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.

Click for video transcription

Phil: Hey guys it’s Phil from, if you haven’t checked out my free online organic gardening course, you can do that right on the home page of

Today is a beautiful day to be talked about natural organic fertilizers. If you want to compare an organic fertilizer with a conventional chemical fertilizer. The organic often doesn’t look like that greater value because the NPK numbers are usually very low but organic has a number of benefits. Often it’s going to have many more nutrients than just NPK but more important to me is first of all it’s nontoxic which means it’s not going to kill your soil life which is a good thing.

Also it’s often better to apply lower doses of nutrients anyway like if you are applying a 20-20-20 that’s really hard on your soil and on your plants, so there are number of different benefits to organic first thing I really want to mention is what is organic in this context, it really just means anything that we are allowed to use in our organic garden, we often get these rules from organic farming because they have all these standards laid out and now for the last few years we have had the SOUL organic standard for urban gardens too. So, you can follow up the SOUL standard.

So, if you are looking for something, you really want something organic. If it says organic based that really probably means it’s mostly chemical. If it says natural or environmentally friendly those are not bad boards but they are not regulated, so they really don’t mean anything. So it’s okay if it says that but you don’t want them to pick as fertilizer based on that, when in doubt. If you really don’t know much about reading ingredients, you can go for something that’s only listed which is right there. Only listed and that says it’s allowed to be used in organic farming.

I often divide fertilizers in my head into two groupsand the first is mineral fertilizers that means rocks basically different kinds of rocks like calcytic lime stone or a glacial rock dust, these are what I think of is being the main soil builders. You put them in your soil over the course of many years they break down and they provide the essential nutrients for your soil and for your plants. Most of these need to be applied based on that soil test that we did, since most people don’t do soil test you really don’t want to apply many of them, for example I have one right here, that’s a beautiful product, it’s called rock phosphate.

This one is granulated, you could see it there, it contains mainly calcium and phosphorus, wonderful stuff but only if you need calcium and phosphorus, now lot of us do but if you don’t it’s not going to be something you want to add. So most mineral fertilizers, we don’t want to be adding. If you can find a glacial rock dust that’s the one you can add without doing any of these testing because it has a broad range of nutrients. So that’s alright, another issue with the mineral fertilizer is they can be pretty hard to find.

If you are hard core organic gardener like me and you don’t mind look in forming, finding a store, tracking him down that’s alright but they are too expensive to shift from long distances and sometimes it takes some work to find them so that’s a little bit of an issue and that’s why I love the other group of fertilizers which I call the biological fertilizers. With the mineral fertilizers are the rocks, the biological is basically anything that was once alive and it’s now being turned into some kind of a fertilizer. So very briefly I have mentioned that a lot of biological fertilizers we are use to using organic gardening, I don’t use anymore because they are being derived from genetically modified plants, that’s like cotton seed meal and canola meal and all kinds of things like that.

Now I am very strict on this compared to a lot of organic gardening experts. A lot of peoples still advocated the organic standards don’t allow it, so I just I don’t use it and I don’t want to support the genetic modification movement so I use other things. So, I will tell you what I do use if you are wondering why I dance around so much on my videos it’s because I drink a lot of tea that’s a cool product, wonderful full of nutrients, full of natural growth hormones, really wonderful stuff for feeding your plants, along the same line is a fish fertilizer, I don’t tend to use that anymore because if there are sustainability issues around it but it is a really great fertilizer especially for nitrogen and phosphorus.

Other ones right from your own home is molasses, it’s a wonderful for your fertilizers, it’s brings all kind of vitamins and sugars for your microbes. My favorite one, I am going to talk about this stuff more in the future but my favorite one is ocean water, this happens to be a product, it’s very concentrated ocean water where most of the sodium chloride has been removed but it am going to talk about these more another time but there all these products, a lot of them come from the ocean.

You know the see minerals technically isn’t a biological but I kind of lump it in with the biological that you can use without any kind of a soil test, they bring in dozens sometimes 80 plus nutrients. They are not going to cause any imbalances, they are great to use, you can sign up from my free online course that’s If you are on YouTube, you can subscribe to get more videos, if you are Facebook, you can like me, if you are somewhere else you can high five me whatever it is you do all these different social media sites, I will see you next time.

What Is A Natural Organic Fertilizer?

Natural Organic Fertilizers In My Hand

When I say organic, I just mean anything that would be allowed on an organic farm or organic garden.

Most of the regulations come from organic farming, and they help inform us organic gardeners.

You don’t want something with a label that says ‘organic-based,’ as that’s mostly chemicals.

I know we’re talking about natural organic fertilizers here, but the words natural or environmentally-friendly on a label aren’t regulated, so they don’t really mean anything.

They’re not bad, but you shouldn’t buy just because a label says natural.

