noodles91380
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organic fertilizer questions

I'm embarking on a bit of a project, to demystify the whole organic fertilizer market. I live in the city, have a small plot in my back yard of four raised beds where I rotate vegetables each year. I'm currently in my 4th season of doing this, and I am a big fan of Steve Solomon's "Gardening when it Counts". He talks a lot about Complete Organic Fertilizers (COF), where you pretty much make your own mixture. I often have a hard time finding the base ingredients however (especially seed meal), so I'm just doing a bit of probing as to how folks handle fertilizer purchasing and application.

If you folks don't mind replying with your answer to a few questions, that would be awesome!

What is your general approach to fertilizer?
What do you use, where do you get it?
How did you come to the decision to use what you use?
Are you rigid about organic gardening practices?
What is the approximate size and method (tilled rows/raised beds/container/etc)?

Thanks guys!

cynthia_h
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I use my own homemade compost and vermicompost, as available.

Cynthia H.
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noodles91380
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That's awesome. I've got a couple of compost bins I keep in my yard. I'm far from a composting wizard...so not a whole lot of science goes into it. Mind if I ask, are you able to customize/control the NPK content of your compost?

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nes
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What is your general approach to fertilizer?
Yearly garden renewal.

What do you use, where do you get it?


Poo :). We use manure I get it from my own animals.


How did you come to the decision to use what you use?

It's free & plentiful!

Are you rigid about organic gardening practices?

Absolute when it comes to the garden.

What is the approximate size and method (tilled rows/raised beds/container/etc)?

market/farm garden double-dug beds
Vanessa raising organic vegetables, livestock, wildflowers, and family in zone 5A.

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rainbowgardener
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Yeah, you will find not many of the regulars around here will be much help to you, if this is a marketing project.

I don't buy any products for my garden, I use only compost, compost tea, and organic mulch, which breaks down to feed the soil. Sometimes I have also done worm bin, though not right now.

I don't try to control the NPK of my compost, but I know that it has a wide variety of ingredients, so I trust that it contains all necessary nutrients.

Absolutely organic, except for my indoor seed starting operation, which is now done for the year.

Rigidly organic in the sense that I won't even use "organic" insecticides, herbicides, like rotenone. It is from a plant, but it is still a broad spectrum insecticide and harmful to honeybees. Mostly I don't use any -cides at all, just trust in my garden ecosystem, boosted with things like handpicking hornworms or hand squishing aphids.

I grow mostly in raised beds (some more raised than others), flowers, herbs, veggies. I have about 700 sq feet in beds.

It sounds like you are stressing too much about the chemistry of it all. I focus more on the biology/ ecology. If you have healthy soil life and a healthy environment, with birds, beneficial insects, etc, you will have healthy plants.
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noodles91380
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rainbow - Thanks for all the insight. For the record, this isn't a marketing project, it's purely for my own piece of mind. You might be right, I might be spending too much time on the chemistry aspect of it all.

In my 4 years (I know, not many) of organic gardening, I've run into a few stumbling blocks that have been frustrating in terms of soil nutrients...which is what prompted me to go online and start asking questions. Like i had mentioned, somebody had handed me Steve Solomon's book when I first started looking into gardening, and told me to treat it like my bible. In a lot of ways, it has served me quite well...but some of his approaches to things (like fertilizer) are just really hard to follow.

So, I'm honestly just trying to see what folks who are successful gardeners do. If they have some of the same frustrations as me, or better yet, if they don't ;)

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rainbowgardener
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so what kind of stumbling blocks / frustrations did you run into? And personally, I wouldn't be so interested in soil test results, but outcomes in terms of your plants, where you think some lack of nutrients actually did make a difference.

I think my garden is quite successful and I don't pay any attention to all that stuff. I do keep it simple gardening and it works well.

