Shopping for the right organic fertilizer for your application can sometimes feel like you're lost in a sea of information. One package says “all natural,” another says “organic,” and another says, “Now made with fermented cod liver oil!” OK...you should probably stay away from that last one if you value your sense of smell. But seriously, there are a lot of options out there. How are you supposed to know what's what?
Comparing Different Types of Organic Fertilizer
The idea of using organic fertilizer on your garden, yard, crops, and other plants is a great one. If I can pick between using chemical ingredients and organic, natural ingredients, I'm choosing the latter every time.
In today's world, there's really no reason to put potentially harmful chemicals and additives on your plants. This is especially true if you're going to be eating those plants at some point. Unless pumping your body full of carcinogenic chemicals is your thing, you might as well go organic. The only thing left to do is choose the right organic fertilizer for you. Here are a few of the different options you've got to pick from.
Manure is one of the most commonly used fertilizers in the industry today. Whether we're talking about cow manure, horse manure, bat guano, or chicken manure, the idea is the same. You're buying animal excrement, shoveling it into your garden and letting it do its thing. Manure is definitely a decent option to consider and it's been used for centuries. However, the issue here is that you don't really know how the animal that created that manure was raised.
Did it come from a factory farm-raised cow that was pumped so full of antibiotics to the point that its milk could cure ebola? Did the animal have synthetic growth hormones or chemicals in it? Unless you know how the animals were raised, it's tough to trust the purity of the manure. Dealing with manure, another potential risk is ecoli. This can develop in the manure and be transferred to other living organisms.
Overall, manure is a decent option, but it has some inherent risks associated with it that you most likely don't want to take.
Compost is another staple in the fertilizer industry and a lot of people use this on their gardens and yards. The nice thing about compost is that you can produce it yourself on a small scale. Many people have a compost pile out back where they throw their table scraps and other organic waste. Over time, those organic compounds break down into compost, which you can use to provide nutrients to your plants. It sounds pretty good, in theory, right?
While compost can be a very valuable fertilizer, it's not that consistent. Not all compost is created equally. Since the word “compost” just means broken down organic material, there's no telling what kind of nutrients, pH level, or nitrogen level is in the compost. It can vary wildly from one batch to the next and from one source to the next.
If you didn't make the compost, you definitely don't know what you're getting. The person or company that made it might've been throwing yard waste, weeds, manure, and whatever else they could find. This means that one batch might be fantastic for the type of plants you're trying to grow, while the next one is just awful. If you're really counting on your garden to do well this year, can you really afford to gamble on the quality of the batch of compost you just used as fertilizer? I'll go ahead and answer that one for you...no...no you can't.
Another drawback of compost is that it can have potentially dangerous residue from pesticides and metallic compounds in it. For example, if someone treated their yard with gallons upon gallons of chemicals from the local big box store, mowed their yard, and then threw the grass clippings in the compost heap, what do you think is now in the compost? Yes, that's correct...chemicals. If you now put this on your plants, you're kind of defeating the purpose of trying to find organic fertilizer in the first place.
Earthworm castings are another alternative when you're looking for a healthy and natural fertilizer to work with. Worm castings are essentially the waste matter from earthworms. As it turns out, worms are quite talented at breaking down organic material into something that you can use to boost the growth of your plants. The castings left behind after worms get done are chock full of beneficial enzymes, bacteria, and nutrients.
One of the nice things about worm castings as compared to regular manure is that it's basically odorless. It just looks and feels a lot like rich dirt or compost. It also can be extremely potent compared to other fertilizers. It only takes a little bit to have a major impact on the growth and overall health of your plants.
Earthworm castings also don't break down as fast as manure or other types of compost. If you keep it dry, it can last for a long time. That means if you accidentally buy too big of a bag for your potted plants, you can just close up the bag and save it for later. It's really the idiot-proof fertilizer that you want, as it's so simple to use and lasts longer than other options. Worm castings can help your soil retain water better than regular dirt alone. With the mineral clusters inside the castings, it helps promote water absorption and ensures that your plants have water when they need it.
Because of the bacteria and enzymes in it, worm castings have the ability to help prevent diseases forming in your plants. They also help regulate heavy metal absorption in plants, to ensure that they don't get more than they need during the growth process.
Studies have also found that worm castings help plants germinate faster than other fertilizers. They have a combination of quickly-absorbed and long-lasting nutrients that helps your plants grow faster right from the start.
Worm castings are basically a “super food” for your garden, yard, or potted plants. They get your plants exactly what they need, at just the right time. While earthworm castings as a class of fertilizers are generally fantastic, not all worm castings are the same. Before you throw them on your plants, there are a few important details you'll want to know about the castings.