Organic Fertilizers And How To Properly Use Them

Microbes and plants need nutrients. That’s where organic fertilizers come in.

We can supply most of these nutrients through good mulches and well-made compost, but not only do we need the nutrients, we need them in specific amounts in relation to each other.

That’s why we use a small amount of specific organic fertilizers, to move towards these ratios. Organic matter generally can’t do it alone, so this is a vital step.

And then there are other broad-spectrum organic garden fertilizers, sometimes called biostimulants, that provide the crucial micronutrients that microbes and plants need.

In the long run, you’ll get higher yields by applying less organic fertilizers. You just need to apply the right ones, and that’s why a soil test is so crucial as one of the tools that helps you decide which fertilizers to apply.

In 2008, I started The Organic Gardener’s Pantry to sell organic gardening fertilizers. I moved in 2010, but my friend Christina still has the business going strong.

And one of the bonuses of getting these organic gardening products out into the world was that I was able to see how effective they could be since I had hundreds of clients using them.

Nowadays, I use a small number of mineral organic fertilizers that are mined naturally without the use of chemicals, and other fertilizers that come from plants and the sea (and no, I don’t use miracle gro organic garden soil or fertilizers).

Here are all of my articles on organic fertilizers…

Dry Fertilizer – Give Soil These 3 Important Minerals

I’m a big fan of organic liquid fertilizer.

But there’s also an important use for organic dry fertilizer.

I use liquid fertilizers mainly to provide small amounts of 80+ nutrients directly as a plant fertilizer, and also as a soil fertilizer.

Doing this plays a big part in helping me grow nutrient-dense food.

And yet some nutrients we need in the soil more than others, the big three in the organic world being calcium (Ca), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).

Dry Fertilizer

We need to have enough of them in the soil, but not too much.

(I know that npk fertilizer is stressed in the conventional world, and yes, nitrogen fertilizer is sometimes useful too, but it’s really not all that hard to get enough nitrogen – calcium is much more important to get right, so that’s my focus today).

The benefits we get when we move those three minerals in our soil towards the ideal amounts are many: healthier plants, fewer pests and weeds, better soil structure, etc.

That’s where dry fertilizer comes in… Read More

Homemade Liquid Fertilizer – 4 Do-It-Yourself Options

Watch For People Walking
I felt very lucky to spend this past week vacationing with my family on Hilton Head Island.

I recently started selling my favorite organic liquid fertilizers, the same ones I use at home.

But I also like to make my own homemade liquid fertilizer when possible, and that’s what I’m excited to show you today.

Many of our best liquid fertilizers come from the ocean.

But there are ways you can approximate them, if like me, you don’t live near the ocean.

All of these can be used as a liquid lawn fertilizer, liquid plant fertilizer and liquid soil fertilizer.

You might even make enough for multiple applications (such as monthly or weekly).

For all of these homemade fertilizers, I suggest mixing with at least 10 parts water before you spray.

That will allow the fertilizer to cover more area, and will ensure we don’t burn our plants.

And it certainly doesn’t hurt to mix with even more water… Read More

Cover Crops For Gardens – Build Soil And Control Pests

The least expensive organic fertilizer in the world is – cover crops!

Cover crops for gardens are simply plants that are planted to cover your soil, especially during the off season.

And they can also be used during the growing season, interplanted with food crops or even in ornamental beds.

But they do much more than just cover the soil. Garden cover crops: Read More

Natural Organic Fertilizers – How To Choose For Your Garden

There are a handful of very useful natural organic fertilizers for you to choose from, especially if you look online.

The hard part is knowing which ones to choose, but I’ll give you a few things to look for.

Natural organic fertilizers don’t look like much of a bargain compared with the high nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium numbers on chemical fertilizers, but they’re so much more valuable.

They often provide many more nutrients than just N-P-K, they don’t hurt soil life, and it’s generally better to add lower doses of fertilizers anyway. Read More

Amazon Jungle Lesson 1 Of 3 – Mineralization

Click for video transcription

Phil: Despite the fact that you can hear, may be a chainsaw in the background. We are in fact in the jungle.

Welcome to the first three videos about how to improve the health of your garden, especially the health of your soil. What we’re going to do is, we’re in our cabin right now in the rain forest. But we’re going to be going for some walks this week right into the jungle to learn about how we can learn from the jungle, from nature to improve the health of our garden. Admitively, this first video is actually a little more about how our garden differs from the rain forest. But it’s still going to be interesting to compare the two.