It is in the nature of plants to grow. Give them sun, rain, and healthy soil and get out of their way! :)

Incidentally I never heard of Steve Solomon, despite the fact that I do a lot of reading about gardening. I googled him and nothing came up except his blog page. So I take it he is not well known.
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noodles91380
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[url=https://www.amazon.com/Gardening-When-It-Counts-Growing/dp/086571553X/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=thehelpfulgar-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325]https://www.amazon.com/Gardening-When-It-Counts-Growing/dp/086571553X/[/url]

This is the book I was referring to. Not super well known...but I wouldn't say completely obscure either. I dunno.

So, my first foray into organic veggie gardening, things went gangbusters. I was unemployed that Spring so I had all my time to devote to it. The following year, not so great. My tomatoes produced a tiny fraction of what they did the year before. My carrots were non-existent. Not a single broccoli plant produced a head (for the past 2 years actually). This is what got me all obsessed about nutrient content....learning how tomatoes will just suck up every bit of nitrogen they can get, how certain nutrients will foster broccoli head production or large roots (read: carrots).

I live in the heart of south Minneapolis, so I'm not going to be using tons of animal waste. I've got a couple compost bins going...they're OK and I apply as much of my own compost as I can to my garden beds each year. The city has ordinances regarding open compost heaps, plus my wife is not a fan of the idea of tons of compost taking over our backyard. There are boutique garden shops here and there, but the mark-up on small containers of ingredients (i.e. bloodmeal, kelpmeal, etc) are ridiculous imo. The pre-mixed fertilizer cocktails are even worse.

I don't have a huge garden, but I love it and I want it to thrive every year.

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rainbowgardener
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I'm four miles from downtown. I don't use animal wastes, and I don't use any purchased ingredients like blood meal. I use my compost. I have two compost "piles" one a covered plastic earth machine type (google it) and one a wire grid bin for the almost finished/ finished stuff. They don't take up much room, they are not ugly, and since I compost EVERYTHING, (including about a dozen yard waste bags of fall leaves, fed into it gradually through the year), it produces all the compost I need for my small garden.

Broccoli problem might not have had anything to do with nutrients. It might just have been the weather. Depends on when you plant it. If you plant broccoli too late and it gets hot before it sets heads, it often won't head up. It doesn't like hot weather. I start my broccoli from seed indoors in Jan, plant it in the garden, early to mid Mar. You might be a little behind me in Minneapolis, but not too much.

Last fall, I also planted broccoli seed outdoors, directly in the ground in early October. It sprouted, but didn't get very big, but it overwintered and started growing again as soon as it got warm. It's been incredibly productive.

All you need is good rich organic soil. Besides the compost, it helps to keep it mulched year round and turn spent mulch into the soil.

Lots of people have trouble getting carrots to germinate. That again is not a nutrient issue, but an issue of how they are planted, soil texture (carrots like very loose soil), and conditions at planting time (keeping them cool, damp, but not too wet, etc).
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

cynthia_h
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The discussions in our book club section under [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=43]Teaming with Microbes[/url] might be of interest/help to you. Help the subsurface life create fertile soil so that you can grow vegetables/etc. successfully. :)

Cynthia H.
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lorax
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Re: organic fertilizer questions

noodles91380 wrote: 1. What is your general approach to fertilizer?
2. What do you use, where do you get it?
3. How did you come to the decision to use what you use?
4. Are you rigid about organic gardening practices?
5. What is the approximate size and method (tilled rows/raised beds/container/etc)?
Bear in mind that I live in Ecuador.

1. The best fertilizer and fertilization methods are in well-enriched soil before planting. I tend to spend more time making sure I've got a good foundation, and then (with most crops, at least - I'll give you an explanation of bananas and papayas at high altitudes at the end of this post) add fertilizer only when it's time to rotate crops (ie postharvest). I topdress my fruit trees after harvest.

2. Marine algae paste (ag store), cuy droppings (neighbours), aged manure (friend's farm, tends to be a mix of cow, horse, and bunny). I've also got an active volcano about 25km from me, which provides me with a light dusting of very nutrient-rich ash from time to time.

