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Organic Fertilizers 101

May 14th, 2012 Gardening

It goes without saying that you need fertile soil in order to ensure that the plants in your vegetable garden successfully make it to harvest. According to the National Gardening Association, most soils benefit from the introduction of organic fertilizer. The main reason for using it is that it closely simulates the conditions necessary to meet the nutritional needs of a plant. For instance, some veggies enjoy specific compounds that are only released when a certain temperature is reached. Synthetic fertilizers, on the other hand, provide all of their nutrients at once, which is fine, but not optimal. Here are three different kinds of organic fertilizers.

1. Plant substances. Plant-based fertilizers are typically made from things like alfalfa meal, cottonseed meal or gluten meal. They tend to be rich in nitrogen, which is beneficial for leafy greens like spinach and lettuce.

2. Animal byproducts. Dairy, meat and fish-processing facilities tend to naturally produce bits of animal byproduct throughout the manufacturing process. This can include bone meal, blood meal and fish emulsion. It sounds unsettling, but this stuff is great for plants. If you're trying to make your own compost, it may be worth calling up your local butcher and asking him if he can help you get your hands on the extra stuff left behind once the meat is packaged.

3. Mineral-based fertilizer. Mineral-based fertilizers are naturally-occurring, which means you don't have to worry about sustainability when using them. They include compounds like Chilean nitrate, rock phosphate, greensand and sulfate of potash magnesia.

In the end, these fertilizers more or less do the same job. There's no rule saying you have to use one or another, either - if you like, you can mix the three together, which is basically what composting is!