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It's actually an agriculture term for when you plant crops into rows and hills and have furrows between them. It means to apply to the side of the plant. You can apply anywhere around the plant, just away from the root zone.
Once plants are growing, adding fertilizer or manure can burn tender new leaves. That's why we dress to the side or a little bit further from the plant. This little boost of fertilizer gives vegetable crops a little bit of extra energy when they are about to start flowering or fruiting.
For example: With broccoli, you want to side-dress when the head begins to form. Tomatoes: Side-dress when blooms first appear to give your plants a little extra boost of energy to produce fruit for you. This is usually right around the time a plant has a growth spurt. Peas, beans, and other legumes: They don't need really need a side-dressing or fertilizer because they have a great relationship with a soil bacteria called rhizobium which allows them to produce nitrogen for themself in the soil. And actually these plants are a great crop rotation in between your other plants to allow them to add some nitrogen into the soil for you.