How do I Choose the Best Organic Nutrients?

Jami Yontz

Many farmers and gardeners have switched to using soil fertilizers that contain organic nutrients instead of chemicals. Organic nutrients do not work as quickly as chemical fertilizers but they nourish the soil and provide a steady flow of essential nutrients to plants over a longer period of time. This is because they rely on bacteria and microorganisms to break down the nutrients in the fertilizer. When searching for an organic fertilizer, make sure that the product contains the right amount of the three main nutrients your plants need to grow — nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium or potash. Oneshould also make sure that the fertilizer contains no inorganic materials such as urea or ammonia.

Potash, which is often included in fertilizer.
Potash, which is often included in fertilizer.

The amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium will be listed as percentages when buying fertilizer with organic nutrients. Depending on the health of plants, the buyer will want to make sure that he or she is buying the right combination of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Nitrogen promotes healthy leaf and foliage growth, while phosphorus is beneficial for blooming plants and for root development. Potassium is for overall plant health and cell formation. There will be different levels of each of these essential plant nutrients in each type of organic fertilizer.

Organic fertilizers should include nitrogen and phosphorous.
Organic fertilizers should include nitrogen and phosphorous.

Organic nutrient fertilizers are classified by being a made of plant substances, animal by-products, naturally occurring mineral-based fertilizers, or composts. Some of the most common fertilizers are fish emulsion, bone meal, blood meal, bat guano, soft rock phosphate, kelp meal and cottonseed meal. A fertilizer with a higher level of phosphorus, such as blood meal, is beneficial for blooming plants, such as roses.

Seed meals and fish emulsion are high in nitrogen and work best in soil where vegetables are grown. Looking at the leaf or root health of your plants can help you determine what combination of nutrients is needed. Most of the time, a more balanced percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in a fertilizer is a good choice for promoting the overall health and nutrition of the plants and soil.

Gardeners should also be aware that organic fertilizers need to contain trace nutrients, or micro-nutrients. These organic nutrients are also important for the soil and the growth of plants. Micro-nutrients include calcium, copper, iron, zinc and manganese. Many organic fertilizers — unless specifically made for hydroponic gardening — cannot be used for plants growing without soil because they do not contain the correct level of hydroponic plant and trace nutrients, and they can create build-up in the plant’s roots. Organic liquid plant nutrients are effective in hydroponic growing environments, because the liquid is directly applied to the roots of the plant and does not need to be broken down prior to being absorbed.

Organic fertilizers are especially beneficial for plants grown indoors. After watering, nutrients and chemical fertilizers in the soil can be flushed through the drainage holes in the bottom of the plant container, or the soil and nutrients can become compacted. Adding organic nutrients to the soil allows gardeners to introduce new organic materials that add more essential nutrients to the soil and help to rebuild the soil’s natural ecosystem. Organic fertilizers also allow families to remove the risk of using harmful chemicals in their home when tending indoor gardens or hydroponic plants.

Organic nutrients in the soil can produce healthy, organic food.
Organic nutrients in the soil can produce healthy, organic food.

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