It’s not silly at all, actually. Considering all the options available between plant-specific and all-purpose fertilizers, you could end up juggling a complicated routine.
An all-purpose fertilizer performs well for most people. After you work it in during soil preparation, the fertilizer goes on periodically throughout the season in light applications.
“If you do it right, you’ll be surprised that it doesn’t take a whole lot,” Jewart says.
Composting maintains a fertile garden on a similar schedule to fertilizing. Jewart says a good rule of thumb is to apply compost thickly during soil prep, and then periodically after plants go in.
“You can do what’s called top dressing,” he says, describing it as a ring around the base of plants creating “a slow dissolve that goes into the root zone. You can use all-purpose fertilizer the same way.”
After the growing season, perhaps October or November depending on where you live, compost can be added to prep the garden for winter. Early fall or late summer is also a good time to test soil pH and add lime if needed.