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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Organic Plant Foods

Organic Plant Foods

tomatoesGardening the organic way is a challenge, there’s no doubt about it. After years of reaching for the synthetic fertilizers, dusts, and spray bottles, it is very hard to break the habit of running to the garage or shed for the trusty chemicals. It does take time and effort to discover and use alternative and more holistic gardening methods for problems that arise.

Let’s start with some information about the benefits of organic fertilizers:

Benefits of Organic Fertilizers

  • Organic fertilizers, while they do release more slowly than synthetic fertilizers, offer a steadier release of nutrients to plants.
  • Many organic plant foods supply micronutrients not supplied by chemical foods.
  • Some are good soil conditioners. They often supply extra organic material to soil that aids in the tilth and friability of the soil.
  • There is little harm to the soil with organic fertilizers. Synthetic fertilizers will often cause a build-up of inorganic salts over time. These insoluble salts will affect soil life, soil condition, and plant health. Microbial and beneficial soil insect populations will drop. All of this will affect the growth and performance of plants over time, while there is no build-up of salts to the soil when using organic fertilizers.
  • Organic foods help to increase soil microbial activity and beneficial soil insect activity.
  • There is a greater margin for error if a bit too much organic fertilizer is applied. Synthetic fertilizers can burn plants if too much is applied. Because they release more slowly than synthetic fertilizers, there is less chance of plant damage if a bit too much organic food is applied.

Here are some organic fertilizers that can be used as alternatives to inorganic or synthetic fertilizers. Some of them are readily available locally, while others can be found through mail order and online sources:

A List Of Commonly Used Organic Fertilizers & Plant Foods
Type Analysis (N-P-K) Comments
Blood Meal 12-1-1 Provides medium to rapid availability of nutrients, mainly nitrogen (N). Often used in combination with other organic fertilizers for a more complete blend. Also used in composting as starter or accelerator .
Fish Emulsion 5-2-2 Medium to rapid availability of nutrients, mainly nitrogen. Good for foliar feeding. Also used in composting as starter or accelerator. Often used with seaweed or kelp for liquid fertilizer.
Liquid Kelp 0.1-0.1-1 Medium availability of nutrients, mainly potassium. Has many micro-nutrients. Plant growth stimulant. Aids in protecting plants against stress. Improves plant health and immunity to diseases. Often used with fish emulsion.
Steamed Bone Meal 1-11-0 Slow to medium availability. Primary nutrient is Phosphorus (P). Promotes root growth and seed development. Often used in dry organic fertilizer blends. Used when planting bulbs as a booster.
Composted Cattle Manure 1-1-1 Slow to medium availability. Soil conditioner. Also used in composting as starter or accelerator.
Cottonseed Meal 7-2-2 Slow to medium availability. Primary nutrient is Nitrogen (N). Often used in organic fertilizer blends. Will acidify soil. Good for use around Rhododendrons, azaleas, and other acid-loving plants.
Alfalfa Meal 3-1-2 Medium availability. Good rose food. Supplies micronutrients and horrmonal growth promoter or regulator. Generates heat as it breaks down. Also used in composting as starter or accelerator.
Greensand 0-2-5 Medium availability. Primary nutrient is Potassium (K). Helps promote beneficial microbial activity. More absorbent than sand (silica), but of similar consistency. Good soil conditioner and for correcting potassium deficiencies.

So, now we have a list of commonly used fertilizers. You and I can blend our own equivalents of various synthetic fertilizers by choosing the right proportions of several of the listed fertilizers. Here are several recipes for organic fertilizers for use in the home garden. All of these are applied at the rate of 5 pounds per 1000 square feet:

 
5-10-15 Fertilizer # 1:

2.0 lbs. blood meal
4.5 lbs. bone meal
15.0 lbs. greensand     

5-10-15 Fertilizer # 2:

8.25 lbs. alfalfa meal
4.5 lbs. bone meal
15.0 lbs. greensand

10-10-10 Fertilizer # 1:

4.25 lbs. blood meal
4.5 lbs. bone meal
10 lbs. greensand

10-10-10 Fertilizer # 2:

16.75 lbs. alfalfa meal
4.5 lbs. bone meal
10.0 lbs. greensand

Fertilizer for acid-loving plants, 5-10-15:

4.25 lbs. cottonseed meal
4.5 lbs. bone meal
15.0 lbs. greensand     

Rose Fertilizer, 15-30-30:

25.0 lbs. alfalfa meal
13.5 lbs. bone meal
30.0 lbs. greensand