Organic Fertilizers - Types, Benefits & How to use them in Your Garden

Organic Fertilizers – Types, Benefits, and Usages in Your Garden

A healthy garden requires nutrient-rich soil. Gardeners, therefore, work on creating a soil mix using humus and other organic fertilizer that offers plenty of nutrition for their plants and nurture soil friendly organisms. This gardening philosophy helps to grow the best quality organic fruits, vegetables, rich and vibrantly colored flowers, and long-lived ornamental plants.

What Are Organic Fertilizers?

Only a fortunate few get to have the perfect soil for gardening. Others simply have to toil hard for it. Organic fertilizers are suitable for any landscape. They ensure that the soil provides a balanced ecosystem for the plants to get the right amount of nourishment as nature intended. Nutrients present in the soil are used by Plants for sustenance. They take the help of naturally occurring friendly organisms to strengthen and protect themselves from harmful pests and pathogens. To qualify as an organic fertilizer, the ingredients must all be sourced from nature. These fertilizers generally have a single ingredient and selecting the one with your garden’s particular needs will give you a bountiful return. Organic fertilizers have a fast-acting and a slow-acting nutrition component. Almost 50% of the nutrients are released in the first year of use and they belong to the fast-acting group. The other half is the slow-release nutrition that feeds and conditions the soil in the subsequent year.

What Are the Types of Organic Fertilizers?

Organic fertilizers come in all possible forms such as powders, liquids, and solids. They can be added to the soils as per the nutrition deficiency, the soil quality, and the specific plant requirements of your garden. Here is a listing of the different types of organic fertilizers.

1. Dry Fertilizers

Dry fertilizers are slow-release by nature and can be directly added to the soil. They can be used for regular gardens around your house as well as the compact container-based herb or flower or ornamental plant garden. These provide sustained nutrition to plants and encourage long-term growth.

2. Liquid Fertilizers

The liquid form of these fertilizers helps plants better absorb nutrition. They can be used with or without dilution and can be poured directly into the soil around the plant so as to reach the root system for easy absorption. In the case of vegetables, spray the fertilizer directly on the leaves of the plants during the growing period. While once a month application of the liquid fertilizer is generally sufficient for most plants, for leafy crops you may spray on a biweekly basis.

3. Growth Enhancers

Growth enhancers should not be confused with actual fertilizers. These dry or liquid enhancers have hormones and enzymes that help plants to absorb nutrients from the soil. Kelp is a common growth enhancer.

List of Common Organic Fertilizers

Despite your gardening techniques, sometimes plants can drop leaves, become dry or develop odd colors and generally fail to show healthy growth. Given below are the most commonly used organic fertilizers that can revive your garden.

1. Alfalfa Meal

Alfalfa is generally used as part of livestock feed. However, it is simply ground up so that it composts faster in the soil. It has low amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Since this fertilizer works at a moderate speed, it is used well before the planting of crops to condition the soil.

Type – Plant-Based

NPK Ratio – 3-2-2

2. Blood Meal

This fertilizer is named so as it is a powdered form of blood from butchered livestock. A blood meal is low in other elements. It is used for the high nitrogen content and acidic nature and works fast on nitrogen-deficient or ailing plants. A blood meal is applied directly to the soil prior to planting and covered with mulch to prepare the soil. However, remember not to overdose in one go as it may also burn plants.

Type – Animal-Based

NPK Ratio – 12-1.5-0.5

3. Corn Gluten Meal

This fertilizer has trace nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. As a winter preparation additive, this soil stabilizer tends to work slowly. When it’s added during autumn, it gets enough time to disintegrate and mix with the soil over the winter season.

Type – Plant-Based

NPK Ratio – 0.5-0.5-1

4. Soybean Meal

This fertilizer contains high quantities of nitrogen, low amounts of phosphorus, and calcium. Local growing conditions determine the speed of absorption into the soil and heavily influence plant uptake. However, this process is slow. Use this fertilizer as a  good soil additive producing results sustained over a longer time period.

