Basil is one of the most popular and easy-to-grow culinary herbs for home gardeners and gourmet cooks. All plants required basic nutrients to thrive, including nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K), in addition to micro-nutrients. Most natural or organic plant foods have adequate levels of the nutrients necessary to grow basil and provide growers a "green alternative" to conventional chemical fertilizers.
Natural Plant Food Alternatives
Home gardeners have a number of excellent natural plant food alternatives available, including animal manure, vegetable and garden compost, worm compost and kelp solutions
Composted animal manures are among the most common sources of fertilizers used by organic gardeners. The most common manures used are cow manure and chicken manure. Both cow and chicken manure must be composted before using them in the garden to avoid damage to the seeds or roots and to eliminate the possibility of contamination with pathogens such as E Coli and salmonella. Cow manure and chicken manure are available already composted and ready to use from most garden centers. Gardeners who have access to fresh manure can compost it themselves.
Vegetable and Garden Compost
Vegetable scraps from the kitchen and plant materials from the garden can be used to make compost. Composting can take place passively in compost piles or can be accelerated up with regular turning or by using a mechanical "compost maker" that captures heat and facilitates turning. Household scraps such as broccoli stems, potato peels, coffee grounds, fruit skins and egg shells are excellent for making compost. Garden waste such as leaves and grass trimmings can also be composted. They can be composted separately or can be combined with kitchen vegetable srcaps.
Worm composting or vermicomposting is the use of certain species of worms to break down organic matter into worm castings and hummus, which are extraordinarily high in nutrients for plants. Red wigglers (Eisenia foetida) or European night crawlers are the most commonly used species of worms for vermicomposting. Most home gardeners use worm bins to convert their vegetable scraps into vermicompost.
Natural fertilizers can be incorporated into the garden by mixing it into the soil, top dressing or making manure tea. When using potting soil for starting plants or for container gardens or flower boxes, incorporate 25 percent animal manure or vermicompost into the mix. When using it directly in garden beds, apply an inch of compost. This can be mixed into the soil prior to planting or can be added to the garden as a top dressing.
Tips and Tricks
Avoid horse manure because it will introduce large quantities of weeds into the garden. Be sure all manures are properly composted (a minimum of 90 days for leaf crops and 120 days for root crops).
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