Going Organic with Your Fertilizer

If you are concerned about man-made chemicals and toxins infecting your soil, you might consider taking your gardening organic. But there's so much information out there about organic fertilizing, that differentiating between good and bad advice can be difficult. While the benefits of organic agricultural practices are undeniable, putting them into practice can seem a little daunting at first. It does become progressively easier once you've done it a few times. Here's everything you need to know. 

What is Fertilizer?

Fertilizer is essentially an addition to the soil to bring health and vitality back to the land. Fertilizers are generally made from minerals like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Nitrogen leads to the lush growth of plants, phosphorus helps cells transfer energy as they grow, and plants use potassium to make carbohydrates and protein. 

Synthetic fertilizers do help plants grow, but they don't assist them in the long term. Organic fertilizers on the other hand, might take longer to act, but over time they produce more nutrients than their synthetic counterparts. 

Organic fertilizers gradually release nutrients, maintaining a steady flow into the soil and helping plants, without disturbing the soil's natural balance.  

Fertilizer, Organic Style

There are so many types of organic fertilizers. You could buy one tailored specifically to what you need. Most garden centers offer ready-made organic fertilizers that target specific plants, soils, and issues. If you go this route, be sure to pay attention to the packaging; some of these products contain preservatives, which goes against the idea of "organic."

Another option is to make your own from a variety of so-called "meal" options. This can include bone meal (made from animal bones that are dried, ground up and powdered), or blood meal. Some folks swear by bananas and peels, tomatoes, and even egg shells. According to the Gardening Channel, manure, fish meal, and alfalfa can be ideal when it comes to fertilizing your plants.

Then there is composting, which generates ongoing organic fertilizer material. Another advantage is that composting is easy to do, with the following steps: 

  • Select a clean, large plastic trash (preferably one with a locking or fastened lid)
  • Drill holes on the bottom and sides 
  • Add your compost. This should include brown materials (like dried leaves) and green materials (think grass clippings or kitchen scraps)

Be sure to keep the compost moist, and to turn it every two weeks or so. This is where the locking lid comes in handy, as you can do this by rolling the trash container on the ground. There is also compost tea, in which your compost is liquid, rather than solid. This allows you to water and fertilize at the same time. 

Experiment and Research

As mentioned above, organic fertilizer requires time and patience, but the eventual payoff will be much better than what you might get from synthetic fertilizers. Remember that research is your best friend, and it means you can tailor-make your fertilizer to fit you schedule and suit individual plant needs. But feeding your plants (and the soil) organically helps them live their best lives. 

For additional plant-friendly information (and to select the plant of your dreams), visit Plants On Broadway.