And the first thing I want to talk about is mineralization of your soil or balancing your soil fertility. All of the three videos I’m going to shoot are of equal importance. But I usually start there, because when I go in to a new garden or when I install a new garden, I want to often get a soil test on it and send it off to a lab and it takes a couple of week, sometimes to get the results back and then I can think about mineralizing the soil, fertilizing the soil. But I want to do that right away, so I can send that off to the lab to get those results.

So first of all, what I’m going to be talking about today is soil fertility. So what can we learn from the forest about fertility? Well, we can learn a lot of things and some of them are going to come in latter videos. But if you think about a forest, nobody fertilizes the forest, there is nobody bringing in calcium or any kind of fertilizer.

And that’s why a lot of people think, oh, I don’t want to fertilize my garden. Nobody fertilize, is the forest or a prairie and if I just make composed is very popular in the organic world and that’s going to be sufficient to fertilize my garden. And I kind of understand that. But what I want to just talk about today is, why our garden is different and why I think you do want to do a little bit of fertilizing in your garden and I’m going to give you a few tips today on how to do that.

The reason the forests doesn’t need fertilizing is because something is always going to grow here, unless you have soil that’s incredibly toxic or something like that. Even then, there are plants for every situation. And so what happens in a forest or anywhere that’s natural is you have… when you hardly have any soil, you have plants that come in, they’re called pioneering species, they’re often nitrogen fixing plants, but there may be various kinds of plants and microorganisms, likings they come in, they spread up, of course, this takes decades and centuries, but eventually that the right plant for the soil here and for the climate… is that a monkey? Is going to come in. And most of the plants that spread are not going to grow, but that’s okay, because some will grow and eventually you have this cool forest.

So that’s really why you don’t need for laser in forest, something is… there is always something that’s going to come in. You can do the same thing in your garden if you want to and I’ve actually known a couple of people who have done that, which is just to let the weeds grow up and we call them weeds, but they’re really just plants. And what they’re going to do is to kind of improve of your soil overtime, more species of plants will come in, may be eventually after decades or centuries, it becomes the forest like this or may be not. But it will be a garden kind of.

The reason we want to fertilize is because we want to dictate which plants come in, we want to plant them and we want to make sure, they would grow there and we want them all to live, not just 10% of them and we want to thrive. If you leave your garden alone, it’s … is it going to produce tomatoes or strawberries or big, beautiful award winning roses, from most of us, the answer is no. It’s a… most of those plants didn’t evolve where we’re trying to grow them, they came from often and another continent entirely and most of them aren’t and perfectly matched for our soil conditions. So it doesn’t mean you can plant them and may be get some more key plants. But if you want really healthy plants and that’s when a little bit of fertilizers can help. And you don’t need a lot, it’s actually amazing, just how little you need to tweak the system to make it work for plants like these.

The easiest way to know which fertilizers to use is to go and get a soil lab that is very organically minded, get them to analyze your soil. They’ll tell you which macronutrients and micronutrients are lacking or imbalanced in your soil and then they will tell you what to bring in and how much to bring in. It’s really easy to do that way. The most gardeners skip this step, many of them still have fine gardens, but if you’re trying to grow really healthy plants that are free of pests and especially what I’m interested in, it’s food that is really full of nutrients, that’s when I think this step is worthwhile just to get a soil test and do a little bit of fertilizing.

The reason we need a soil test is because we want to add the right nutrients. That’s not just N, P, K, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, it’s not even things like dolomite, lime, which people often add just for good measure. Those can often cause problems. What we want is to know exactly which minerals we need to add in there. And that’s why often, blended fertilizers that you buy from a garden centre or a fertilizer supply place are not right, because they may be bringing in some of the nutrients you need, but they may be bringing in some of the nutrients you already have enough or too much of and then you just further shifting things out of balance.

That being said, there is one kind of fertilizer you can bring in without a soil test and that is rock dust. Usually from a glacial source or volcanic source, you can get it from something more of a specialty fertilizer store or you can go right to a query and get it if you’re willing to do some testing to make sure it’s good and it doesn’t have any problems with that. But you can bring that in and what it does is, it brings in a broad spectrum of nutrients. So it doesn’t bring in a lot of any nutrient, which means it’s not going to throw anything out of balance and that’s why you can use it without a soil test. So you can bring it in, it’s going to make sure you have just a base of lots of different nutrients and you’re not going to cause any problems.

