Understanding Organic Fertilizer

Anyone trying to grow plants in poor soil knows it’s a very real struggle, just as anyone who is capable of growing plants in poor soil knows the importance of fertilizer. Without it, many gardens would be reduced to dust bowls or barren wastelands. For centuries, fertilizer has played an essential role in commercial crop production, but it’s just as important in the garden.

What’s It Made Of?

It’s important to have a basic understanding of fertilizer before attempting to make your own. Simply knowing the basics will go a long way. This substance – or mix of substances – supplies the food plants need to grow big and strong. There are three main nutrients that plants thrive on.

  • Nitrogen: Encourages plants to grow large, tall and lush.
  • Phosphorus: Encourages strong and healthy root systems and flowering.
  • Potassium: Boosts the plant’s immune system. With an increase in protein, the plants are more resistant to insects and disease. This creates hardy plants that are more likely to survive variations in climate.

Classic fertilizer is made from manure and works very well. Horse, cow and chicken waste all make for excellent manure, but more or less any herbivore waste will do. Avoid cat and dog droppings, as well as other meat eaters as this can damage plants. The manure needs to be left to age for at least six months before it can be used. It should be either dried or composted.

Using Fertilizer

When applying fertilizer, it’s important not to add too much to the soil at once. Too much of a good thing can do more harm than good, after all. Fertilizer burn leads to brown, withered leaves that drop off, as well as damaged roots. For manure based products, it’s best to mix them with the top soil in late fall or winter, ready for spring planting.

How Does it Work?

Once mixed with the soil, the manure begins to break down, releasing all of its valuable nutrients into the soil. This creates an enriched soil that your plants will love.