The Good Earth: Organic fertilizers are plentiful
I'm asked a lot about what makes a particular fertilizer “organic.” Essentially, its raw ingredients do.
Instead of using chemicals synthesized in a factory, organic fertilizers rely on natural plant, animal and mineral sources for their nutrients. Some of these fertilizers use by-products of the food industry — fish emulsion (although some types use whole fish and not by-products), bonemeal, feathermeal, bloodmeal, corn-gluten meal, and the like, while others use mined mineral nutrients like New Jersey greensand, rock phosphate, sulfate of potash and lime.
Still more sources include plant materials like alfalfa meal, cottonseed meal, kelp and pelletized compost. Some of my favorite brands of organic fertilizers are based on cricket manure (from bait farms) and worm castings (from worm composting operations) — nutrient dense and sustainable products. A quality organic fertilizer will state the source of nutrients right on the label, along with the macro-nutrient percentages (N-P-K).
An added benefit to using organic fertilizers is that many of them contain essential amino acids and trace nutrients that aren't usually noted on the label and are rarely found in chemical fertilizers. Still another advantage in using organic fertilizers is the fact that because of the form of the nutrients, they are released through the action of soil microbes for plant use slowly over a long period of time; serving as a slow-release fertilizer over the course of the entire season.
A recent study out of the University of Massachusetts noted that chemical fertilizers release their nitrogen (of which only 40 percent to 60 percent is useable) within three to six weeks, while fish-based liquid fertilizer releases its nitrogen (of which 90 percent is useable) over the course of 15 weeks. Although the organic products might seem more expensive at first, you actually get more nutrients over a longer period of time, making them more than worth the extra dimes.
Here are some of my favorite organic fertilizers:
• MegaGreen — A product made in Mississippi from the fresh remains of farmed catfish. It's awesome for lawns. Its sister product, MegaBloom, is terrific for veggies and flowers, too. www.multibloom.com
• PlanTea — This fertilizer comes in a palm-sized tea bag. It's brewed like tea, then applied to plants. PlanTea contains a hearty amount of phosphorus to stimulate root growth and blooms, along with other nutrients and amino acids. www.plantea.com
• SeaCrop Liquid Kelp — A kelp-based liquid fertilizer from North American Kelp Products. It comes in a liquid concentrate that is added to a hose-end sprayer for easy application to the entire veggie garden. www.noamkelp.com
• GardenTone — one of many organic fertilizers from the Espoma Company. The ingredients are listed on the label and include things like dehydrated manure, crab meal and cocoa meal. www.espoma.com
• ReVita Compost Plus — This comes from Ohio Earth Food and is made from poultry manure, kelp and humate. It's good stuff. The N-P-K analysis is 3-3-3, all of it available in slow-release form. This is the most locally produced organic fertilizer I know of. www.ohioearthfood.com
• McGeary Organics — The main ingredient is dehydrated compost, but it also contains natural minerals, bone and blood meal. Higher in phosphorus for root and blossom growth. www.mcgearyorganics.com
It's important to note that there are hundreds of other organic fertilizers on the market today, many of which are available at local nurseries. They all have different formulations and compositions, so be sure to choose according to what your garden needs. It's also important to pay attention to the label and examine the ingredients: That's the only way to be assured the product is truly organic. If the label has the OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) seal of approval, it's guaranteed to be appropriate for your organic garden.
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is www.jessicawalliser.com.
Send your gardening or landscaping questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penn State rallies past Akron behind Newbill’s 26 points
- Ferguson protesters march on Pittsburgh streets
- Penguins notebook: Bennett status remains fluid
- Mo. governor adds guardsmen as protests continue
- Steelers notebook: Defense tasked with stopping Graham
- United Mine Workers responds to strike complaint
- Daily Courier roundup: Penn State Fayette women fall to Slippery Rock
- Household debt on the rise after 5-year decline
- Bars bulge at the seams night before Thanksgiving
- Brown family blasts prosecutor; Wilson speaks
- IUP student dies from injuries after he was pinned beneath car