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Friday, October 4, 2013

Organic Fertilizer: is it Plant, Animal or Mineral?

Organic Fertilizer: is it Plant, Animal or Mineral?

Organic fertilizers can come from plants, animals or minerals. Organic generally means that the fertilizer or pesticide is not a synthetic or chemical creation. It does not mean it is non-toxic or 100% green in its creation. What it does mean is it is processed in some minimal way from a nature source. Your 100% pure organic fertilizer may come from plants, animals, minerals or a combination of two or more these categories.

Organic Plant Based Fertilizers: Part 1 of 3

You have plant based fertilizers that, as a class, generally have lower amounts of the macro-nutrients (N)itrogen, (P)hosphorus and (K) potassium or NPK. Plant based fertilizers are often 'fast acting' as in the nutrients are quickly made available to your garden vegetable plants. Plant based fertilizer can have micro-nutrients and added benefits for soil microbes and bacteria. They not only feed your vegetable plants but they feed your soils. They help your garden in two ways. There are many different kinds of plant based organic fertilizers. But you do have to ask the question....Were synthetic chemicals used to grow the plants that are harvested to be sold as organic? Or how where the plants raised? Here are some plant based products.

Alfalfa Meal: comes from the alfalfa plant. It is typically pressed into a pellet forms. It averages about 2% of nitrogen and 2% phosphorus. Alfalfa is known to have a growth hormone called triacontanol that helps develop your soil and stimulate plant growth. It can be used to quick start you compost piles and to make your compost teas.

Compost: does not have much to offer in the way of  higher levels of NPK macro-nutrients but it does contain consistent low levels of NPK and micro-nutrients. These nutrients are released slowly over time. The biggest benefit of compost is that your are adding in high amounts of decomposed plant matter into your soil. You are feeding your soil and creating a great environment for microbes. Active happy microbes and healthy soil structures help make nutrients in your garden readily available to your vegetable plants. Just having nutrients in your garden soil is not enough. The plants need to be able to access them with their root systems. Compost creates living soil.

Corn Gluten Meal: is interesting because it is also a seed inhibitor. It is recommended for use on growing plants or you have to wait 2-4 months before planting seeds. Just because something is organic, doesn't mean it is ready to go and use without understanding how it impacts your garden. It brings about 10% nitrogen to your garden soil. It is also used as seed weed inhibitor on growing lawns.

Cottonseed Meal: is interesting because cotton crops tend to have pesticides sprayed on them. Keep in mind that the product may be organic but the way it is raised may not be. If you use cottonseed meal it is important to know the source. It is also used for adding nitrogen to your garden

Kelp Liquid: it is essentially seaweed and the benefit of this product is not NPK. It is the addition of micro-nutrients, vitamins and growth hormones. It is often used as a foliar spray to help the vigor of your plants.

Synthetic and organic products have uses in our gardens. It is important to understand the products you use and question where they come from, as well as,  understand their risks and benefits. Most importantly using the right product, in the right way and at the right time will prevent frustration and excessive garden plant loss.

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Alfalfa is a natural source of the plant growth promoter triacontanol. 

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