kylie77
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Fertilizer, organic or not?

I'm a bit confused about the whole fertilizer thing. It seems that most of the information on this site is mostly organic? I've picked up some information here and there, and I am feeling a little lost. Last year I just used a non organic fertilizer that was recommended to me by someone at the shop. This year I've been adding things like coffee grounds and egg shells whenever I have them. I can't make my own compost because it isn't allowed by our strata. We're not allowed to leave out anything that could attract bears, no garbage or anything smelly whatsoever. So home made compost is a no go unfortunately. But I thought at least I could be keeping my coffee grounds and egg shells. I ground it all up together and sprinkle what I have over my garden about once a week. I've tried going to starbucks to get more coffee grounds, but everytime I've gone there's nothing left. Must be lots of gardeners in the area going for it. Anyway, alonge with that I've been using bonemeal and mushroom manuer. I used a little of what was left of my fertilizer from last year once, but am unsure about it. What I've read on here makes it seem that by adding this sort of fertilizer I'm ruining the good I've been doing to my soil. I don't want to kill off all the good stuff in my soil and have my plants relying on this artificial fertilizer. So if I decide not to use that stuff and want to stick to organic do I need to run out and buy some organic fertilizer? How do I know how much coffee grounds and egg shells and bone meal to use. If I keep using this stuff, then how do I know what else my garden needs? See my confusion?! lol Or is it enough just to add the coffee grounds, egg shells and bone meal, maybe nothing else is needed? Help!

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freedhardwoods
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I would say if you have the time and money to do everything organic, go for it. I raise a very large garden and don't have the time or money to do things that way. If America's farmers were forced to do everything organically, groceries in the supermarket would get pretty scarce. :roll:

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Kisal
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I agree. If you are able to do your garden organically, that is the very best. Not all of us can do so, however. :)

kylie77
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Well, I definately don't have much money to spare, so if it's a lot more expensive probably isn't an option for me. My question though is what exactly do you do to do it organically? I know the coffee grounds, egg shells, and bone meal are organic, but what else would I need? And if I keep using these things do I just get a regular fertilizer to put on as well or will my plants be getting too much of something? This is still very new to me!

James282
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Hey Kylie, I have had good success with liquid seaweed from planetnatural.com.

I also add kelp meal and rock phosphate...which gives good nutrients while also supplying naturally occurring chemicals like the ones you are adding with the synthetic fertilizers. Egg Shells and coffee grounds are certainly a good start too!

James

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freedhardwoods
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I know there are many books available, but this one helped me a lot when I bought it twenty years ago. It gives the types and amounts of fertilizer that many vegetables will thrive on as well as much more.

https://www.amazon.com/Joy-Gardening-Garden-Way-Book/dp/0882663194

cynthia_h
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Re: Fertilizer, organic or not?

This is actually quite a complex post, and I'll do what I can to respond.

1) Re. confusion about fertilizer: You're in your first gardening season. There is a LOT to learn about gardening, just like there would be to any other field of endeavor: cooking, sewing, carpentry, etc. The tools and techniques, to say nothing of the body of knowledge associated with whichever field of endeavor, are many and complex. Your photos show that you're doing a TERRIFIC job! :D As you work with your plants, watching them develop, you'll learn what works for *you* in *your* conditions.

2) Re. "it seems that most of the information here is mostly organic": Many techniques of industrial agriculture were developed pursuant to the belief that there is *always* "better living through chemistry." Unfortunately, long-term health of the soil in which the food is grown is often compromised by monoculture and heavy use of petroleum-based fertilizers (see "Dirt Poor: Haiti has lost its soil and the means to feed itself," National Geographic, Sept. 2008, and "Special Report: Feeding the World," Nat.Geo., June 2009) . Without soil, nothing will grow that anyone can live off of. Home-scale gardeners, and many market gardeners/growers, in developed countries *do* use organic-only methods and feed not only themselves but a large clientele. In impoverished areas of the world, organic methods are the ONLY affordable means that the poor can use. Imported synthetic fertilizers are beyond their financial means.

