Organic Fertilizer – It’s a Bunch of Horse Hockey

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organic fertilizer

There are lots of organic fertilizers out there to choose from. And if blood, manure, and pee don’t make you blush or faint, this one’s for you. Because that’s all it is. Organic fertilizer is simply fertilizer that has come from an animal or from a plant. So, if you are highly opposed to interaction with farm animal excrement or with once living organisms that have since gone to rot, you probably should stick to the synthetic fertilizers out there. But for you adventuresome types who are willing to garden Fear Factor style, here is what you need to know about various organic fertilizer options.

Mother Nature has cornered the market on organic fertilizers, and she makes it available for free. From my perspective that makes it worth setting all modesty aside and just digging in to the dung.

But why are organic fertilizers so great? Because garden plants need three key things as they grow and produce. They need nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous. Organic materials have all of these three elements to varying degrees. When you mix a variety of organic matters into soil, the fusion provides a good balance of the three keys in a form that plants readily accept. And, when a plant needs more or less of one of the key ingredients, organic fertilizers seem to be able to adjust and deliver. There are synthetic fertilizers out there that meet specific needs, but the balance and the delivery is what organic fertilizers provide that science just can’t.

If you are lucky, the soil in your garden provides a good amount of the three key ingredients. But for most of us, our soil needs a boost. So the best kind of organic fertilizer to choose is the kind that will meet your plant’s needs and the kind that you have the easiest access to. Leaf compost is great to mix into your soil. I happen to live in horse country, which makes horse hockey my go-to fertilizer choice.

horse manure fertilizer
Use this fresh horse manure if you want to till your garden with parasites and bacteria. Yuck. No!

If I lived in buffalo country, I wouldn’t hesitate to fling a few buffalo chips into my mix. Or, if I lived where I could collect elk or deer droppings to my heart’s content, I’d do it. The point is, use what’s available. In the city? Try pigeon poop tea bags. By the ocean? Seaweed. Got a rabbit? Pellet tea. If you are really desperate and frugal, pee in a jar and dilute it down. I’m not kidding. Organic fertilizing is fun. Especially if you are a pee-in-a-jar-type, or if you like to play Mad Scientist.

A word of caution: if you choose to use animal manure of any kind, make sure it is old. Well rotted manure is my favorite descriptive term. It shouldn’t smell bad. It shouldn’t really even look like anything but dirt by the time you are using it. And vegetarian animals are the only type of critters to collect from. Doggy doo won’t do. Kitty poop is atrocious. And people unmentionables? Ew. No.

Old horse manure
Use this composted horse manure to till your garden with micronutrients. Yes.

Also, I mentioned “tea bags”. Let me explain. You can make tea bags for fertilizer by wrapping up a batch of small (old!) droppings, like from rabbits or pigeons, in cheesecloth. Place the wrap in a bucket of water for a day. Water your plants with the yummy little cocktail for the nutrients.

Also, you know how sometimes too much of a good thing is not a good thing? This rule applies to organic fertilizers too. If used alone, manure and pee can do more harm than good. They can actually burn your plants. So, amend your soil with a variety of organic treats for slow delivery. If you do this, chances are that your plants won’t even need fertilizer per se, because all of the nutrients that plants need to really thrive are provided in the soil.

With that said, there are times when your plants might really benefit from an immediate boost. Fish emulsion and kelp are good go-to organic fertilizers for quick delivery, IF you can endure the smell. Bone meal and blood meal are specific for soil balance. They help certain plants at certain times, like at the time of planting or right before blooms. So, study up on the needs of your individual plants. Then, mix your own medley of rot. If you dare. Organic fertilizing isn’t for the weak.

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About Amy

Amy spent her early years roaming a neighbor's corn field, much to her parents' distress, and eating tomatoes like apples in her Midwest grandmother's garden. She learned to snap green beans like a machine by the tender age of four. Later, as a Colorado gal, she battled the elements and finally had success growing a celebratory rhubarb plant in a high altitude garden setting. At that point, there was no turning back. She gave in to her green thumb and, in order of priority, is currently growing vegetables, flowers, kids, and pets on the high plains south of Denver.

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