List of Natural Fertilizers for the Garden Landscape

More and more homeowners are demanding smart environmentally-friendly solutions for their gardens and landscape. Amending the soil by adding organic matter encourages less use of other fertilizers; they simply are not necessary in some circumstances. Observe the landscape and if you feel it is warranted, organic fertilizers and soil amendments are always the preferred choice for an environmentally friendly landscape because they are better for the environment and your garden. Organic fertilizers are most likely to come from minerals, plants, or animals and have varying N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) values. Organisms within the soil break down the organic fertilizers so the plants can access them. While there are many fertilizers and soil amendments, below are a few suggestions.

Plant Based Fertilizers

Plant based fertilizers have nutrients that are most quickly made available as soon as you place the amendment in the soil. Most can be found at a garden center; however, some can be found at your local feed store.

  • Alfalfa meal – Pelletized alfalfa is made from alfalfa plants and has 2% Nitrogen and 2% Potassium as well as some trace minerals. Roses love this fertilizer and like four to five cups of alfalfa meal per plant mixed into the soil at the base of the plant. Apply every eight to twelve weeks.
  • Humus – Humic acid or humates are organic compounds scientifically proven to increase soil microbial activity and soil structure. Humus products do not have an N-P-K fertilizer value; however, it is placed in this category because it is a stimulant that supports the plants, much like a vitamin.
  • Corn Gluten meal – Corn is the primary ingredient in Corn Gluten and is considered a nitrogen fertilizer with a value of 10% and an all-natural pre-emergent weed preventative. Use this later in the spring, because it can inhibit the growth of a seed's tiny feeder roots. Apply on gardens and grass on top of the soil at a rate of 50 pounds per 2,500 square feet.

Animal Based Fertilizers

Animal based fertilizers are made from the manure, blood, and bone of animals such as birds, fish, and farm animals. Most of these fertilizers have nitrogen, which encourages leaf growth.

  • Manures – Fresh manure can burn your plants and devastate your garden. The secret with manure is to get it composted. Garden centers have bagged manure, which has been processed and heated so weed seeds are killed. Local animal farms also have rotted manure you can access for free. Simply mix in several inches of composted manure in with your soil as a top dressing for existing plants, or as part of your soil mix for new gardens.
  • Blood meal – This product contains many natural micronutrients and is about 14% nitrogen and enhances leaf growth. It is made from slaughtered animals, which might disturb you, but it is effective in helping perennial plants that have large leaves. While many claim this amendment repels deer, it can sometimes attract skunks and dogs.
  • Bone meal – Containing about 2% nitrogen and lots of micronutrients, bone meal is derived from animal or fish bones. It has 11% phosphorus and 22% calcium.

Mineral Based Fertilizers

Mineral fertilizers are an excellent long-term solution to increase fertility of soil over time and enhance plant growth. Dependent upon your soil test scores, you might find you need differing levels of the various minerals. Mineral deficiencies in soil can certainly be improved by a variety of soil amendments.

  • Gypsum – To add calcium to your soil without raising the soil pH, add a pure form of gypsum. It contains 21% calcium and 17% magnesium. Apply one pound per 100 square feet.
  • Epsom Salt – Epsom salt has 10% magnesium and 13% sulfur. Prepare garden soil by mixing up to one cup of Epsom Salt per 100 square feet of soil. Potted plants can benefit from dissolving two tablespoons of salt per gallon of water, then spraying on foliage. For traditional garden application, use a tank sprayer and fill with a solution that contains one tablespoon of Epsom Salt per gallon of water. Spray 3 to 4 times per season on all gardens.
  • Chelated Iron – Adding chelated iron to your soil prevents yellowing plant chlorosis. There are many different products in the marketplace with varying application rates.
  • Soft Rock Phosphate – Better for acidic soils, colloidal phosphate contains 16% phosphorus and 19% calcium. This can be added to your compost bin or you can spread two to four pounds of soft rock phosphate for every 100 square feet of garden.  

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