3) Re. "This year I've been adding things like coffee grounds and egg shells whenever I have them. I can't make my own compost because it isn't allowed by our strata. We're not allowed to leave out anything that could attract bears, no garbage or anything smelly whatsoever." Coffee grounds are a good source of nitrogen (several threads on that), and eggshells are a good source of calcium. I let my eggshells dry and then powder them in my *old* blender and put them into the compost.

I don't know what "strata" is other than a geological or archaelogical setting; is it like a HomeOwners Association (HOA)? Rules for a housing development or set of condominiums? "Nothing smelly" would also exclude fish emulsion or fish-based fertilizers, organic or otherwise. :( However, you can make compost indoors using worms. The worm box (habitat) has no crud or nasty footprint where it stands; some of them will fit under a kitchen sink. I would've put mine on the stair landing, except that I was certain that my 5-year-old Bernese Mtn. Dog male would have made it a personal mission to investigate said habitat.... Worms will take care of coffee grounds, kitchen scraps, and eggshells for you, providing very rich, concentrated worm castings.

Many utility districts and solid-waste departments in the U.S. subsidize the purchase of outdoor compost bins *and* indoor vermiculture set-ups, so don't give up completely on compost until you've checked out the possibilities for vermiculture.

4) Re. "I've tried going to starbucks to get more coffee grounds, but everytime I've gone there's nothing left. Must be lots of gardeners in the area going for it": And Starbucks made a big P.R. push last year about "giving grounds away." But...independent coffee places, and breakfast/lunch restaurants, are often overlooked. Many of these independents are happy to establish a routine with a reliable gardener or set of gardeners who will pick up the grounds (and filters) on a regular basis. Some places want pick-up every day, and some less often, but independent shops are usually more open to your initiative than Starbucks managers are. But...if you *do* get something going with an independent, you might keep the information private, kind of like the "favorite fishing spot" we've all heard of but no one can find. :wink:

5) Re. "Anyway, alonge with that I've been using bonemeal and mushroom manuer. I used a little of what was left of my fertilizer from last year once, but am unsure about it": Bonemeal will provide more calcium for your plants. Many gardeners consider mushroom "manure" to be all used up except for providing aeration and bulk. I'm not sure what nutrients it will provide your plants, myself. Last year's fertilizer, if it was a commercially available product, will have NPK numbers (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) somewhere on the label. These numbers represent the number of pounds (in Canada, I'd expect this to be kg) of the item present per 100 pounds / kg of fertilizer. The numbers do *not* provide information on how available the nutrients are to your plants, and the fertilizer is often a quick-release source rather than a slow-release source of said nutrients. There are many, many threads here on the action in soil of quick- vs. slow-releasing fertilizers.

6) Re. "What I've read on here makes it seem that by adding this sort of fertilizer I'm ruining the good I've been doing to my soil. I don't want to kill off all the good stuff in my soil and have my plants relying on this artificial fertilizer": If you are as conservative in your use of the standard fertilizer as it sounds like, you're unlikely to kill your soil any time soon. However, please do read the Nat.Geo. articles from last year and this month; they tell the tale of at least two countries whose soil has been destroyed. And congratulations :) on being concerned about "addicting" (my term) your plants to artificial fertilizer; that happens to plants grown in dead soil on artificial fertilizer alone, at least until the groundwater becomes so polluted that it's unhealthy for people to drink.

7) Re. "So if I decide not to use that stuff and want to stick to organic do I need to run out and buy some organic fertilizer? How do I know how much coffee grounds and egg shells and bone meal to use. If I keep using this stuff, then how do I know what else my garden needs? See my confusion?! lol Or is it enough just to add the coffee grounds, egg shells and bone meal, maybe nothing else is needed? Help!" Don't buy anything yet. Gardening can be done for little money or lots of money, just like anything else (quilting comes to mind...:oops:). And...your plants have come up well, sturdily, and strong for you! They're doing just fine with the coffee grounds, eggshells, etc. you have provided. They look very happy to me. :)

Keep reading here at THG, but may I suggest targeted reading? Perhaps do a Search on "fertilizer," and read those threads? Then maybe another Search on "soil + health" (or whatever topic you want to find out about) and read those at the same time?

