- Buyer's Guide for Organic Fertilizers
At some point in your gardening experience, you may want to use a fertilizer to give your plants an extra boost. Unfortunately, many gardeners rely on chemical fertilizers to grow their trees, grass, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. However, there is an increasing awareness that many of the chemicals we use in our yards can over the long run negatively affect the environment and the health of our loved ones, neighbors, and pets.
Thankfully, there are a number of healthy natural and organic fertilizers available that will help you grow a lush, green garden and lawn without the use of potentially harmful chemical fertilizers. This article is intended as a guide to popular organic fertilizers and how to use them.
THE BASICS OF ORGANIC FERTILIZERS:
Like traditional fertilizers, organic fertilizers show their content with three bold numbers. These numbers represent three different compounds: Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potash, which we can also describe with the letters N-P-K. The three numbers listed on fertilizer labels correspond to the percentage of these materials found in the fertilizer.
In addition to other properties, Nitrogen helps plant foliage to grow strong. Phosphorous helps roots and flowers grow and develop. Potassium (Potash) is important for overall plant health. Please check out this website for more information on understanding NPK.
Organic fertilizers are made from a huge variety of naturally occurring elements such as bat guano, blood meal, bone meal, feather meal, and fish meal. See this website managed by the National Organic Program for more information about organic gardening products and standards in the U.S.
BEFORE YOU APPLY ORGANIC FERTILIZERS:
One of the best ways to improve the health of your plants is by adding organic compost to your soil. Compost can help reduce the amount of fertilizer treatments your plants need. If you’re not composting organic garden waste and kitchen scraps now, you should start as soon as you can. The addition of compost to your garden soil will add nutrients, improve drainage, and help your plants’ immune systems. You can learn all about composting at the Compost Guide. Shop for composting products here.
When you’re looking for organic fertilizers, it’s important to first know what kind of fertilizer your plants may need. You can test your soil with an electronic soil tester, which will give you a good idea of the quality of your soil and what it may be lacking.
GUIDE TO ORGANIC GARDEN AND LAWN FERTILIZERS:
General Purpose Organic Garden Fertilizers:
The following organic garden fertilizers will work well for general gardening purposes. They can be used to fertilize and condition the soil and will benefit a variety of plants.
Bat guano is the ultimate 100 percent natural fertilizer. It comes straight from the butts of bats, into your yard or garden. Farmers and gardeners have used bat guano as a fertilizer for hundreds of years. It wasn't until recently that inorganic fertilizers have become popular enough for people to forget that there is a natural option that works just as well! The manufacturers of this product state that they follow the high standards of Bat Conservation International, so you can feel good about buying this natural garden and bat-friendly fertilizer. Bat guano has a high humus content and works great as a soil builder and fertilizer. It is rated as a 10-3-1 fertilizer.
Like bat guano, fish meal is a natural organic fertilizer that was traditionally used by gardeners and farmers before the advent of inorganic fertilizers. Fish meal contains important trace elements, which makes it a complete plant food. Fish meal is rated as a 10-5-0 organic fertilizer. Fish meal works quickly and provides plenty of phosphorous and organic nitrogen.
Kelp meal fertilizer is made from brown seaweed harvested from cold ocean waters. Once harvested, the kelp is dried and ground up to produce an excellent organic fertilizer. The dried kelp maintains a high content of plant growth hormones, essential minerals and organic material. An added benefit is that kelp meal provides a slow, sustained release of nutrients. Organic kelp fertilizers are fully approved for organic gardening. They work great for flowers, trees, and your lawn.
Garret Juice is the invention of Howard Garrett, who is famous for his books, radio show and television spots. Garrett Juice is a highly effective liquid organic fertilizer mix. You can purchase it ready made in exact proportions or make it yourself! It contains compost tea, molasses, fermented wine and seaweed. It works as a foliar spray for all plants, ornamentals and food crops. Or, you can add it directly to the soil. It works great on potted plants as well.
Organic Lawn Fertilizers
This organic kelp fertilizer is made from the giant sea kelp and is specifically designed to help stimulate turf root growth. This is important for newly seeded lawns. It will also give your established lawn a quick boost, and as kelp is a slow release organic fertilizer, it will work over time to keep your grass growing strong and green. This product is not just for lawns. Try it on your flowers, shrubs, trees and vegetable gardens for a healthy, chemical free garden.
