Farmers and gardeners have used manure and fertilizers for many years to increase plant yields, promote healthy soil, and improve the appearance of plants. When carefully used, fertilizers are an effective tool.
Adding manure or compost to a garden is the single best way to improve soil texture and fertility. Well rotted natural amendments lighten soil, increase water retention, add nutrients, and improve drainage. Manure and compost release nutrients slowly as they break down. Many gardeners find they don't need additional fertilizers if they shovel 1 inch of manure or compost in their gardens every fall.
Soups or teas are made from natural fertilizers like manure, compost, seaweed, and nutritious greens such as comfrey and nettle. Mix organic material with water in a bucket. Allow the soup to stew overnight or up to two weeks. When strained, these teas are poured directly around plants, providing extra nutrients.
Farmers count on fertilizers to increase yields, particularly for food crops. Some plants like watermelon, tomatoes, and corn are "heavy feeders," requiring more nutrients than are often readily available in the soil. Fertilizers give these plants the food they need to thrive.
Gardeners often use nitrogen rich fertilizers to boost growth and color in plants. Lawns, especially, benefit from an application of fertilizer and almost immediately display green color and lush growth.
Natural amendments can be used to change the makeup of problem soils. Adding lime or sulfur, for example, can change the pH level of soil.
- "The Garden Primer"; Barbara Damrosch; 1988
- "The Truth About Organic Gardening"; Jeff Gillman; 2008