Organic plant food: 5 types of fertilizer for your garden
To get the best results from your garden, including bountiful blooms, lush foliage and an abundance of fruit and vegetables, you've got to give your plants the foods they crave. But you don't have to turn to mystery chemicals to make your garden grow; you can choose safe, non-toxic fertilizers that work just as well. Organic plant food is made from natural sources including bone meal, fish emulsion and manure.
What makes plant food organic? Simply put, when plant food is described as organic, that means it comes from a plant or animal source rather than from a laboratory. Nearly any organic material can be used as plant food. The type of organic plant food that should be used depends on what you're growing, and the nutrients that are required by those plants.
Here are 5 common types of organic plant food, along with information that will help you decide which one is right for your needs.
1. Bone meal is made from steamed and crushed animal bones and is rich in phosphorous, a mineral that plants need for healthy root development and flower growth. It also supplies calcium and a little bit of nitrogen. That makes it a great supplement for bulbs and roses. A little bone meal goes a long way, with just one tablespoon needed for every two square feet.
2. Blood meal is an ideal natural source of nitrogen, which is the main nutrient that virtually all plants need to grow. Nitrogen is a crucial component of plant cells and one of the building blocks of chlorophyll, the substance that enables plants to convert sunlight into sugars. Blood meal increases the yield of fruits and vegetables, adding lots of leafy green growth, and can also help keep deer out of the garden.
3. Cottonseed meal is a slow-release organic fertilizer with high nitrogen content. A by-product of cotton manufacturing, this organic plant food is slightly acidic, so it's perfect for acid-loving plants like azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons. It releases nutrients over an extended period of time. Cottonseed meal is a popular natural way to achieve lush green lawns.
4. Fish emulsion is a decomposed blend of finely pulverized fish left over from commercial processing, which contains a very high concentration of nitrogen. This powerful natural plant food can be used in very small quantities to give plants a major boost in growth, especially when applied early in the spring season. It does have a fish odor, but the smell goes away within about 24 hours.
5. Manure is perhaps the best-known organic plant food. Manure used as fertilizer may come from horses, cows, pigs, chicken or sheep. While applying manure to your plants may sound like a smelly and potentially unhygienic undertaking, commercially prepared manure plant food like Miracle-Gro Organic Choice is pasteurized in a unique process that kills harmful bacteria as well as weed seeds, reducing odors.