3. For the algae, which is used with specific plants, it was the best low-dosage daily organic I could find. For the manures, it's what is least expensive and easiest to get ahold of - which sums up my entire country's philosophy of organic fertilizers.

4. About 99% of the time. When I have very bad mildew infestations on my tomatoes, I'll use a little copper sulfate, which breaks the rules but saves the plants.

5. I've got about 20 square meters all told; I do tiered beds for cyclical veggies, hilled planting for bananas, pineapples, and papaya (a guild pairing), and containers for herbs and tomatoes. I've also got established plum, peach, and citrus trees, which I had no say in planting and which are scattered throughout the garden areas. At the new house, I'll be scattering in the grand Incan tradition - a little bit of everything, intensively, and close together.

And now the note about bananas and papayas. At high altitudes, these survive best with continuous, daily feeding. This brought me to the use of soluble marine algae paste, which can be calibrated for the number of plants and then simply added to the day's water. Bananas and papayas are the only plants I feed daily - in all other cases, fertilizer happens after harvest.

Dillbert
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noodles -

my advice would be to simply abandon all thought(s) that there is one and only single unique genuine authentic way to garden.

and, at the same time, compost any written material that espouses the above idea.

that kind of "only MY way" stuff is hogwash, with a capital H - i.e. HOGWASH.

this planet and its plant life have existed and thrived for tens of millions of years without the precise formulations these "experts" proclaim to be absolute must haves.

so, go forth and garden.
put all the "waste" stuff in a heap.
next spring, dig what's left of "the heap" into the soil.

pretty dang simple, eh?

TaoistImmortal
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I try to grow a couple of green manure crops like bush beans. I also use compost...A LOT. I cook my used egg shells to make them brittle and then blend them in a food processor. This is a great calcium/phosphorus ingredient. Lots of grass clippings and general garden clippings give me more than enough nitrogen. I also brew compost tea in an aerated bucket. The only time I ever actually buy fertilizer is if I am out of usable compost and I want to start a new raised bed or something. Then, I'll usually buy a small bag of Dr. Earth's veggie fertilizer. I think it's 5-7-3. Great stuff and a little goes a long way!
Hey, what's growing on?

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farmerlon
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I've enjoyed reading some of Steve Solomon's work too, and he seems to have a good knowledge of soils and compost. His book "Organic Gardener's Composting" is available as a free download for Kindle ...
[url=https://www.amazon.com/Organic-Gardeners-Composting-ebook/dp/B004TS8ZFG/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=thehelpfulgar-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325]https://www.amazon.com/Organic-Gardeners-Composting-ebook/dp/B004TS8ZFG/[/url]

I think that text is definitely a worthwhile read.

For those that might need a place to start, I have no real problem with the "fertilizer mix" that Steve promotes in his books. That concept might be helpful to some.

Personally, it doesn't appeal to me to go out and purchase Seed Meals and a lot of other ingredients to add to compost or make homemade fertilizers. I prefer to make compost from ingredients I can gather on my own property... of course, I understand that's not an option for everyone.

Often, you can find other sources of materials for the ingredients recommended in Steve Solomon's formula. For instance, he is using the Seed Meal primarily as a Nitrogen source. You might substitute Coffee Grounds, Grass Clippings, Manures, Alfalfa, Clover, Mature Compost, Urine, etc... .

By the way, I think Steve Solomon also founded the Soil and Health online library... https://www.soilandhealth.org/
That is a nice source for older (public domain) agricultural texts; I've found some very interesting things to read there.

lisavantil
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Resurrecting this thread from a few days of getting buried! :P

I make my own, and also have my pets make some for me – if you catch my drift :P

I have my own compost bin, use manure from pets and try new “recipesâ€
lover of life, farmer for life

cynthia_h
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[quote="lisavantil"]Resurrecting this thread from a few days of getting buried! :P

I make my own, and also have my pets make some for me – if you catch my drift :P

I have my own compost bin, use manure from pets and try new “recipesâ€

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