If you don’t know much about ingredients, it may be easiest to get something that is certified organic or OMRI Listed.

That’s a good start, but even then, how do you know which ones to get?

Mineral Organic Fertilizers

Mineral means rocks, like calcium carbonate (lime) or glacial rock dust. These are the soil builders.

The rock dust has lots of different minerals and it’s a great natural organic fertilizer to apply without even needing a soil test. It can be a nice soil fertility builder.

Most of the others like lime or rock phosphate or greensand provide high amounts of just a couple of minerals.

That means they should usually only be applied if you know you need them, which usually means getting a soil test from a reputable organic soil lab.

A downside of mineral organic fertilizers is that it can be difficult to find the ones you need, so you do need to be patient and try to find an organic fertilizer supplier or farm supply store.

Bottom line: go ahead and use rock dusts, but hold off on the specific minerals until you do a soil test.

Biological Organic Fertilizers

Liquid Natural Organic Fertilizer

Biological basically means anything that was once living. These can be soil builders, but they’re generally more for fast, short term nutrition.

Some of the most popular of these are seed meals, but most of those are now derived from genetically-modified plants.

Now that may not be a big deal, but they’re not allowed in organic farming, and I don’t really want to support the GM movement, so I do my best not to use them.

Just as an organic fertilizer, they work fine – not sure yet if there are consequences to the planet. I’ll admit I’m more strict on this than most organic gardening experts.

Fortunately there are other excellent biologicals which have given me great results. Most of them have small amounts of many dozens of nutrients, so they can be applied without a soil test.

Seaweed and molasses are all great. Fish is a good organic nitrogen fertilizer, although a lot of products aren’t as sustainable anymore because the little fishies in the oceans are dwindling rapidly.

Ocean water (direct or in a concentrated product) is one of the best organic fertilizers and I consider it a biological even though it’s just seawater – there is certainly biology in it.

The nice thing about all of these is they’re easy to find online, and they’re inexpensive both to buy and ship.

Blended Organic Fertilizers

Many of the natural organic fertilizers you’ll find will be blended fertilizers, which is usually a combination of several minerals (like lime) and several meals (like cotton seed or feather meal).

If you use just a little, they might be alright, but they’re probably not the ideal product for your organic garden.

Other than the GMO seed meal issue, it’s mainly because you almost certainly don’t need all of the mineral fertilizers in them.

If they have dolomite and rock phosphate and greensand, you’re bringing in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium (among other things).

Sounds great on the surface, but the way to create great soil is to get to a certain balance of these nutrients rather than just increasing them all blindly, which causes many problems.

That’s why I recommend soil testing before adding specific minerals, and also using less concentrated liquid organic fertilizers in the biologicals.

Feel free to ask your organic fertilizer questions below, or let me know your favorites…

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  1. Gayle S. on April 20, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Hi Phil: Enjoyed your video above, I have been making compost tea with fish emulsion. It does have a terrible smell, which is expected, but can this stuff go bad? How would I know if it’s not good to use or does it go bad?

    • Phil on April 24, 2013 at 4:39 pm

      Ya, it’s difficult to tell if fish fertilizer has gone bad. I don’t know how to tell either, because as you say, it smells bad even when it’s good. I bet there is a different rotten smell compared to just the fishy smell, but I haven’t noticed it before.

  2. Jonathan on April 20, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Hi Phil,Good intro advice. One area where I could use advice on is soluble vs. insioluble fertilizers. I have recently found that drip irrigation offers slow and deep watering, and also the opportunity to add soluble fertilizers to the system. For many of us this may be very efficient. For this question I am focusing on the application of fertilizing veggies in a well-created organic raised bed. Certainly, the question could apply to other plants and ecosystems.If one were to pursue slow and deep watering with soluble ferts, how much deeper and voluminous would plant roots grow to compared to surface fertilization and either watering via can or soaker hose?Another consideration is how immediate versus long-term is the need for specific nutrient in the soluble mix? Soluble liquid ferts become immediately present and available in the soil, whereas solid ferts become present, but not necessarily immediately available. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

    • Phil on April 24, 2013 at 5:03 pm

      I can’t get into too much detail here, but adding small amounts of nutrients regularly may actually be a wonderful way to fertilize compared with adding big hits of nutrients less often. Of course it’s hard to say how much better plants will grow, but research does show that they prefer consistent access to a bit of nutrient rather than occasional access to a lot.And yet while in theory you could probably provide all of your nutrients in immediate, soluble form, there is something to be said for working a little more in line with nature. Constant fertilizing seems more akin to the chemical paradigm of feeding plants directly and obviously isn’t as sustainable or natural.The whole thing is debatable. For example hydroponics growers are obviously big fans of constantly feeding plants directly, while most permaculturists would probably argue for an opposite scenario of letting nature do most of the work – both have valid points.

