Considerations for Choosing Organic Fertilizer

A healthy spring garden or a sprawling, green summer lawn is something to be proud of. Enjoying the fruits of your labor outdoors is the perfect way to relax and rejuvenate. 

However, to enjoy your garden or lawn, you need to have a great one. Organic fertilizers and growing products are the key to achieving the plants and outdoor spaces of your dreams, and using them is much easier than you think.  

What Are the Benefits of Organic Fertilizer

Active 5-10-10 Organic Fertilizer

Organic fertilizers offer a myriad of benefits that contribute to the health of plants, the soil, and the overall ecosystem. The main benefit of organic fertilizer is that it nourishes plants with a diverse, natural array of nutrients without any harmful chemicals that one might find in synthetic fertilizers. Organic fertilizers focus on enriching the soil in the long term rather than just finding a quick fix that ultimately leaves soil less healthy than when you began.  

Soil Enrichment Improves Long-Term Fertility

The enrichment of the soil allows it to maintain its fertility over many years. Water retention, soil aeration, and proper drainage are all necessary to keep healthy, fertile soil, and organic fertilizers wholly support those properties. 

Additionally, organic fertilizers stimulate microbial activity in the soil, fostering a thriving ecosystem of beneficial bacteria. A variety of bacteria and microorganisms play crucial roles in nutrient cycling, decomposition, and soil formation, contributing to the long-term health and sustainability of the soil. 

Organic Products Help the Environment

Perhaps one of the most appealing and important aspects of using organic fertilizer is that it supports environmental sustainability. Natural, organic compounds do not cause the damage and pollution that one might find with synthetic, chemical-laden fertilizers. Choosing organic fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides is the healthiest choice and demonstrates your commitment to environmental stewardship.  

Synthetic vs. Organic Fertilizers

Gardener holding granules of fertilizer

One of the issues with synthetic fertilizers is that they often provide a very limited range of nutrients in very concentrated forms. The application of these formulas can cause: 

  • Chemical damage
  • Soil degradation
  • Nutrient leaching 

All of these effects are problematic for the overall health of your plants. The broad risk is chemical damage, also known as phytotoxicity. There are lots of different symptoms of chemical damage. Using these harmful, synthetic fertilizers can cause yellowing, leaf burning, and stunted growth. 

Additionally, synthetic fertilizers leach soil nutrients and cause overall soil degradation, meaning the integrity of the soil decreases, and it can’t hold water and nutrients appropriately. It’s always a better idea to use organic fertilizer to avoid some of these preventable issues. 

What Are the 3 Key Nutrients in Organic Fertilizers? 

Organic fertilizers offer a lot of nutrients to tackle different problems and support plants in different ways. The three main nutrients in most organic fertilizers are: 

  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
Pure Earthworm Castings

These three, known commonly as NPK because of their atomic symbols, are all nutrient powerhouses that can give plants different benefits. These macronutrients play critical roles in various physiological processes, from photosynthesis and root development to flower and fruit production. Nitrogen is vital for promoting leafy green growth and overall plant vigor because it’s a key component of chlorophyll, the pigment responsible for capturing sunlight and initiating photosynthesis. 

Phosphorus has properties that help facilitate flowering, fruiting, and root development in plants. It’s involved with energy transfer, so it helps with the big transformations in a plant’s lifecycle and is particularly important for young plants. Organic phosphorus can come from bones, rocks, manure, worm castings, and other places in nature. 

Potassium can be described as the strongarm component of NPK. It acts as a defense mechanism against disease and helps maintain cell structure. If plants face any adverse conditions, it’s potassium that keeps them steady with proper water uptake and strong stem development. Potassium is found in many places, including wood ash, kelp meal, and composted banana peels.  

Organic Fertilizer Ingredients  

Aside from the normal NPK, there are other nutrients present in a lot of organic fertilizers that can benefit your plants, and it’s important to understand what’s in your fertilizer to make the most educated decision about its use.

Some of the most common nutrients found in organic fertilizer in addition to NPK are: 

  • Sulfur
  • Calcium
  • Copper
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
Bottles of All-in-one Microbe Life Hydroponics Fertilizer

Oftentimes, organic fertilizers with lower NPK concentrations contain these and other ingredients to provide an all-in-one, well-rounded approach to fertilization. The combination of all these nutrients helps cover any issues that may arise at every developmental milestone for plants, ensuring they are supported throughout their entire lifecycle. 

In most situations, organic fertilizers contain lower concentrations of nutrients, which helps you know that they are organic. If there are huge amounts of one nutrient in a fertilizer, that’s a red flag that it is likely synthetic. 

Matching Fertilizers to Soil Conditions

One approach to choosing the best organic fertilizer is to consider your soil conditions and what goals you have for it. This will help maximize plant growth and health while promoting soil fertility and sustainability. Different soils have varying levels of nutrients, pH levels, and organic matter content, all of which greatly affect nutrient availability. 

Spotting nutrient deficiencies is much easier than you might think. Follow your gut instinct and think about what your plants are supposed to look like. Most of the time, when a major deficiency is present, your plants will very quickly show physical signs. If something doesn’t look right on the outside, it probably isn’t right on the inside.  

How To Look for Nitrogen Deficiency in Soil

Active 13-2-2 Organic Fertilizer

Perhaps you’ve planted a gorgeous array of flowers, but all their stems start sprouting with yellow growth instead of green. This could mean that your soil is nitrogen deficient. This is common in the spring, as the cold rain or snow easily leaches nitrogen out of the soil, leaving soil unable to support new growth. 

