Edible Garden

18 Organic Fertilizers For Your Vegetable Garden

For a healthy and thriving garden, you need to provide your vegetable plants with the best nutrients available. Organic fertilizers are natural sources of minerals that have been broken down into smaller particles than synthetic fertilizers.

These particles make them more accessible for plants to absorb and use in their growth process. This article will teach you how organic fertilizer can make your vegetable garden healthier and happier!

Natural Fertilizer vs. Synthetic Fertilizer

chemical-fertilizer-in-laboratory

Organic and inorganic fertilizers deliver nutrients or plant food to the plants in different ways. Organic matter occurs naturally, stimulates the beneficial microbes in the soil, and helps improve the soil structure.

Synthetic fertilizers are made from non-organic materials and do not build the soil; they feed the plant directly.  On top of that, these synthetic fertilizers may interfere with important soil nutrients.

Chemical fertilizers are not as sustainable, but they do stimulate the plant with nutrients.

Organic fertilizer is a better choice of plant food for vegetable gardens because it builds up healthy microbial populations that protect against pests and disease.

This is due to the extra work these beneficial microbes do in breaking down organic matter into nutrients, which are then released back into the soil, where plants or other living organisms can take them up.

Feeding-your-vegetables-with-organic-fertilizer-infographic(1)

The three main elements of fertilizers are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. These three elements form a complete fertilizer and are essential to the growth of plants.

Nitrogen is needed for plant proteins; phosphorus helps form cell walls, roots and fruiting and flowering; while potassium regulates osmosis with water uptake.

Organic fertilizers such as compost or manure provide nitrogen through decomposition from organic material like leaves, grass clippings etc.

Phosphorus from animal manure can be mixed with straw or hay for a slow release to the plant over time and found naturally in rock phosphate deposits that have lain undisturbed since prehistoric times and potash (potassium) from wood ash added directly to soil.

The following is a list of some natural fertilizers that are effective for vegetable gardens.

Compost

Compost, which contains living organisms such as bacteria and fungi, provides the soil with nutrient organic matter to help break down plant residues into nutrients.


Compost is a great, natural organic fertilizer that encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi. Ideally, it would be best to use compost to make your vegetable garden soil more fertile and healthy. In addition, compost reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.

Manure

Manure is a great nutrient source of nitrogen for the plant, but it can also provide large amounts of phosphorus if applied in excess.


Manure has the added benefit of being an excellent soil conditioner due to its high organic material content. Manures should be very well composted before applying to the garden.

Blood Meal

Blood meal is a good nutrient source of nitrogen and phosphorus, but it should not be applied in excess. It's also important to note that blood meal can attract pests to the garden. 

Bone Meal

Bone meal is a great source of calcium and phosphorus and a trace of nitrogen.


Bone Meal can benefit plants that have been weakened by drought or other environmental stressors because its slow-release nutrients will help to improve plant growth rates when given time to work into the soil.

Vermicompost or Earthworm Castings

Worms process organic matter and their byproduct called worm castings, introduce nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, to the soil.

 
Worm castings are an excellent organic fertilizer and soil conditioner and contain water-soluble nutrients.

Seaweed and Kelp

Seaweed is a good source of nutrients as well as trace elements. It comes in liquid, powder and calcified form.
liquid fish and fish meal

Liquid Fish and Fish Meal

This type of fertilizer is fast-acting and comes from the byproducts of the fish industry, and is a good source of organic nitrogen and phosphorus.

Feather Meal

Feather meal is made from ground-up poultry feathers. It improves the soil structure and is high nitrogen fertilizer.

Guano

Bat guano or chicken or poultry manure can be applied on top of the soil and made into tea. A soil conditioner, and in small quantities, it can be used as a natural fungicide.


Composted chicken manure provides a slow-release source of macros and micronutrients. It also acts as a soil amendment.

Rock Powders

Rock powders are finely crushed rock containing micronutrients and trace minerals that allow the beneficial microbes to flourish.

Wood Ash

Wood ash from burnt wood added to the soil increases the calcium content similar to agricultural lime—a good source of potassium, magnesium and phosphorus and many micronutrients.

Compost Tea

Compost tea is made by mixing liquid such as water with compost that has been allowed to decompose for several days in the sun. The resulting brown sludge can then is then allowed to sit for a few hours so that the bacteria living in the waste can break down organic matter. As a result, the liquid plant food will be dark brown or black and has an earthy smell.


Compost tea has all the soluble nutrients extracted from compost and all of the microbes that exist in it.

Comfrey Tea

This type of fertilizer is made from the leaves and roots of comfrey plants grown in a pot. Comfrey tea may be used in liquid form or as a soil drench for foliar feeding.


Comfrey tea promotes healthy leaf growth, protects plants from diseases and promotes fruit and flowers.

Grass Clipping Tea

Grass clipping tea is a liquid fertilizer made from the clippings or trimmings of lawns and used as a soil drench for foliar feeding. It promotes healthy root growth in plants.

Alfalfa Meal

Alfalfa meal is a balanced fertilizer with many trace elements and is an excellent choice for organic gardening because it does not create harmful runoff. It also provides phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, sulfur and zinc to the soil mix.

Leaf Mold

Leaf mold is a soil conditioner and amendment and is a significant component of organic matter once it has broken down into compost.

Coffee grounds

Coffee grounds add some nitrogen to the soil and can help break down organic matter. Spread thinly over the soil or add to your compost pile.

Egg Shells

Crushed eggshells can be used in the soil as mulch to provide calcium and sulfur. The calcium will prevent blossom end rot. Process the shells in a coffee grinder for a fine powder.

Fertilizer for Leafy Greens

leafy-greens-growing

Cool season vegetables and leafy greens can show a nitrogen deficiency which will cause the edges of leaves to start turning yellow, so fertilizing with a garden fertilizer mix that is higher in nitrogen, such as fish meal, feather meal, blood meal, seaweed, or guano, will help.

Fertilizer for Root Vegetables

Root vegetables such as carrots, beetroot, turnips, etc., need high phosphorus and potassium levels to grow.

Bone meal is a good fertilizing agent because it has the necessary nutrients that root vegetables require.

Fertilizer for Fruit and Flowering Vegetables

feeding-tomatoes

Fish meal, kelp meal and rock powders are good fertilizers because they contain all the necessary nutrients that fruit and flowering vegetables require.

When to Fertilize your Vegetable Crop

Always start your garden bed off with plenty of organic matter such as compost or mature manure mixed into the soil.

Give leafy greens a high nitrogen feed every second week. 

Root vegetables need bone meal or rock phosphates mixed into the soil a few weeks before planting.

Fruit and flowering vegetables can be fertilized when planting, and then every second week after it sets fruit.

Organic balanced fertilizer is a natural way to fertilize plants. Some organic gardeners will use compost for much of their soil amendment needs, while others might rely more heavily on manure and other sources like fish emulsion or seaweed extract.

Takeaways

  • Organic garden fertilizers are derived from plant and animal sources instead of inorganic ones that come from chemicals.
  • The nutrients in organic fertilizer provide food for the soil, which encourages healthy plants.
  • Organic fertilizers also keep nitrogen levels balanced, so your vegetables grow without root rot or other diseases.
  • These products can be purchased at most garden centers or nurseries.

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