For a green, lush and chemical free yard, give your grass a dose of this organic liquid lawn fertilizer. This excellent OMRI listed organic liquid lawn fertilizer is easy to use. It attaches directly to your garden hose to spray on the lawn. It is a great source of macronutrients, micronutrients, minerals, amino acids and peptides. It has a NPK of 2-3-1. With this organic product, the nutrients actually remain as solid amino acids in the soil. This means a slow release of nutrients that are absorbed thoroughly through the roots, minimizing waste. Your plants will absorb about 97 percent of the nutrients from this fertilizer, compared to the 20 percent which is more typical of chemical fertilizers.
An organic weed and feed? Can it be? This product is made from pelletized corn gluten meal, which is a byproduct when they make corn syrup. Corn gluten meal works as a natural herbicide and pre-emergent weed control product for turf grass and organic crops and has the added benefit off fertilizing the soil. If you want to learn more about this great organic gardening product, please visit Dr. Nick Christians' University of Iowa Corn Gluten research page.
Organic Fertilizers for Tomatoes and Other Vegetables
Tomato-tone organic fertilizer is specially designed for growing healthy, natural tomatoes. This is a 4-7-10 slow release fertilizer which will help your tomato plants for an extended period of time. It provides all the 15 essential nutrients that your tomatoes need. You can apply Tomato-tone to both container plants and to tomatoes planted in the garden. Simply work the fertilizer into the first 4 inches of soil. Tomato-tone is perfectly balanced without too much nitrogen, as nitrogen increases foliar growth but not fruit growth.
Using an organic vegetable fertilizer in the garden is a great way to grow delicious vegetables, awesome herbs, and luscious tomatoes. Espoma Garen-Tone is a 4-6-6 fertilizer that is considered a complete plant food. Like the Tomato-Tone fertilizer, you work the fertilizer into the first 4-5 inches of soil. It will slowly release the nutrients into the soil, feeding and strengthening your plants over time.
This quality organic liquid compost tea fertilizer contains carbon, microbes, and trace minerals. It works as a natural plant growth accelerator and has the same effects as adding large amounts of compost to the soil, but without all the bulk or tilling. This organic fertilizer is safe and effective for just about anything that grows.
Compost tea is a concentrated liquid that will increase the number of beneficial organisms in your soil. You can also spray it on your plants to prevent disease. This compost tea brewing kit can help you make batches of this soil builder yourself quickly and easily in your own home.
Organic Rose Fertilizers
Espoma Rose-Tone is a 6-6-4 organic rose fertilizer that has been used for years by professional gardeners to grow prize winning roses. This fertilizer is a balance of 15 essential nutrients for your roses. As a slow release fertilizer, it won't burn your plants. Rose-Tone works directly on the soil to stimulate beneficial microbes which help to build healthy roses from the roots up! It can be applied to potted plants, bare root plantings, rose beds, etc.
Bloom-A-Long isn't just for roses. It is also excellent for feeding fruits, trees, flowers, vegetables and crops that require extra phosphorus during early bud formation and fruit enlargement. Bloom-A-Long also contains approximately 9 percent calcium, which improves soil, nutrient capacity, and is useful in correcting calcium deficiencies of plants that require extra calcium, like tomatoes.
Other Organic Gardening Products for Safe, Natural Gardens
The following products will add to your organic gardening experience, and make excellent compliments to organic fertilizers. These products include organic plant foods, natural polymers, and corn-based products.
Mycorrhizal fungi attach themselves to plant roots and help plants to make use of organic chemicals in the soil. With a Mycorrhizal fungi root builder, you can get these helpful critters to work more efficiently. This means that your organic fertilizer will be that much more effective! This Mycorrhizal Fungi is composed of 3 species: Glomus intraradices, G. Mosseae, and G. Aggregatum.
Horticultural cornmeal helps to strengthen beneficial soil fungi such as Trichoderma. These beneficial soil organisms will help fight off the harmful fungi that can attack your plants. This is especially important for vegetable crops which are often susceptible to fungal diseases. Horticultural cornmeal also helps build up the quality of the soil, which will benefit all the plants in your garden, from grass to tomatoes. You can also use it to safely remove algae from ponds.
As we mentioned above, compost tea is a concentrated liquid that will help increase the number of beneficial organisms in your soil. It also works as a foliar treatment on your plants to prevent disease. This is a quality compost tea brewing kit which helps you make this soil builder yourself quickly and easily in your own home.
Garden molasses stimulates soil microorganisms and is a perfect compliment to organic fertilizers. It also works as a foliar treatment (applied directly to the leaves of your plants), providing your plants trace minerals such as sulfur, potash, and iron.
“Solid Water” Polymer
This environmentally safe polymer will reduce the amount of water your plants need by retaining the water in the soil and releasing it slowly over time. You apply it only once a year. It works great and won't mildew!
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