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Organic Fertilizers

Organic Fertilizers

Here’s what to look for when you buy organic fertilizer.


  • First, check the N-P-K number listings on the bag. These numbers refer to N (nitrogen), P (phosphorus), and K (potassium) in that order: the NPK ratio. A rule of thumb for determining if fertilizer is organic or chemical, is that if an NPK ratio adds up to more than 15, or if one of the numbers is more than 8, it is probably chemical, not organic. These lower numbers don’t mean that there is a failing in organic fertilizers; remember, that is the advantage of organic materials: their nutrients are not immediately available, but rather are released slowly, over time, at a rate the plants can use without waste.
  • Second, scan the list of ingredients for words like ammonium, muriate, urea, nitrate, phosphoric, or superphosphate; if these words or their variants are part of the ingredients, don’t buy. The words phosphate and sulfate themselves are not necessarily indicators of processed or
    synthesized materials, but if combined with any of the key words above, they are.
  • Other ingredients to watch out for are cottonseed meal and leather
    tankage, not because they aren’t natural (non-synthetic) products, but because they are frequently contaminated with harmful residues, thus making them suspect to use in an organic vegetable garden. The same points apply to liquid fertilizers.
  • When using commercial organic fertilizers, follow the instructions and the
    recommended application rates listed on the package.
  • Don’t double up because
    the listed N-P-K is lower than what you might be used to using.
  • And be careful to keep track of your soil’s organic matter level; these purchased fertilizers, unless they are made from composted manures (many are), do not
    add organic matter to the soil-and organic matter is at the heart of organic gardening.

Read more: Nature, Lawns & Gardens

Adapted from Straight-Ahead Organic,by Shepherd Ogden. Copyright (c)1992, 1999 by Shepherd Ogden. Reprinted by permission of Chelsea Green Publishing Company.
Adapted from Straight-Ahead Organic,by Shepherd Ogden.

Unfortunately, not all organic gardeners have access to manure or the room for a compost pile or tumbler. You can still properly treat what soil you have by using purchased organic fertilizers and soil-builders instead of synthetics. You may even be able to buy fully prepared compost from the country or town in which you live, as many local governments now sponsor composting projects at local landfills.

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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on anniebbond.com, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.

Go to the Source

Straight-Ahead Organic, by Shepherd Ogden

This is a new and revised edition of Shepherd Ogden's Step-by-Step Organic Vegetable Gardening, a book that introduced thousands of gardeners to the benefits and techniques of organic processes. Although the author is by any definition a Master Grower, this book intended for the amateur enthusiast who is poised to make the leap to organics.buy now

158 comments

+ add your own
4:13AM PDT on Apr 14, 2013

Thank you.

6:33PM PDT on Jul 24, 2012

Thank you for article.

6:33PM PDT on Jul 24, 2012

Thank you for article.

6:32PM PDT on Jul 24, 2012

Thank you for article.

3:18AM PDT on Jul 23, 2012

Thank you

7:39AM PST on Feb 24, 2012

Thank you for this list. :)

1:59AM PST on Jan 9, 2012

thanks for sharing

4:01AM PDT on Jul 14, 2011

Thanks for the info.

10:12PM PDT on Jun 15, 2011

noted

4:46PM PDT on Apr 5, 2011

Very interesting

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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