic options that will provide you with fruit and vegetables you can eat anytime!
Fish fertilizer is one of the best options for a vegetable garden because of the oils and protein it provides. This particular fertilizer is a liquid concentrate, which is a fantastic option because it is cost-effective and will likely last you the whole season, depending on the size of your garden. Neptune’s is ideal for vegetable gardens because it is non-toxic, and you may use it as a foliar spray, the preferred way to fertilize a veggie garden.
All-Purpose Organic Fertilizer
Organic vegetable garden fertilizers are commonly made in an all-purpose formula that is safe for any and all vegetable plants. These fertilizers are available in liquid, granular, powder, and spike forms, and they do not contain any synthetic chemicals.
Although a liquid fertilizer option is easiest to apply because of its capability for foliar spray application, granular fertilizer can be just as effective with proper care and distribution.
You can get a wide variety of organic fertilizers from garden stores or online.
For the ultimate, all-natural, home-grown fertilizer, try making compost tea! Compost tea is just what it sounds like—a tea brewed with your compost heap.
To make your compost tea, all you need to do is:
- Add your compost to a bucket of clean water.
- Allow the tea to “steep” for 2-3 days.
- Strain the compost out of the water.
- Use compost-infused tea to spray your garden.
Compost tea is an entirely organic way to fertilize your vegetable garden and can usually be made with things you already have around your yard. Additionally, you can add things like wood chips, sawdust, or wood ash to increase the number of nutrients in the tea.
Now that I’ve discussed the impact of fertilizers on your crop, let’s consider another important question about fertilizers: do they eradicate mushrooms? Find out the answer in my in-depth article on the topic: Does Fertilizer Get Rid of Mushrooms?
When using chemical fertilizers, you must wait at least two weeks after fertilization to consume the vegetables produced. This waiting period ensures that the plants have completely taken up and used the fertilizer’s nutrients and no harmful chemical additives remain. However, Eating vegetables too soon after fertilization can adversely affect humans.
If you have fertilized your plants organically, using all-natural fertilizers with no synthetic additives—you should still exercise due caution if the source is manure based. Whether you fertilize your vegetable garden organically or synthetically, you should wash all vegetables thoroughly before eating them.