Organic Gardening Fertilizer
Organic gardening fertilizer provides your plants with the nutrients they need to grow without compromising ecological values. Organic fertilizers provide trace minerals and materials that build soil fertility. Commercial non-organic fertilizers are not capable of building soil fertility, but only feed plants a limited diet of mineral salts.
How Does Organic Gardening Fertilizer Work?
In order to support healthy growth, plants need to have enough nitrogen to grow healthy leaf growth, phosphorus to keep roots healthy, and potassium to allow cell division and stem growth. That’s only part of the story, however, as plants also need various trace minerals, and soil needs occasional additives to renew nutrients and keep soil healthy. A plant growing in poor soil may be weak and unable to ward off insects and disease, even if it has enough of the three major nutrients.
Synthetic fertilizers generally focus on providing the plant with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash only. Because the goal of these fertilizers is to push the plant into accelerated growth, quickly absorbed mineral salts are often used. Over time, these salts can build up in the soil in a way that deters beneficial organisms.
While you can certainly use organic gardening fertilizer to supplement nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, most organic fertilizers also work to improve the soil itself. Most organic fertilizers break down more slowly in the soil, allowing the plant to draw nutrients and water at a more balanced rate. These plants generally are able to withstand less than ideal conditions and use water more productively than plants pushed to grow by mineral salts.
How Do I Use Organic Fertilizer?
Organic fertilizer tends to have lower concentrations of nutrients that disperse over a longer period of time. Because many organic fertilizers will break down over time, it is often best to work these fertilizers into the soil before planting. A side or top-dressing can be applied during the middle of the season when blooms begin to set. Fertilizers such as well-rotted manure, compost, bone meal and alfalfa pellets are often used in this fashion.
Other organic fertilizers can be applied in a liquid form allowing the plant to use the nutrients immediately. Fish emulsions and compost or manure teas would all fall into this category. It is very easy to burn plants when using liquid fertilizers, so use these in moderation.
Some granular commercial organic gardening fertilizers are available that release their nutrients over time. These can be used either before planting, or applied to the topsoil during the growing season.
When using organic gardening fertilizer, it is a good idea to make soil fertility your priority. Although there will be times when you will need to fertilize for immediate plant growth, overall your focus should be on improving the soil. So while you might need to add significant amounts of readily available nitrogen to get your greens growing, you will need to be thinking about how to add more nitrogen to the bed for the next growing season as well.
How Do I Fertilize with Compost or Manure?
Compost and composted manure are always an excellent addition to garden soil. If you are able to compost at home, you can have a ready supply of fertilizer at the beginning and end of each season. If not, try finding a local source for compost.
Compost and manure can also be made into teas. This simply means putting a few handfuls of compost or manure in burlap or cheesecloth and allowing them to soak in a bucket of water for a few days. This makes a liquid fertilizer that provides nutrients to plants in a readily available form. It is possible to over fertilize with manure and manure tea, so use sparingly to avoid burning.