The easiest solution is to use a nitrogen-dense organic fertilizer, which will help get results quickly and effectively. If you're into composting and using that as part of your fertilization regimen, compost containing animal bones and fish remnants usually contains a lot of bio-available nitrogen with countless benefits

Finding Phosphorus Issues to Improve Plant Health

Phosphorus deficiency is one of the trickiest deficiencies to diagnose because the main symptom is slow growth. It’s hard to tell whether or not your plants are growing at the appropriate pace, especially if you’ve never grown that species before. Pay attention to growth patterns over several days and see what you notice. 

Sometimes, phosphorus-deficient plants grow very dark green young leaves, which is abnormal for most plants. Their leaves may also have dark or even purple veins, which you may have to observe very closely. If you suspect a phosphorus deficiency, try a combination organic fertilizer with elevated phosphorus so that you treat the suspected issue without exacerbating any other issues. If it is indeed a phosphorus issue, you should see quick improvement. 

Diagnosing Potassium-Deficient Soils

Sulfate of Potash

Sometimes, location has a lot to do with what your soil might need. Areas with dense clay soils are great at holding potassium and having it readily available for plants to use. However, in areas with lots of sand or light, chalky soil, it’s probably likely that you need to supplement potassium. 

Symptoms of potassium deficiency in plants are usually most present in the leaves. If you find that mature leaves are curling inward, turning brown, or even having purple spots, potassium may be needed. Sulfate of potash is one of our favorite remedies for this problem because it’s easy to apply and gives results within hours of application. You will watch your plants perk up right before your eyes with this miracle product.  

Tailoring Organic Fertilizers to Different Crops

Another strategy that many people use for determining which organic fertilizer to use is to tailor the regimen to specific crops. For example, if you’re trying to grow a rich, healthy green lawn, a nitrogen-based fertilizer might be your best bet. Nitrogen is really important for grass growth and contributes to straight, strong, resilient grass blades. Without it, your grass is likely to grow in a patchy pattern and lack that coveted bright green color. 

For many common vegetable gardens, nitrogen helps them get off to a great start, but a phosphorus-rich fertilizer helps with robust fruiting and flowering. A combination fertilizer and calcium supplement is wonderful for vegetables, especially tomatoes. Tomatoes specifically need lots of calcium to prevent tomato rot, a common issue in vegetable gardens. 

Trees and shrubbery also love nitrogen, but it’s best to use a balanced formula if you’re trying to nurture any sort of saplings. A balanced fertilizer helps growth in the long-term since it has similar concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium and can help support trees and shrubs through their entire lifecycle. 

Get to The Bottom of Soil Deficiencies with Soil Testing

Scientist Tests Soil for Nutrients

When in doubt, there’s no better way to understand your soil type than by using a soil test kit. Soil testing is simple, affordable, and gives you a concrete answer about the contents and nutrient needs of your soil. 

A soil test just needs a small sample of soil and is sent back to the experts at Rocky Mountain BioAg® to be analyzed. Within a few weeks, we will send you a complete report with an interpretation of your soil, as well as recommendations for the best fertilizers and growing products for your situation. 

There are several levels of testing available with all the tools you need for the process. If you’re unsure what’s best for you, our experts are always available for consultation. 

Investing in Organic Fertilizers

Investing in organic fertilizers may require a slightly higher upfront cost compared to conventional synthetic fertilizers. However, the long-term benefits and returns on investment far outweigh the initial investment. While synthetic fertilizers might provide a quick nutrient boost, they can cause long-term damage that’s hard to correct. 

Organic fertilizers have so many more benefits aside from just fertilizing your plants. Since they are designed to promote soil fertility and improve soil structure, organic fertilizers are actually an investment in your land in the long-term, not just your present crops. Choosing organic is a worthwhile investment for conscientious gardeners.  

Which Fertilizer Application Method is Best? 

There are a few schools of thought when it comes to choosing the right application method. The two main choices are liquid application and granular application, both of which have their merits. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and finding the right regimen for your growing goals.  

Liquid Application of Organic Fertilizer

FlowZone Typhoon 2.5V Backpack Sprayer

Using a liquid form of organic fertilizer is a common choice for both small-scale operations and larger endeavors. Those with smaller gardens and lawns may choose to use hand sprayers or backpack sprayers, which help distribute liquid products evenly and in the right ratios. It’s as simple as loading up your chosen sprayer and applying it according to directions. 

Irrigation and hydroponics systems are usually reserved for larger-scale farms, vast lawns, and acres of land that need maintenance. Irrigation systems are simply automatic watering systems that you can pre-load with all the products you would like distributed. Though the initial setup is comprehensive, it’s an easy way to maintain large operations without an excessive amount of labor. 

Using Granular Forms of Organic Fertilizer

Granular forms of organic fertilizer don’t have to be applied using any sort of liquid medium. The granules can simply be sprinkled over your plants, and the nutrients get into the soil. Nutrients are released by the granules themselves, but rainwater also helps incorporate the products into the ground. 

There are two main ways of distributing granules: banding and broadcasting. Banding refers to applying the granules in bands or straight lines running with your seeds and plants. This method is most commonly used in vegetable gardens that have predictable rows of crops. 

Broadcasting is the act of applying the granules everywhere. This is a better strategy for a lawn because the product is more likely to be distributed evenly, ensuring each and every root receives the appropriate nutrients. This method is also great for beginners because there doesn’t have to be any rhyme or reason to your distribution.

Maximizing Your Plant Growth with Organic Fertilizer

Raised Garden Beds with Plants

Embracing organic fertilizer represents more than just a shift in gardening practice, it’s a commitment to fostering a healthier, more sustainable future for our planet. There are too many benefits of organic fertilizer to name, from their ability to nourish plants to their role in improving soil health and fostering biodiversity. 

As you continue your journey toward organic farming practices, it’s important to remember the profound impact that your choices have on the environment. By choosing high-quality, organic products like pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers from Rocky Mountain BioAg® you help create a healthier future for generations to come. 

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