Understanding Organic Fertilizers
When choosing an alternative organic fertilizer, it is important to do your research and understand what type of fertilizer will work best for your crops. Fertilizer’s purpose is to get three specific nutrients into your crops: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. While chemicals are usually mass-produced they may use ingredients that could cause harm to your crops and livestock. Fortunately, foundations and businesses such as AgriLabour have compiled research to help give you options for alternative organic fertilizers.
1. Composted Manure
This is one of the tried and true methods of organic fertilizing. However, it is important to do your research on which type of manure will fit what you need. Depending on the animal source of manure levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium will vary respectively. Additionally, rates of application can vary from type to type. Knowing which type of manure and how much you will need to cover your desired area can help save you money and time in the long run. When applying composted manure, it can even vary upon what time of year you decide to use the manure.
2. Bone Meal
One of the most natural and oldest forms of organic fertilizers is a bone meal. This fertilizer is obtained from grinding the bones of animals and has become a byproduct of the meat processing industry. If you are trying to grow trees or brush with a pH below 7.0, the bone meal is a fantastic source of phosphorus and calcium. Bone meal is best applied at the bottom of a planter as the phosphorus typically moves slowly through the plant. In-depth instructions exist online for proper application and amounts.
3. Fish Emulsions
These types of fertilizers are typically obtained through pulverized and decomposed fish. Most experts and marketers caution that fish emulsions have an unpleasant smell, though it does fade over time and become tolerable. Emulsions are typically applied in a spray form and should be sprayed in the late spring and accompanied by heavy watering. This heavy watering will also assist with dissipating the smell.
3. Cottonseed Meal
This fertilizer differs from a bone meal in that it is slightly acidic. Cottonseed Meal contains a much higher nitrogen composition that the other two major elements in fertilizers. As long as it is applied to acid-loving plants in warm environments, the nutrients will be able to quickly seep into the soil. This comes in a solid form and should be mixed into the soil at a ratio of 10 lbs per 100 square feet.
4. Crop rotation
This is a method of farming rather than a product that can be used in place of fertilizer. Crop rotation involves changing which crops are grown in each patch of soil. If properly managed, this will avoid certain nutrients from being used up in the soil, which typically happens when the same type of crop is repeatedly grown in the same patch of land. This rotation introduces new bacteria into the soil which can help nutrients thrive for different types of crops without too nutrient erosion.
Potash is the commonly accepted name for water-soluble forms of manufactured salt and potassium. This fertilizer is a rich source of potassium and can be obtained quickly and easily in the modern-day. Before the boom of the industry, it was quite literally named from the process of receiving the nutrients from a pot of ash. When water is applied, a white substance is released and possesses the required nutrients to feed many crops.
Similar to the cottonseed meal, lime will mess with the pH of your soil. However, it will raise the pH of your soil and make it less acidic. So, if you have acid-loving plants it will be best to avoid lime as a fertilizer.
Guano is the droppings of seabirds, seals, and bats that can be used as fertilizer. Typically contained in guano are several nutrients including ammonia and several types of acid which all have a high concentration of nitrates. These levels make it a great fertilizer for phosphorus in acidic crops. There are several different types of guano so research into your specifications is required.