Concerns over chemical residues and a growing interest in organic produce have led gardeners to search for organic alternatives to mass-produced fertilizers. While commercial organic fertilizers are growing in availability, some gardeners have sought lower-cost options. With a bit of know-how and a few easily sourced ingredients, you can have a homemade organic fertilizer mixture that brings you many of the same benefits of a commercial version, but usually at a lower price.
Knowing key ingredients and their optimum proportions can help you choose a worthwhile recipe over one that is unnecessarily costly or lacks in nutritive value. When mixing your fertilizer, exact measurements are not as important as combining ingredients in the correct proportions.
As an example, here is a recipe recommended by noted gardener Steve Solomon: four parts seed meal; one-quarter part ordinary agricultural lime, preferably finely ground; one-quarter part gypsum; and one-half part dolomitic limestone. Solomon suggests adding one part bone meal, rock phosphate or high-phosphate guano as well as one-half to one part kelp meal.
Choose a cup or other container to serve as your measuring tool, but use it for proper proportions and not specific volumes. In addition, you will need a larger container in which to mix your ingredients.
Shop around and compare prices of similar ingredients, as many are available in bulk form at a lower cost per pound. The Internet can be a source for ingredients needed in smaller amounts.
Plant sources are among the main ingredients for an organic fertilizer mixture, with seed meals or similar products typically used in animal diets being popular choices. Be aware that some may have been grown from genetically modified seed, so if your goal is to grow GMO-free organic produce, select your plant source accordingly.
Types of Lime
Gypsum is a popular lime choice because it can also add sulfur, which is lacking in some soils, though it can be expensive and hard to find. Agricultural lime or dolomitic limestone are usually less expensive options.
A fertilizer recipe may also include more obscure ingredients, such as kelp meal, rock phosphate or guano, which are often costly or difficult to find, but these will help you create fertilizer with a high level of nutrients.
Applying Your Fertilizer
Before planting, spread your fertilizer mix evenly on your garden. As a guideline, use 4 to 6 quarts per 100 square feet. Blend with a hoe or spade. After the initial application, sprinkle small amounts of fertilizer around vegetables every three to four weeks.
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