  3. MLF on April 20, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    My tomato’s in Austin are between 3-4′ tall with about 50 fruit between 3 plants (in ground 15 January); waiting now for those successive months of 100 degrees F . . . we’ll see. My ground in Switzerland looks about like yours, snow last night and this morning. Thank you for your passion and commitment to share your knowledge and experience. All the best during this period of personal transition.

  4. Linda on April 20, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    Could you talk more about humic acids – what they are, when to use them, how are they obtained from nature, and where are they purchased?

    • Phil on April 24, 2013 at 4:55 pm

      Some time I could do that. Basically, they are substances which can be purchased online (even from Amazon) as a product that is derived from what is basically various kinds of coal, and they can be put on soil for many benefits or used along with liquid fertilizers to help the plants take up those fertilizers.

  5. Denise Hoover on April 20, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    I am really sorry to hear about you and Heather, I hope and pray that you will find comfort at this time.And that God will direct your paths. Thanks for the info on fertilizers!

  6. MLF on April 21, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Are you free to comment/advise regarding the differences between Sea-Crop, SeaAgri and Redmond salt sources? Thank you.

    • Phil on April 25, 2013 at 1:21 pm

      It’s been a long time since I’ve looked at them in detail, so I can’t give a good review, but in my opinion, sea-crop ( ) is the best. It’s lower in sodium and higher in other trace minerals, and it’s manufactured to retain beneficial organisms that live in sea water. It’s also a liquid, which is very easy and versatile to use. The Redmond Salt is more of a straight salt, albeit with some trace minerals. The sea agri looks fine, but I really prefer the low sodium sea-crop.

  7. Sarah on April 21, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    I just bought 75 acres last fall. The soil is in poor condition. I am using bio-gold on top of clover I planted early winter

  8. Adrian Quinn on April 24, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    Could you suggest a good soil test lab in Canada that understands organic? The ones you listed in the US no longer accept foreign soils for analysis. What type. brand of Humic Acid do you use? Thanks!

    • Phil on April 25, 2013 at 11:05 am

      In the U.S., Crop Services International in the U.S. still accepts from Canada. But within Canada, no, I haven’t found anyone. I’ve done base saturation tests with A&L Labs and was happy with them, but that’s because I know how to interpret the results without looking at their recommendations.

  9. HS on April 27, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    Hi Phil,i live very close to the mediterrian sea. is it beneficial to spray sea water into the soil as a broad-spectrum mineral fertalizer? if so, how much sea water should i spray per square meter?

    • Phil on May 2, 2013 at 11:12 am

      It’s probably best to get a soil test done before applying too much sea water to the soil, just because your soil may already have plenty of sodium and so you may not want to add more. But you could mix it with 20 parts water and spray your plants directly with it. For soil, I’ve seen research where they used as much as 1 cup per square foot (10 cups per square meter), but that would tend to be on more worn out soils further from the coast.

  10. Ron on April 30, 2013 at 1:02 am

    Please comment on SEA-90 by SeaAgri Inc.

    • Phil on May 2, 2013 at 11:09 am

      It’s worthwhile to use. Go for it.

  11. Katie on May 6, 2013 at 3:52 am

    Hi Phil, thanks for another great post! Can you please talk about your thoughts on using epsom salts in the garden?

    • Phil on May 8, 2013 at 7:48 pm

      They shouldn’t be used just for good measure, but I like a naturally-mined form if you have a soil test that says you need magnesium and sulfur in your garden.

  12. needhelp on August 9, 2013 at 12:50 am

    what are some examples of good organic fertilizers

    • Phil on August 12, 2013 at 3:05 pm

      sea minerals, kelp, glacial rock dust

  13. Duane on November 9, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    Phil, I have a 1.2 acre lake. Bream are overly abundant. Would you advocate using fresh fish buried with lime to prepare a future raised beds. I have already done this with a bed I plan to use next spring.

    • Phil on November 13, 2017 at 12:51 pm

      Yes, it’s a good idea. But note that if your soil already has sufficient or even excess lime, the lime may not be warranted. A soil test would tell you for sure. Otherwise, go easy on it.

      • Duane on November 17, 2017 at 1:33 pm

        Phil, I should have explained. The lime is to keep critters from digging up the fresh fish. BTW, all my raised beds are established in hard pan Alabama clay. I had to dig down after a soaking rain to reach a depth of eight inches. Took time because I had to wait on the rains to soften the clay and then could only dig an inch or two at a time. Then I used eight inch blocks to give me more depth. After that, I put a thick layer of fall leaves filling the entire bed to the top. By summer, the layer was only three inches thick. After a year of adding compost, hydrilla, coffee grounds, tea leaves, rabbit poo, and kitchen scrap compost, I added the Bream and sprinkled the lime as a critter ridder. This bed is finally ready to plant! I’ll have to wait to see the result of my efforts.

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