As vegetable gardeners, we are always faced with a myriad of questions. There are so many different choices in vegetable varieties, tool options, and much, much more. One of the most common questions many gardeners ask is, “What fertilizers should I use?”. This is a great question because there are so many fertilizer options with many different applications, it can easily send a gardener into a whirlwind of confusion and doubt.
If you are interested in growing organically, which I hope you are, then you should use organic fertilizers. Organic simply means it is related to, or derived from, living organisms and is not manufactured through chemicals. Organic fertilizers provide the best nutrients and minerals for a healthy garden because they are naturally occurring. Man may attempt to replicate what nature provides with chemical “super fertilizers”, but it pales in comparison to the raw power of using what nature already gives us.
So, what are the best organic fertilizers we can use for vegetables? Here are my favorite choices (in no particular order):
Compost is by far the most widely used fertilizer and soil amendment in vegetable gardens today; and rightfully so! Compost is easily made from all types of things from around the home, but mostly from yard refuge and most vegetable peelings from the kitchen. It is generally worked into the soil before planting and added as a side dressing after the plants have become established. Compost adds beneficial microorganisms, greatly improves soil health, and increases earthworm activity in your soil.
Compost teas are made from steeping compost. The liquid left from the steeping process is strained and then used to water plants. Compost tea can offer your vegetable plants a super-charged drink of essential nutrients and minerals.
Manures from animals such as grass fed cows, horses, rabbits and chickens make great fertilizers. Never use manures from animals such as dogs or cats, or manures from humans (eeww). Typically, manures are mixed with hay, straws, or alfalfa and set out to compost before using. You should always let manures compost for a minimum of nine months before applying it to the vegetable garden. Using fresh manures can burn plants and cause quite a stink.
Fish and Seaweed Emulsions
Fish and seaweed (kelp) fertilizers are a great way to easily improve soil nutrients and provide your plants a good feeding. These organic fertilizers come in a liquid form and are mixed with water, then used to water plants where nutrients are taken in through the leaves. Using compost in combination with a fish or seaweed fertilizer is a great way to take on a two-pronged attack of organic fertilization.
Vermicomposting or Worm Poo
The reason earthworms are essential for healthy soil is because they wiggle around the soil helping to aerate it, but the best quality of the earthworm is its poo (or castings). The castings not only provide valuable nutrients to the soil, but the poo also contains beneficial microorganisms from the earthworm’s digestive system. Beneficial microorganisms are vital for breaking down organic matter into a form that plant roots can intake.
Vermicomposting is the farming of worms in order to collect their castings to use as a fertilizer or top dressing. You can also purchase worm castings and earthworm cocoons to place in raised beds or large containers. The cocoons will hatch earthworms introducing these soil soldiers to your vegetable garden.
Commercial Organic Fertilizers
There are many companies that produce awesome organic fertilizers. Such companies I highly recommend are Gardener's Supply and Gardens Alive!. Both companies offer all natural fertilizers for broad spectrum or specific applications.
Gardens Alive! features many specific organic fertilizers and are offering a special right now on soil care products. Click the coupon link below to save $20 off a $40 order! So, if you order $40 worth of awesome organic products you are getting them half off!