Organic fertilizers for the garden

Popular organic garden fertilizers that are great for the garden.

The word "organic" is used a lot these days to describe food items and beauty products, but did you know you can even purchase "organic clothing" and "organic seeds"? For many people, eating foods and using product that have been grown organically is the right thing to do. We like using organic fertilizers because they have positive results and, if used correctly, are good for the environment.

Organic fertilizers are the basis for everything organic. Using organic fertilizer in the garden is both natural and helps plants flourish. When a fertilizer is "organic" this means the organisms were alive, but are now in the process of decay (breaking down into parts so that new plants can use the nutrients).

Why do we try to use organic fertilizers instead of synthetic or chemical fertilizers?

For starters, synthetic and chemical fertilizers generally use a large amount of resources to produce, and that does not fit with our mission of being environmentally-friendly. In addition, once they are sprayed on the ground or plants, where the chemicals go is out of our control. The highly concentrated synthetic or chemical fertilizers provide a quick dose of nutrients to plants. A portion of it is absorbed quickly and usually gives a sudden burst of growth. Unfortunately, friendly bugs, worms, and good bacteria in the soil also ingest the compounds contained in these fertilizers, which can kill these little critters. Apply too much and it could seep into the ground water before it can be absorbed by the plant, or flow into a nearby pond, stream or river, where it will feed large Algae Blooms that deplete the water of oxygen, thus killing fish, etc.

Chemical fertilizers will help plants grow, but if they are used, you cannot call the plant "organic".

Go for a natural fertilizer and you'll be happier with the results. A natural fertilizer will break down better, maintain or promote the bio-diversity of the soil and provide plants with a slowly-released and steady supply of nutrients.

Beware of the heat!

Because fertilizers (primarily compost) is alive, it can build up heat. We mean this both literally and figuratively. A "hot fertilizer" can be just too strong and acidic for plants. If you see smoke when you turn over a shovelful of compost that is a sign it is probably hot. may require as much as a year to cool down to the point where it will not burn your plants. Also, be careful when adding fertilizer around sedums -- they are happiest with rocky, less fertile soil.

It is possible to apply too much organic fertilizers, and like the chemical fertilizers rain can cause it to run-off and mix with lakes and streams. If you need help with fertilizing, our landscape experts can assist with proper application.

We love to play in the dirt and we know a lot about organic fertilizers. So give us a call at Environmental Construction or Request a Consultation for green landscaping and garden maintenance.

Types of organic garden fertilizers:

  • Worm castings - absorbs easily, and may help retain water and fight plant diseases. It is very rich, so use sparingly.
  • Fish fertilizer - provides just the right amount of nitrogen and can be used with other fertilizers. It is said to be effective when the weather is cold.
  • Chicken manure - needs to "cool off" for up to a year before using
  • Cow manure - must be left to compost before using and it can be a bit sloppy to work with, but it has less nitrogen content than other manures so it is ideal for areas requiring a slow release of nutrients.
  • Bone meal - a mixture of phosphorus and calcium. This may be beneficial to use when transplanting plants, but it is good to know how much phosphorus is currently in the soil before using. Dogs like bone meal so you may want to beware.
  • Kelp meal - a seaweed rich in nitrogen, potassium, and various nutrients. It is good at breaking down compost and as a root stimulant that helps plants grow and handle stress.
  • Cottonseed meal - contains higher amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous slow releasing and good for vegetable plants.
  • Epsom Salt™ - try using this on your tomatoes.
  • Decomposed food scraps - a great way to avoid having to take the garbage out each week.
  • Compost tea - this is basically the liquid form of compost. See our previous blog about making compost for more information about this type of garden fertilizer. See our article about making compost for the garden.

Here in Seattle we can get "zoo doo". This is a natural by-product of having a zoo. Animals produce manures, and when combined with straw, grass, leaves, natural bedding materials, and then left to sit and decompose for a while, it produces a fantastic fertilizing compost.

The elements of fertilizer

Fertilizer is described by its nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium levels. These are the elements that are most needed by plants and help them grow. Once the world realized this, people thought, "Hey! If I combine these elements in specific amounts with a binder and put that on my garden, it will grow like crazy." They were right and thus began the synthetic fertilizer manufacturing industry. However, these concentrated fertilizer formulations don't make a good home for worms and other very necessary organisms that encourage plants to thrive.

Once you go down the inorganic fertilizer path, you may have a hard time coming back, as many inorganic fertilizers will "poison" the soil and make your plants dependent on chemicals. Our suggestion...stay organic!

Here is a helpful tip when trying to remember which element(s) or fertilizer you need:

(N)Nitrogen helps plants produce green leaves.

(P)Phosphorous helps plants grow, produce flowers, and develop a strong root system.

(K)Potassium makes plants more disease-resistant and helps develop chlorophyll.

Category: Landscape Ecology

Environmental Construction, Inc.

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