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The Gardeners Kitchen: Organic Fertilizers & Compost Tea

Bob is a permaculture designer and a garden writer. He knows soil brings life,

Nature Working

Nature Working


Feed the soil, the organic gardener’s mantra. One of the most effective ways to feed that soil is to add organic material, such as compost to the garden. Another is to add compost tea.

Compost tea is relatively easy to make; you simply put a shovelful of compost into a burlap bag or apiece of cheesecloth and tie the bag closed: then suspend that bag into a container of water for a few days.

I suggest you keep this covered as the odour will become quite strong.

After the tea has steeped you can use the liquid or tea to water the soil at the base of the plants you wish to fertilize.

You can also use compost tea as a foliar spray that is sprayed it directly onto the plant’s leaves. First, dilute to tea until it is the colour of a weak tea.

The nutrients from the compost have dissolved into the water and the plants will be able to take them up quickly.

The tea bag is reusable for three or four pots of compost tea. When done toss the tea bag into your compost pile.

Plants must have 16 different chemical elements to thrive; these are divided into two categories, macronutrients and micronutrients also known as trace minerals. Each element performs a different function.

Fertilizers are used to enrich the soil and replace missing elements. A fertilizer is a material containing significant amounts of the chemical elements that plants need to grow; such as potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus. Examples of organic fertilizers are greensand, bat guano, cottonseed meal, fish emulsion, manure, and blood meal.

Bloodmeal is a powerful source of nitrogen and must be applied properly or it will burn your plants. Follow the directions on the label. Blood meal is dried blood usually collected from slaughterhouses and may not be acceptable to vegetarians or vegans.

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Greensand is mined from deposits of minerals once part of the ocean floor. It is approximately 3% total potash, along with iron, magnesium, silica, and as many as 30 other trace minerals. There may be some ecological concerns here.

Cottonseed meal is a by-product of cotton manufacturing. Cottonseed will produce a slight acidic reaction; consequently, so is usually used for fertilizing acid-loving plants such as azaleas, camellias, and rhododendrons.

Manure has been used as a fertilizer for generations, be sure that any manure you buy has been well composted before you apply it to your garden. I have used chicken manure and horse manure that was well-aged with some impressive results.

I personally like seaweed but then I live near enough to the coast to be able to get it but it does work wonders.

Fish emulsion is a balanced, organic fertilizer; however, it is a partially decomposed blend of finely pulverized fish so again vegans and vegetarians may not wish to use it.

Whatever your choice is, the proper use of organic fertilizer and the occasional use of compost tea will give your garden the elements it needs to produce beautiful flowers and healthy and hearty vegetables.

Organic fertilizer


Bob Ewing (author) from New Brunswick on April 01, 2009:

The gloves are very good advice when it comes to stinging netteles which are aptly named. Thanks for the input.

Cindy Lawson from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 31, 2009:

Stinging Nettles also make great plant food. Soak fresh nettles, covered in water for a few weeks, then dilute the liquid and feed to plants. Great plant food, but don't get stung harvesting them, (wear gloves).

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