Monday, March 31, 2008

Fertilizer mix

The maddening thing about organic fertilizer is that it's kind of hard to get a handle on whether it really works. You aren't dumping a fast acting chemical that shows up in a day or two in the plants. You're adding material that the soil will digest and make available to the plants when it gets around to it.

It may just be yet another example of the slow pace of gardening. After only 3 years, I just haven't had enough opportunity to learn to notice the effects of different ingredients and proportions.

On the bright side, there's not much worry about overdoing it with organic fertilizers. As a result, I generally am pretty random with adding whatever I have around in whatever quantities seem right. But, I have been a little more consistent so far this year with my fertilizer mix, even though I've had to make up 2 or 3 separate batches. They've looked something like this:

4 parts cottonseed meal
1/2 part bone meal
1/2 part kelp meal
1/2 part Rabbit Hill Farm Minerals Plus

When refreshing the beds, I mixed in a handful per 3-4 square feet. Then I added another handful in each planting hole.

Here's what I know about these ingredients:

Cottonseed meal -- It's cheap and is supposed to provide a reasonably high proportion of nitrogen. It's also what they use for general purpose fertilizer at The Natural Gardener, which is a decent endorsement. Some organic gardeners avoid cottonseed meal because of the pesticides and defoliants used in cotton growing, but I'm not too concerned and have never seen any solid answer about it. It might also not be approved for certified organic use.

Bone meal -- It's a phosphorous, and I guess calcium, source. It also takes a while to break down, so getting it into the soil early gives you time before the tomatoes start blooming, which is when phosphorous supposedly comes into play. Hardcore organic folks balk at using ground up animal bones in the garden, but they just don't appreciate the irony of vegetables eating animals.

Kelp meal -- A Potassium and trace minerals source. It supposedly also has some sort of hormone and enzyme content that promotes microbe action.

Minerals Plus -- I bought a bag of this a few years ago out of my concern for the lack of mineral content in my soilless mix and have been adding it generously in previous years. My thinking is that it serves the same purpose as lime would -- added calcium and other trace minerals.

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Blogger Katie said...

Hey Kelly,

I've had really great luck with compost and kelp meal. I've got a few other bags o' organic fertilizers about, but I usually forget about them until it's too late, and I wait until next year.

But so far, everything's done well. It'll be interesting to see what else you do with this new blog!

(PS - Thanks for the link! It's an honor to be next to Path to Freedom as a link...)

Katie at GardenPunks

March 31, 2008 9:00 PM  

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