Everything You Need To Know About Organic Fertilisers!
It is becoming increasingly important to be more mindful of the products we use in every part of our daily lives. For many years it has been thought that gardeners should be using chemical fertilisers in their gardens to have a successful crop. However, these chemical fertilisers actually contain over triple the amount of minerals your plants actually need.
What happens to the excess minerals? They are washed away and find their way into ours and animals water sources, this creates a major pollution problem. Unless you are mass producing fruit and vegetables there really is no need to use chemical fertilisers! Organic fertilisers have everything you need to have a successful growing season whilst being environmentally friendly.
Why do we need to use fertilisers?
In the open countryside nature itself provides enough nutrients for plants and animals. However, in our own gardens because we pick flowers, vegetables and cut the grass. We disturb the natural recovery of nutrients, therefore, taking a lot of resources from the natural cycle. Without our interference, the organic raw materials would turn back in to plant nutrients by the microorganisms in the soil. This is why we need additional fertilisation to ensure the ground does not deplete and to ensure the plants have enough nutrients to thrive.
What are fertilisers?
Fertilisers are concentrated sources of plant nutrients, they can be used to improve the growth and yield of your plants. They also help to restore the correct any nutrient deficiencies in your soil.
Most fertilisers are based on the three major plant nutrients; Nitrogen, for leafy growth, Phosphorus, for healthy root and shoot growth and potassium for flowering, fruiting and hardiness.
Any fertiliser you purchase should quote the ratio of these three nutrients on their packaging. If all of the numbers in the ratio are roughly the same this is a balanced fertiliser but if any one number in the ratio is higher than the others then that fertiliser is high in that nutrient. Different plant families require different levels of these nutrients for optimum growth.
What are inorganic fertilisers?
Inorganic fertilisers are man-made; they are artificial forms of plant nutrients. They also tend to be more concentrated and faster acting than organic fertilisers. However, this isn’t always a good thing.
What are organic fertilisers?
Organic fertilisers are derived from plant or animal sources and contain plant nutrients in organic form.
Organic fertilisers can take longer to start working but this is because large organic molecules have to be broken down by organisms in the soil before the nutrients can then be released for plants to absorb.
Why you should use organic fertilisers.
- Organic fertilisers improve soil health and structure, this improves the plant’s ability to hold water and nutrients.
- They are safe and environmentally friendly.
- Can be used anywhere in your garden.
- They produce bigger and brighter blooms.
- They are easy to apply.
If you have healthy soil you may not need to use fertilisers, however, once you have grown your first year of crops fertiliser will be needed to restore the nutrient balance in your soil to ensure you have a successful yield the following year. However, even if you do have healthy soil it can be worth using fertilisers to produce an even higher yield or bigger floral display.
If you notice any signs of nutrient deficiency in your plants such as yellowing leaves, discolouring in patches, scorched tips of leaves, stunted growth of new shoots and pale coloured new leaves. These could all be signs of nutrient deficiency in your garden. It is important to identify which nutrient deficiencies are in your garden before buying the organic fertiliser to try and fix the issues.
Look out for a future blog post with all the information you need about nutrient deficiencies and what signs to look out for!
Examples of organic fertilisers.
Kelp is a type of large, brown seaweed that grows in shallow, nutrient-rich saltwater near coastal fronts all around the world. It can be purchased in garden centres but you can also go and collect some and compost it yourself! Kelp fertilisers contain potassium and a little nitrogen. It can stimulate soil development which then encourages plants to produce a greater yield.
Cow manure is very rich in nutrients that are great for feeding soil and plants. However, when you apply it directly to plants it will scorch them so it needs to be composted before use. It is good to note that when you purchase your manure be sure to check you are getting it from organically farmed cows as you may otherwise risk putting chemical residues etc on your plants. It is especially important to look out for this if you are using it to grow fruits and vegetables.
Chicken manure is also great because it contains more nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and many other nutrients such as calcium and magnesium than other manures. You can buy chicken manure as pellets, or you can try and source and then compost some yourself from a farm. Again, as with cow manure be sure you get it from an organic farm!
Alfalfa meal is the product of fermented alfalfa plant seeds. It is a plant-based fertiliser that improves soil quality and enables the production of more nutrients for plants to feed on which in turn increases plant growth over time. It gives more of a subtle benefit to your garden rather than a more intense dose of nutrients other fertilisers give. However, it does contain a decent amount of nitrogen, some potassium and phosphorus.
Limestone fertiliser can be great to add to your soil but the benefits can vary depending on the source of the stone. Limestone is great to use if you want to balance the PH levels in your soil, especially if they have high acidity levels. Be sure to test your soil and check the acidity levels before using limestone fertiliser. Limestone contains magnesium which encourages stronger, healthier plants and calcium which is great for encouraging plant growth.
Other examples of organic fertilisers ate hoof & horn, dried blood, fish blood & bone, bone meal, liquid comfrey or nettle feeds.
How to use fertilisers.
You can apply fertilisers in a number of ways, however, the product you choose will usually determine the method you should use.
Top Dressing is usually conducted at the start of the growing season and refers to the process of applying fertilisers to the surface of the soil around your plants. However, with this method if you are using inorganic fertilisers you must be careful not to over-apply otherwise this could lead to root damage and the pollution of groundwater.
Base dressing is a similar process, using either organic or inorganic fertilisers but incorporating them into the soil before planting.
You can apply liquid fertiliser by watering it on to the roots of your plants throughout the growing season to give them an instant boost. Liquid fertilisers are mainly used in greenhouses, and for bedding and pot plants. You must avoid getting any on the leaves as this can cause scorching.
Foliar feeding refers to the process of applying a diluted fertiliser solution to the leaves of plants, this is mainly used as an emergency treatment for correcting nutrient deficiencies. Take care not to apply this method in bright sunlight as foliage could get scorched.