By Jimmy Deaton
First thing is make sure the fertilizer is 100% organic. There are several compound ferts that are described as “semi-organic” or “organically based”. These may be more powerful than the completely inorganic equivalent but they are NOT the real thing. The main difference is generally the potash content which is sometimes supplemented with potassium sulphate. Check to see if the label has the OMRI listing on it which means the products are approved for organic gardening. Natures Source is a fertilizer that is being described by some garden center personal has being a natural fertilizer. While it does contain oilseed extract the majority of the makeup is chemical based. If I have to recommend prepared organic fertilizers I would go with the following:
Neptunes Harvest based out of Massachusetts. This company’s products are based on fish and seaweed and I love their liquid fish and seaweed fertilizer. I use it as a foliar feed to supplement my vegetables when they are in high gear. I also love to feed my houseplants with it. Think this year we’ll do a test run using the Neptunes liquid against the Espoma liquid and see what the results are.
One of the most important things you need to do is to get compost in to the ground. The main reason is soil improvement especially in our area well known for its Virginia clay content. The first 2 years I used leaf compost which you can get free in the City of Alexandria as long as you’re a city resident. It usually becomes available around the beginning to mid-April at the Eisenhower Avenue location next to the animal shelter. Take some screens to sift it, along with shovels and whatever you’ll be carrying it in and I recommend a dust mask as well. I have found it to be perfect for breaking up the clay. You can also buy leaf compost from most garden centers if that is easier for you. Other things to use to improve the soils structure is aged manures. Do not use fresh manure unless it can sit for a few months otherwise it will be to ‘hot’ for the garden. If you live near the coast and can get seaweed you’ll have an excellent conditioner because it’s particularly rich in trace elements as well as growth hormones, carbohydrates, amino acids, etc. that plants use. Just make sure to let it sit through a couple of rain storms to leech out the salt if it’s salt water based before using it. Or you can order kelp meal from Neptunes Harvest but I would use it as part of a fertilization program and not a soil conditioner unless you have very deep pockets.
I think over the years I have perfected the perfect example of what the value of adding organic matter means. My soil is fibrous, very dark and has a boatload of worms in it. My plants thrive in all the goodness that is available to them, although sometimes they thrive too much and turn into monsters. But when I see folks coming over to my fence and marvel and sometimes take pictures of those monsters, well………does my ego good.
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