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.
Fish Meal Organic 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
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
Garrett Plant Juice
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
Kelp Lawn Starter
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.
Organic Liquid Lawn Fertilizer
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.
Organic Weed and Feed
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 Tomato Fertilizer
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.
Organic Vegetable Fertilizer
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
Liquid Organic Compost Mixture for Gardens,
Shrubs, Trees and Grass
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 Brewing Kit
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
Organic Rose Fertilizer
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.
Liquid Bone Meal
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.
Compost Tea Brewing Kit
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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