Organic Fertilizers: Mix Your Own Special Blends
Organic gardening involves a system that centres around healthy soil – a mixture of sand, clay, silt, and decomposed organic material (humus). But even when the soil is well-balanced and healthy, plants benefit from additions of specifically formulated organic fertilizers.
You can buy prepared organic fertilizers, or blend individual fertilizer ingredients for specific purposes, such has high nitrogen blends for leafy greens or high potassium blends for root crops.
Since the following organic fertilizer recipes all involve dry ingredients, they can be blended ahead of time and stored in labelled plastic containers with lids. Most garden centres will have individual ingredients, but if you can’t buy them locally, they are available from online sources, such as WhitneyFarms.com which sells only organic products.
For all of the following recipes, make any amount using the volume ratios given. Use anything from a yogurt container to a lemonade pitcher as a scoop. Each full scoop equals one part.
An all-purpose, basic organic fertilizer recipe is useful to have on hand in a large quantity. If you’re making a big batch, mix it up in a wheelbarrow and stir to blend with a hoe. Then store in a labelled, plastic container with a lid.
Basic Organic Fertilizer Mix:
For use as at planting time or side dressing for all types of plants:
- 3 parts blood or fishmeal
- 3 parts steamed bone meal
- 1 part kelp meal
- 1 and 1/2 parts Sul-Po-Mag (a brand name at Whitney Farms for a sulphur, potassium, and magnesium mixture, but you can substitute any such mixture.)
The following specially formulated mixes are fast-acting and work well when used at planting time and as side dressings. Although these balanced mixes will generally give desired results, soils do vary. You can experiment and find what works best for your soil.
Generally, the fertilizers are applied at the rate of: 1/2 cup per transplant, or 5 pounds per 100 square feet or 100-row feet.
High Nitrogen Mix
For plants that are grown with the leaf or dollar structure as the edible part:
- 4 parts blood meal
- 2 parts cottonseed meal
- 1 part steamed bone meal
- 1/2 part Sul-Po-Mag (a brand name source for sulfur, potassium, and magnesium)
- 1/2 part kelp meal
High Potassium Mix
For crops that are grown with the root or tuber as the edible part:
- 2 parts cottonseed meal
- 2 and 1/2 parts Sul-Po-Mag
- 1 and 1/2 parts steamed bone meal
- 1 part greensand
- 1 part kelp meal
High Phosphorous Mix
For crops that are grown for the fruit or seed as the edible part:
- 4 parts steamed bone meal
- 1 part fish meal
- 1 part meat and bone meal
- 1 part soft phosphate
- 1/2 part Sul-Po-Mag
- 1/2 part kelp meal
Additional ideas for organic fertilizers include an Acid Mix for plants that prefer lower pH, (blueberry, strawberry, potato, tomato, and squash); or a Super Grow Mix that has two ingredients for each nutrient, released at different rates.
Garden Soil Preparation Tips: A Comprehensive Guide to Prepare Healthy Soil for Your Plants
Having a lush, vibrant garden requires more than just planting seeds and watering them regularly. The key to a successful garden lies in the quality of the soil. If the soil is rich in nutrients and well-prepared, your plants will thrive and yield bountifully. In this article, we will provide you with essential tips and tricks to prepare your garden soil, ensuring that your plants grow healthy and strong.
Understanding Your Soil Type
Before you begin preparing your soil, it’s essential to know what type of soil you have. The three primary soil types are sand, silt, and clay. Sand is coarse and has large particles, allowing water and air to move through it quickly. Silt is finer than sand and can hold onto water and nutrients better.
Clay has tiny particles and can hold onto moisture and nutrients for extended periods but can also become compacted easily. Understanding your soil type will help you determine what amendments and preparations are necessary to make it healthy.
Testing Your Soil
After determining your soil type, it’s time to test it for its pH level and nutrient content. You can purchase a soil testing kit from a garden center or use a professional service to test your soil. Based on the test results, you can make informed decisions on what amendments your soil needs.
Compost is a vital component of healthy garden soil. It’s rich in nutrients, beneficial microbes, and organic matter that help to improve soil texture, drainage, and fertility. You can make your compost by combining yard waste, kitchen scraps, and other organic materials, or you can purchase it from a garden center. Adding compost to your soil is easy. Spread a two to three-inch layer of compost over your garden bed and mix it into the top six to eight inches of soil.
Mulching is a process of adding organic or inorganic materials to the surface of the soil to help regulate soil temperature, reduce weed growth, and conserve moisture. Organic mulches, such as leaves, straw, or grass clippings, decompose over time, adding valuable nutrients to the soil. Inorganic mulches, such as gravel or stones, do not decompose and can last for years. Spread a two to three-inch layer of mulch over your garden bed, leaving a few inches around the base of plants.
Amendments are materials added to the soil to improve its texture, fertility, and structure. Common amendments include lime, sulfur, bone meal, and blood meal. Lime raises the pH of acidic soil, while sulfur lowers the pH of alkaline soil. Bone meal and blood meal are excellent sources of phosphorus and nitrogen, respectively, which are essential nutrients for plant growth.
Tilling is the process of breaking up the soil to improve its texture and incorporate amendments. However, excessive tilling can damage soil structure and lead to compaction. It’s best to till your soil only when necessary and avoid over-tilling. Aim to till your soil to a depth of six to eight inches.
Proper watering is essential for healthy plant growth. Water your garden deeply but infrequently to encourage deeper root growth. The frequency of watering depends on various factors such as the soil type, plant type, and weather conditions. As a general rule, water your garden when the top two inches of soil are dry.
Using Raised Garden Beds
Raised garden beds are an excellent option if you have poor-quality soil or limited garden space. They provide better drainage, allow for better control of soil quality and temperature, and make gardening more accessible for people with mobility issues.
Avoiding Chemical Fertilizers and Pesticides
Chemical fertilizers and pesticides can harm the environment and be harmful to humans and pets. Instead of relying on these harmful chemicals, consider using natural alternatives such as compost, manure, or organic pest control methods. These options are safer, healthier, and more sustainable.
Companion planting is the practice of planting different types of plants together to benefit each other. For example, planting beans with corn or squash can help improve soil fertility and deter pests. Companion planting can also help maximize garden space and increase biodiversity.
Crop rotation is a method of planting different crops in the same area to prevent soil depletion and pest buildup. Rotating crops can help maintain soil fertility and reduce the risk of plant diseases. It’s best to rotate crops every year or every other year.
Using Cover Crops
Cover crops are plants grown to protect and improve the soil between growing seasons. Cover crops help prevent soil erosion, add organic matter to the soil, and improve soil fertility. Some common cover crops include clover, rye, and winter wheat.
Preparing healthy soil is an essential aspect of successful gardening. By understanding your soil type, testing it, adding compost and amendments, mulching, watering, using raised garden beds, avoiding chemicals, companion planting, rotating crops, and using cover crops, you can ensure that your garden soil is healthy, fertile, and able to support vibrant plant growth.
- How often should I test my garden soil? Ans: It’s best to test your garden soil every three to four years.
- Can I use any type of mulch? Ans: Organic mulches are the best for soil health, but you can use inorganic mulches as well.
- What’s the best time of day to water my plants? Ans: Watering in the morning or evening is best, as watering during the day can lead to evaporation and water loss.
- How do I know when to rotate my crops? Ans: It’s best to rotate crops every year or every other year, depending on the crop and soil conditions.
What are some natural pest control methods? Ans: Some natural pest control methods include using insect-repelling plants, handpicking pests, and using organic pesticides such as neem oil or diatomaceous earth.