And although it may seem kind of weird to bring in rock dust, a lot of experimentation around the world is shown that it works. Even though, our soil is usually do have at least a little of every nutrients, they really do. Bring in the rock dust in has done a lot of good in gardens and even in forests. Another thing we can do is called foliar fertilizing, which means we’re spraying things like ocean water, just straight ocean water from a clean source or cults that’s been made in to a liquid. We spray that on to our plants and it’s especially useful during the early growing stages of plants or when your soil may be isn’t popping enough to make your garden really grow healthy.

Now paradoxically, you actually need to have a reasonably healthy soil, especially you need enough calcium in order for the plants to be able to take up these nutrients through their leaves. We get all those minerals down into the soil, they get in to the plants, the plants then have all the micronutrients to create the enzymes in order to be healthy, in order to maximize photosynthesis and do all of these plants processes. And then the really nice thing for us, if we’re growing food, is that we get to eat the plants that have the micronutrients in them. And even if you’re already eating a healthy diet, if you’re trying to eat organic food, a lot of our organic food, especially the industrialized organic food is pretty low in nutrition.

So that’s why I’m really in to growing my own food and trying to use these different methods to get fertility both in to the soil and directly in to the plants, so that I get to get that fertility in to me latter and then I can be healthier. So what I really wanted to share today is, more how as I said, a garden is different than a forest. It’s different because we want to control which plants grow. We want them to be very healthy. We want everything we plant to live and thrive and produce all nutrient dense food for us or at least be for growing ornamentals, have beautiful flowers and we free of test and so that’s really what I was talking about today.

In the next video, I’m going to talk about something different, but it relates very much to fertility and to water. It’s much more about how we can emulate nature in our gardens. For those of you watching who are not in the Smiling Gardner Academy, which is my online, very comprehensive organic gardening course, where I teach soil testing and mineralization and soil fertility and all of these things I’ve been kind of talking about today are you… if you’re interested in that, you might want to check it out this week, because the price is actually going to be going up on Monday night.

Welcome to the first of three steps on how we can learn from nature when it comes to improving garden health, especially organic soil health.

(You’ll see me swatting at mosquitoes and these other biting bugs here and there – they sure were thick when we got deep into the jungle).

All three steps are equally important, but the first I tend to think about is balancing soil minerals, the main reason being that I want to get a soil test analyzed as soon as possible when I’m working on a new garden because it can take a couple of weeks to get results.

Admittedly, this first post is more about how our organic gardens differ from a forest with regards to fertility than how it is the same, but it’s a very useful comparison. Read More

Is 10-10-10 Fertilizer Really The Best Garden Choice?

10-10-10 fertilizer is certainly one of the most popular fertilizers. This week, I received a great question about the nutritional difference between it and compost:

Most bags of compost and manure say they have about .1-.1-.1 of the big 3. I have tested my own compost and it is somewhat higher but still not in the 10 10 10 range recommended for most plants. So, how do you get enough without using fertilizers? Is 10-10-10 the same as .1-.1-.1? Am I missing something?

I’m really glad you asked. There are 3 things I’d like to address…

Read More

Garden Fertilizer Tips – How And When To Fertilize

Garden Fertilizer Tips From The Sun

Today I continue with the garden fertilizer tips.

Last week, I outlined a basic fertilizer schedule and received a couple of comments from people who disagreed with my suggestions, so I thought I’d address their concerns here in more detail.

I always appreciate any feedback people have to give, even when it runs counter to my advice. Some great learning opportunities come when we have these discussions.

Read More

Fertilizer Schedule – When To Fertilize For Results

If you want a fertilizer schedule to follow, I have some tips for you.

Fertilizer companies often create a schedule for you that outlines exactly when to fertilize, but that’s often done to maximize their revenue, not the health of your garden.

The thing is, there’s no such thing as an off-the-shelf fertilizer schedule that is right for every garden. We can, however, follow some well-established guidelines.

Read More

Sustainable Fertilizer – Should We Use Lime Deposits?

Is Lime Sustainable Fertilizer?

Mining limestone is big business, but does it give us a sustainable fertilizer?

The world’s biggest limestone quarry is right near the top of the state of Michigan on Lake Huron. It’s 7000 acres, roughly half the size of Manhattan.

I’m not sure how much of the material from this particular quarry goes toward agriculture, but lime is one of the most important fertilizers in organic gardening.

Read More