Author Ellen Vande VisseDownload a PDF Copy of This Article
Organic Fertilizer Primer
A quick reference
My gratitude to you on your commitment to nurture living soil! By choosing organic fertilizers, you feed your microbe armies, and then they cycle those nutrients. You are putting the parts of the program together, hurrah!
The Basics: I highly recommend that you get a soil test to determine what your particular soil actually needs. Find my recommended soil labs on my website, “Soil Test Services”. If you do no other fertilizing, give everything in your yard or garden a foundation of either liquid fish (fish emulsion or fish hydrolysate) in addition to compost. The granular fertilizer fishbone meal is great too, but becoming a bit more difficult to find locally.
So liquid fish is my best guess of what-to-apply when you don’t have a test lab recommendation. Liquid fish applications will at least come close to supplying necessary NPK, plus secondary macro and micro elements. Follow the directions on the label. Don’t overdo– too much is as harmful as too little.
Liquid Fish: Liquid fish provides nitrogen and trace minerals. The liquid comes in two different ways: fish emulsion or fish hydrolysate.
Fish emulsion is the familiar white plastic jug of stinky liquid. It is processed with heat and preserved with chlorine (not beneficial to soil microbes). Use the 5-1-1 for vegetables.
Fish hydrolysate is cold-pressed, enzymatically digested. It is preserved with an acid such as vinegar. This form is more beneficial to your soil food web. Use the 2% N (e.g.2-4-1) for vegetables.
To apply, please consult jug label for dilution and application rates and follow them exactly. Don’t over- do. You can put liquid fish into your watering can or into a sprayer. Apply to foliage and root zone. This is a high-nitrogen boost especially for heavy-nitrogen feeder vegetables: your greens, lettuces, and cabbage family. Apply 1 to 4 times per season. Store inside a container that is safe from mice, squirrels, dogs, and cats!
Kelp Powder, soluble
If it’s packaged in a Ziploc bag, Immediately transfer your kelp powder into a water-tight, wide-mouth jar and keep it dry so the powder does not turn to gum with the least humidity or wetness. Tape a label on it.
Kelp provides potassium, many trace elements, and growth stimulants. It reduces transplant shock and hurries seed sprouting.
Kelp powder dissolves very well in water. Follow the dilution and application rates on the package. Apply with your watering can or sprayer to foliage and/or root zone. Apply 2-4 times per season or as often as once a week. Again, a soil test would help you know what your soil and crops actually need.
Rather than a fertilizer, you’re adding vital and highly beneficial members of a healthy soil food web, namely bacteria, fungi, protozoans, and nematodes. Examples: worm tea, actively aerated compost tea, Soil ReVive, Jubilate, Eden, Myco-Apply,etc. The purpose is to help deliver plant nutrients, out-compete disease microbes, stimulate vigor and earlier maturity, and increase yield. Contents of these inoculants may include endo-mycorrhizal fungi, plant proteins, animal proteins, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, trace elements, specialized, pre-selected, adapted soil microbes, bio-organic catalysts and microbial growth stimulants. Here are a some excellent products.
Combine Fertilizers with Compost Tea?
Yes, yes, yes, these are the foods to feed your beneficial microbes and maintain their high numbers. Can you mix the kelp or fish powder right into the same watering can (or garbage can) as the compost tea? Yes BUT—
Yes, it’s great to apply them at the same time. You save time, so it’s very efficient. BUT do not combine them and then leave them sitting for more than a few minutes. Within an hour, the compost tea will go anaerobic (because of the heavy dose of food) and will kill your plants. Augh!