Organic Fertilizers Are Plentiful

Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 6, 2013 | Go to article overview

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 byproducts of the food industry -- fish emulsion (although some types use whole fish and not byproducts), 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. 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:

Liquid formulations:

e_SBlt 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. …

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