The use of fertilizers dates back 8,000 years, when early farmers used manure to fertilize their crops. However, modern, commercial agriculture has now become heavily dependent on toxic synthetic fertilizers.
These man-made chemicals allow farmers to temporarily increase the yield of their crops, but they also destroy beneficial soil microorganisms, cause air and water pollution and increase the long-term cost of agricultural production.
For these reasons, organic fertilizers have become increasingly popular among farmers and gardeners in recent years. Whether they’re meals, manures or composted plant material and kitchen scraps, organic fertilizers contain key minerals, particularly nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, vitamins and organic matter.
All components of organic fertilizers are also usable by plants since they do not contain useless fillers and man-made chemicals.
Here are six organic fertilizers you can use for your garden: (h/t to ThePrairieHomestead.com)
Vegetable scraps, fruit peels, dead leaves, coffee grounds, eggshells and grass clippings make great compost. Soil microorganisms are vital to the composting process as they help turn these materials into nutrient-rich matter for your plants.
Manure from herbivores, such as cows, sheep and goats, contain high levels of nitrogen, which is vital for plant growth. This manure is also often free of dangerous pathogens, which can sometimes be found in the manure of meat-eating animals like cats and dogs. Here’s a close look at the types of manure you can use as organic fertilizer:
- Chicken manure – This manure has the highest nitrogen levels out of all manures. Just make sure to compost and age it well before applying it to soil.
- Sheep manure – Sheep manure is drier and gentler to plants. It’s also a less smelly option.
- Horse manure – Horse manure is a good source of nutrients beneficial for soil health.
- Cow manure – Cow manure is a good all-purpose manure. It also doesn’t “burn” plants easily since it has a lower nitrogen content than other manures. It also has fewer weed seeds than horse manure.
- Bat manure – Bat manure, also known as guano, is collected from bats that feed on insects and fruits.
- Worm manure – Worm manure, also known as worm casting, is made when earthworms eat their way through compost materials. Worm manure is full of nutrients and is best added to potting soil.
- Rabbit manure – Rabbit manure is considered a “cold” manure, meaning you can add it directly to soil with no worry of it “burning” your plants. They will release nutrients into the soil as they break down.
If you’re using livestock manure, make sure your animals don’t gaze on fields sprayed with herbicides. The chemicals in those products may still be present in manure, which can leach into the soil.
Sea vegetables like seaweed can also be used as organic fertilizers. Seaweed can be dried and made into a meal-type product called kelp meal. This product can be dissolved in water and sprayed onto the soil. (Related: 6 Health benefits of seaweed, an underwater superfood.)
4. Bone meal
You can also make organic fertilizer out of leftover bones. Just dry and grind the bones into a fine powder, then sprinkle it over your garden beds. This fertilizer is a great source of phosphorus, a vital component of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) or the energy unit of plants.
5. Blood meal
Blood meal is made from dried animal blood, typically cow blood. It is used when high amounts of nitrogen are needed by the soil. It can be sprinkled over soil as powder or mixed with water and sprayed onto the soil.
6. Fish emulsion
Fish emulsion is a liquid concentrate fertilizer made from fish and fish parts. The emulsion is normally diluted with water and sprayed onto the soil around your plants.
How often you need to fertilize your garden will depend on soil quality. Get your soil tested by an expert so you know what nutrients you’ll need to provide to ensure optimal plant growth. Knowing the quality of your soil also ensures that you don’t overfertilize it, which can decrease growth and leave plants vulnerable to disease.
Read more articles about organic fertilizers for gardening at Organic.news.