Type – Plant-Based

NPK Ratio – 7-2-0

5. Rock Phosphate

Rock phosphate is a lime-based phosphate rock usually made from ground-up rocks. This rock powder contains over 30% phosphate and other nutrients. As an insoluble fertilizer, it is absorbed by the roots of the surrounding plants.

Type – Mineral

NPK Ratio – 0-5-0

6. Fish Emulsion

This fertilizer, made from partially decomposed fish, emits a foul odor. Since it is highly acidic, it must be used with care and in smaller quantities to avoid damaging the plants. Results are immediate and can be seen soon after application. It is an excellent boost for leafy plants suffering from low nitrogen levels.

Type – Animal-Based

NPK Ratio – 2-4-0 to 5-1-1

7. Bone Meal

A by-product from animal slaughterhouses, bonemeal refers to the finely ground-up animal bone. It is an excellent source of phosphorus and is used to improve the soil with high nitrogen content and can provide nutrition for up to four months. The effectiveness of bone meal depends on the pH level of the soil, so ensure the soil has a pH of below 7 for the best result. It works at moderate speeds to encourage flower production and a strong root system for bulbs and fruit trees.

Type – Animal-Based

NPK Ratio – 4-20-0

8. Fish Meal

Due to its high nitrogen levels, fish meal is reasonably fast-acting and quite balanced with the presence of the most needed minerals, vitamins such as phosphorus, and calcium. It is suitable for corn crops and leafy plants including lawns.

Type – Animal-Based

NPK Ratio – 5-2-2

9. Feather Meal

High in nitrogen, feather meal acts as a booster and has a moderate release. When used pre-season prior to planting, it pumps up the soil with a nutrient boost.

Type – Animal-Based

NPK Ratio – 12-0-0

10. Greensand

Greensand is actually ground-up green limestone. This marine sediment contains calcium, iron, potassium, and other minerals full of the richness of lakes and oceans. However, the nutrient levels in Greensand products can vary depending on their source.

Type – Mineral

NPK Ratio – 1-1-5

How Does Organic Fertilizer Work?

Plants consume salts from the soil in the form of ions. If the soil is not capable of providing the necessary nutrition for the complete plant cycle, fertilizers must be added. Organic fertilizers contain natural ingredients that break down and slowly release nutrients into the soil. This steady flow of nutrition improves overall soil structure and conditions the soil. Increased availability of organic matter improves water retention, reduces soil erosion, and stimulates plant growth. Adding organic compost or organic fertilizer is also a gentler approach to manage pests and diseases in plants and kinder on the environment.

How to Use Organic Fertilizer for Any Plant

How to Use Organic Fertilizer for Any Plant

To identify the right fertilizer for your garden beds, you should get your soil tested and identify the appropriate organic NPK fertilizer that will balance the garden’s needs and deficiencies. Without enough of any one of these key nutrients, a plant will fail. Buy premade fertilizer and apply as per labeled instructions. If you want to prepare yourself, follow the same procedure and dosage to avoid root burn or damage to sensitive plants. Dry organic fertilizers are generally used over the topsoil in 1-inch layers before planting. The use of a rake takes the fertilizer at least four to six inches below the soil. Adding some fertilizer next to the planting rows as side-dressing will further improve plant growth. Liquid fertilizers are generally sprayed on the leaves or poured around the plants in the morning and evening. Growth enhancers can be given to plants once a month for five months of the growing season, depending on the crop growing period. You can also administer it during planting to increase soil fertility and make it well-drained.

How Is Organic Fertilizer Different From Other Fertilizers?

Fertilizers are classified as organic or chemical. Organic fertilizers improve garden soil by loosening up the dirt and promoting air movement to the root. Rich in natural ingredients, these fertilizers improve soil structure, quality of groundwater, fertility of the soil, remove chemical imbalance sustainably and increase plant-friendly bacterial and fungal activity.  Depending on the need, you can choose organic fertilizers for their speed of release of nutrition and related impact on the growth of fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Chemical fertilizers work on plants and soil instantly. Comparatively, organic nutrients are slowly released into the soil. However, the toxic concentration of salt from chemical fertilizers can burn the roots and make the soil acidic if over-applied. Continuous application kills all-important small worms and microorganisms that help to build quality soil. As soil structure declines, the water-holding capacity diminishes. Over time, applying excessive chemical fertilizer will cause it to leach through the soil and impact the groundwater quality.

