Banding is a way to help your seeds get a better start on life.
As much as making music is a great way to expand your mind and improve your math skills, banding in the garden has nothing to do with tempo or harmonics. Banding refers to the practice of incorporating fertilizer in the soil close to your seeds at planting time. Just picture, in your mind’s eye, a band of seeds planted in the ground, with a band of fertilizer right next to them. As new roots grow, they are sure to find a good meal to help them get big and strong.
It makes obvious sense, but you do have to be a little careful. Banding falls into the “too much of a good thing can be a bad thing” category. According to Montana State University, benefits of proper banding include:
How to band seeds at planting time
Unlike top dressing, which means leaving aged compost or fertilizer on top of the soil, banding requires a little more effort. For the home gardener, we don’t need to get too particular about the depth. Professional, large-scale farmers have this down to an art and science, but we can safely apply our banded fertilizer 3 or 4 inches deep, 1 to 3 inches on either side of the row of seeds being planted. These “starter fertilizers” make valuable nutrients available to early roots, helping the seedling to reach its full potential. Before you jump on the fertilizer band wagon [Sorry, I couldn’t resist], you need to find out what you are working with and which fertilizers are best for your plants.
I’ll say it again: soil test!
You can’t know what to add if you don’t already know what you have. Your soil may have an abundance of phosphorus. Adding more could be detrimental to your plants, and it’s a waste of money. Adding unnecessary fertilizer also puts the environment at risk, you know, global health and all that. Find a reputable, local soil test company and use them. The results are really fascinating and useful. [Over the counter soil test kits are not reliable or useful. Yet.] If your soil already has plenty of everything, banding is unnecessary. If your soil is lacking any of the Big Three plant nutrients, banding can help your seeds overcome this handicap.
Choosing the right fertilizer for banding
All fertilizers are required to provide information about the percentage by weight of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Think about this for a moment. A 10-pound bag of 10-20-10 fertilizer contains 1 pound nitrogen, 2 pounds phosphorus, 1 pound potassium, and 6 pounds of filler. After you have gotten the results from your soil test, you can select the best fertilizer for your crop.
According to Pennsylvania State Extension, nitrogen and phosphorus are the “key nutrient components in a starter fertilizer.” If all your plants need is nitrogen, blood meal is an excellent choice. Be cautious with fertilizers that contain urea (46-0-0) or diammonium phosphate (10-34-0), as these substances can burn or even kill young plants.
So, find out what’s in your soil. If something is lacking, put it where seeds are sure to find it with banding!
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!