I understand that simply reading what comes in on a daily basis is confusing, esp. for new gardeners. I may have been gardening for a while now, but I've been a teacher both formally and informally all my life, and can confidently state that

:arrow: Everyone starts at the beginning.

We're all overwhelmed by the rush of information coming at us in a new field of endeavor--and that was true before the Internet made even *more* information available *more* quickly than ever before in human history.

The information will begin to sort itself out in your mind later this growing season and definitely over the slow season.

You're doing a terrific job; maybe you expect too much from yourself too soon? (asked the Recovering Perfectionist...:?)

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

2cents
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I believe most everything on the planet is grown organically, it seems to be working pretty well.
If you want exceptional vegetables, chemicals may be your preference.
I've watched many farmers and small farmer's market sized growers that are totally organic.
Seems like a choice rather than a necessity.

I have been supplimenting with fertilizers for most of my life. This year I've just decided to use no fertilizer, except some horse poo last fall(very little) and old rotted leaves.
Right now I have the best looking potatoe plants ever and everything else is doing good.

Give it a try, it costs less to go organic and takes less effort.

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!potatoes!
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it doesn't cost me any extra time or energy or money to not apply synthetic fertilizers.

kylie77
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cynthia

Thank you so much for all the information. I really appreciate you giving me your time and knowledge.

I tend to be an all or nothing type of person. When I decide to do something, I'm happy to spend the time doing research and putting the work it to do it right. I'm not looking for amazing crops this year, but I am expecting it to be worth the effort! Fine with me if some things don't turn out well, I'll learn from it, but I certainly don't expect it all to fail!

I definately need to do some more research on fertilizing. For now though I'll take your advice and stick to what I'm doing since it seems to be working so far.

The information on composting was great! I had no idea I could set something up inside. I will be looking into that because not only would it be good for my garden, but I would love to be able to cut down on the amount of garbage my family produces. I will also look into the possibility of help with funding the operation. I never would've even thought of that if you haden't mentioned it. Makes sence though since it's good for the enviroment. Oh, and I also dry out my eggshells (on the windowsil), and ground them up before using them. So, seems I'm doing that right!

Yes the 'strata' I was talking about is a homeowners association type of thing. The strata decide on the rules for all the people living in the townhouse complex I live in.

I haden't contacted any other coffee shops in my town about coffee grounds. Thanks for that advice. I'll look into that as well. How many coffee grounds can be used on my garden? Also you said the filters as well? How does that work? I have been tossing mine away, but if there is a way of using those as well that would be great.

I started using mushroom manuer because the person who sold it to me said her garden loved it! That's all I used last year, and we had a ton of tomatoes so I figured I'd just use it again this year. Interesting that it's 'used up'. If it's not as good as other forms of manuer than why is it that it sells for more? Nuts! lol Sheep manuer is so much cheeper so maybe I should just try that!
Saying that though.... I did have a pile of mushroom manuer donated to me by a lovely neighbour who had excess!

Thanks again for all your help.

kylie77
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potatoes, and 2cents

Thank you both for your replies. I don't have good soil to begin with, but I do like the idea of organic. Especially if it's not going to cost a ton! I don't mind too much about extra time put into it! Great to hear you're both having success!

slengteng82
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what is your soil like?

I had dense clay like soil and I turned it adding some gypsum to the soil sand and my own organic compost and the garden is working great for me.. takes some work though to get soil ready to plant..

good luck!
I won't mind going along with you for a while. But when you'll stop, I shall continue on my insane and triumphant way toward the great and sublime conquest of the nothing."

cynthia_h
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Thank you for your post!

If your soil needed aeration, or your containers did, the mushroom manure would have been *perfect* for that. It's light, airy, and helps retain water. It's just not a source of much *nutrition.* However, nutrients are definitely not the whole story: air and water are also essential.

Mushroom soil may sell for more because it's generally safe to put directly into the ground. Non-composted manure of animals needs to be composted to kill pathogens and weed seeds before being used in a garden. The received wisdom is that rabbit manure can be placed directly into the soil, but my experience last year was that the rabbit manure came attached to a TON of rabbit litter and timothy hay, neither of which breaks down, even in my [cool] compost worth a flip. Maybe 100% rabbit manure, with no other materials in it...but that wasn't what I was offered.