Pros of Organic Fertilizer

1. Soil Structure

The organic matter present in organic fertilizer improves soil structure, nutrition value and increases the water content.

2. Microorganisms

Organic fertilizer promotes microbe growth. Its multi-mineral and vitamin content feeds microbes and enables them to make nutrients available for plants.

3. Reduce use of Pesticides and Fertilizers

Organic fertilizer can reduce the dependency on pesticides and meets the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium requirements without the use of chemical fertilizers.

4. Environmental Friendly

Synthetic or chemical fertilizers drain off into our waterways, harming marine life and impacting water quality. Organic fertilizers do not leech off the soil as easily and promote good soil structure.

5. Plant Damage Risk Avoid

Some synthetic fertilizers can cause damage to plant leaves and roots, which is considerably less inorganic fertilizers.

6. Economical

Organic fertilizer is an economical alternative to chemical products. With a bit of time in hand, you can make an unobtrusive compost unit in rural and urban areas alike.

Cons of Organic Fertilizers

1. Not All Products Are Created Equally

Organic products provide inconsistent results, because of the natural variability involved in their production.

2. Low Nutrient Levels

The nutrient per volume for organic fertilizer is often low. The nutrients have a complex chemical structure. Hence, it may not produce the desired results as fast and as consistently as seen with chemical fertilizers.

3. DIY Compost Is a Complicated Procedure

Preparing your compost is often a messy and complicated process that leads to an inconsistent product.

4. Potentially Pathogenic

When certain pathogens from organic fertilizers enter lakes and streams through runoff and soil erosion, they can pollute the water system that will affect the environment and humans negatively.

5. Costly

As commercial organic nutrients contain a wide range of nutrients derived from natural products, they are generally costlier than chemical products.

6. Labor Intensive

Organic fertilizers can be bulky and messy materials. So, turning compost piles, moving manure, and spreading solid fertilizer is a labor-intensive job.

Organic Fertilizers From Your Kitchen

Organic fertilizer for vegetables and flowers in your lawn is rich in nutrients derived from food waste. Composting your kitchen waste is an effective and eco-friendly way of getting rid of unwanted rubbish.

  • Go through the kitchen waste to determine if they will work great as compost materials first. Lay it out on an open level area that is well-drained. Sprinkling wood ash liberally can accentuate the process of composting.
  • Add other organic material like sawdust or excess manure like livestock to the compost to help speed up the composting process.
  • Add natural garden waste by collecting grass clippings and leaves from your lawn to make a nutrient-rich fertilizer. Store this in a compost bin.
  • Combine your kitchen waste with garden waste. Now swirl and turn the compost bin well using its handle so that it gets thoroughly mixed and oxygen gets incorporated into the mixture. A bin with holes on the side allows for excess moisture to escape.
  • Leave the compost to achieve a soil-like mixture and become dark in color.

Choosing plants that will grow in the soil present in your garden is important for it to flourish. Soil with a higher water retention capacity can nourish the plant to make food. Take professional help if required. Pick native seeds and saplings that are easier to grow, sustain the elements, and require minimum maintenance. Grow indoor plants in clay pots with drainage holes. Next comes preparing the soil with additives that can aid in boosting its growth. Adding unnecessary nutrients to house plants and container gardens can also cause environmental problems apart from harming them more than doing good. So, find the right organic fertilizer that will yield a bumper crop of vegetables or flowers, much to the envy of your neighbors.

Also Read:

Types of Soils Which Are Best for Plant Growth

How to Maintain Indoor Plants in Your House

Ways to Keep Your Garden Evergreen

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Priyadarshika is a passionate writer, who doesn’t hesitate from treading uncharted territories. She thoroughly enjoys the process of transforming thoughts into words and creating interesting reads. She likes sharing ideas and perspectives, and always ensures she is patient and persistent. She puts efforts to excel every day, whether it is at work or in her personal life. She is a blogger and a poet, and always demonstrates her skills creatively to add value to our content.