Commercially sold composted "steer manure" is often the product of a feedlot, or at best cannot be accurately sourced, so who knows whether a given batch will contain antibiotics or anti-worm medications...

So the mushroom soil is immediately useable, adds air- and water-retention capacity to the soil, and doesn't have an offensive odor. Sounds good! and like a money-maker. :wink:

Re. coffee filters: your future worms will be able to help you with these. In the meantime, if you're able to get a relationship going with a coffee-grounds provider, just ask for the espresso/cappucino/mocha grounds. The ones that look like dark little biscuits. Once the worms are in place (I'm assuming you will find a subsidized source, Canada being generally forward-looking on these kinds of things), let your provider know that you're making a one-time-only experiment and pick up one batch of coffee with filters.

Not to drag this thread too far off course, but worms need bedding material to live in, as well as kitchen scraps etc. to eat, and coffee filters fulfill both functions: bedding *and* food. :)

Cynthia

kylie77
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slengteng82

I also have very dense clay, rocky soil. Not good at all. But last year we added some peat, and mushroom manuer, and this year have done the same. My plants are definately growing well so it must not be THAT bad! I wish I had added sand, but it's too late for this year since everything has been planted now. I will do it at the end of the season. I'm very concerned about the cost of all the things I could add to my soil. I want to grow, but.... don't have a lot of money to play with, so have to be careful. Peat was very cheap and probably not the best choice, but so far so good.

kylie77
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cynthia

Well my soil is very dense clay soil. About 6 or so inches in it's solid grey clay, and... has lots of rocks! Not ideal that's for sure. So seems like the mushroom manuer did some good there. Although my soil seems to have no problem holding moisture.

So the animal manuer that you can buy in bags has not been composted yet? That would explain why it's so much cheeper. If I had bought it I would've just put it right on the garden, so maybe it's a good thing I didn't.

Ok so my worms need some nice filters for beds! Oh I was just thinking how much my kids will love knowing that we have a worm home! lol They LOVE worms! They have been educated on what good worms are for gardens, so are very careful with them, and make sure to put them back in the garden once they've had a good look!

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rainbowgardener
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organic farming

freedhardwoods wrote:I would say if you have the time and money to do everything organic, go for it. I raise a very large garden and don't have the time or money to do things that way. If America's farmers were forced to do everything organically, groceries in the supermarket would get pretty scarce. :roll:
Well I belong to a CSA... community supported agriculture. It's where you buy in and get a share of all the produce from this farm. In this case it's a five acre totally organically run farm. From that five acres, they are currently feeding 100 people. They could do more as far as what the land would produce, and will eventually; they just need to expand their distribution facilities, how the produce gets divided up and all. Three paid farmers run the place with work hours from most of the members (you can pay more for a non working share). The produce is wonderful, it is harvested the day you pick it up. I pay $234 (total for the season plus 16 work hours) for a half share, which is all the veggies two of us can eat from now through October with enough left over to freeze some. I think that is really cheap and I would pay way more than that for the same veggies at the grocery store.

So let's be a little careful about assuming that organic can't be done unless you have a tiny garden and that it's so expensive... think about all the chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides you don't buy.

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jal_ut
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I have not been convinced that plants know the difference between nitrogen from a bag of 20-8-8 or horse manure. What the plants do notice is lack of sufficient nitrogen for their needs.

If you can manure in the fall, and use plenty of organic matter on your garden as mulch or/and leaves in the fall you will most likely not need any additional fertilizer. The plant material breaks down into plant food with the help of worms, bacteria, and fungi.

I am not above spreading some packaged fertilizer or urea if I think my garden needs a nitrogen boost. I am not the least bit afraid of "ruining" my soil by doing this. I am not intimidated by the "purest" hype I see in print either. You can write anything, but that doesn't make it gospel. Some people make the "organic" thing their religion.
No, the Great God OG, won't come down and smack you for using some packaged fertilizer, but your plants will appreciate it.

You can do a test, put some fertilizer on half your garden and not the rest.

If you use packaged fertilizer, be careful. Too much is worse than none. It just takes a little bit.

You will just have to decide what works for you.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

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rainbowgardener
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organic vs chemical

See my post at

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=15236&highlight=

where I took the time to write out a bunch of information about the benefits of biologically based fertilization, and the ways in which chemical fertilization does indeed damage the health and fertility of the soil. All of it scientific and research based. I'll send you some citations if you want them.

Organic fertilizers like compost add major nutrients, secondary nutrients, trace elements, bacteria, fungi, earthworms, tilth and improve the health and productivity of the soil. Organic fertilizer increases soil organic matter, improves soil structure , improves water holding capacity, reduces erosion from wind and water.

Nitrogen is nitrogen but chemical fertilizers are only N-P-K. So the soil gradually gets depleted of all the secondary nutrients and trace elements as well as organic material, thus breaking down soil structure...

Saying something is true doesn't make it so.

kylie77
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rainbowgardener

Thanks so much for your reply. The link you gave was one I had read and partly where my questions came from tbh. Reading these sorts of things were what got me concerned about ruining the good I've been working on with my soil (still not good soil, but better than it was anyway). I didn't want all the stuff I added to be messed with by putting on artificial fertilizer. I guess I was wondering if people who don't want to do organic gardening bother with all that, or if they just rely on the fertilizer to feed the plants.

That CSA that you belong to sounds amazing. I would definately join something like that if it exsisted around here. The cost sounds quite reasonable really for what it sounds like you're getting from it.

Thanks again for your replies.

kylie77
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ja_lut

Thanks for your reply. So can manuer only be added in the fall? I'm asking because I have seen the bags of manuer for sale that say 'composted'. I don't know when this type of thing can be used?

I haven't had my soil tested because I was a little scared of the findings! It doesn't seem to be good soil, and is FULL of clay. I will have it tested at some point since I know where to have it done free. I have limited funds so I can't go run out and buy a ton of expensive stuff for my garden even if it needs it! I figured I'd add some 'good stuff' this year, and it would have to be at least a bit better than last year, and I'll keep going and learning. Hopfully my soil will be great eventually. Maybe it's not as bad as I think since my plants are definately growing and doing well!

Seems like I have to read up, and also experiment with my own garden and eventually I'll figure out what works for me. I am leaning towards organic, but maybe not entirely. I will use up the fertilizer I have already, but when I go to buy more, I will probably look for something more organic.

Thanks again for your reply.

cynthia_h
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Re. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): I found one at https://www.ssfpa.net/bcsfd/company-details.php?companyID=28

It's in Armstrong, B.C. I don't know the distance or driving time from Kamloops to Armstrong, but maybe other CSAs have been developed since the above website was installed?

And...maybe I misunderstood something somewhere along the line (entirely possible, if not probable :)). I thought you were growing all of your veggie/fruit plants all in containers because the townhouse governing body wouldn't let you grow plants in their precious soil? But you discuss the clay soil and amendments as if you *are* growing veg's in the ground.

Clearly I missed an important memo...:wink:

Cynthia

kylie77
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Ok, well clearly the exsist than and I just haven't heard of them. Amrstrong is a couple hours from me I think so probably a bit too far, but I'll have to check into this now cause if there is one closer I would soooooo be interested! I'd never heard of it before reading the reply from rainbowgardener.

I am growing stuff in the ground here. We are allowed to have gardens. I have very very limited space to work with though so I have filled my gardens, and added lots of containers anywhere I could fit them in! One of my gardens is in an extreemly shady spot, so I'm experimenting to see what if anything will grow ok there. So far my leeks, and peas seem to be doing very well in that spot. I have beans there too and they're not doing well. What I can't do is have a compost pile or anything like that outside, nothing that smells or could attract bears.

My soil is solid grey clay from about 6 inches deep and lots of clay in that first 6 inches as well. The plants seem to be doing ok so far though so I'm not discouraged about that! Hopfully it will just get better every year.

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