Where can you get Cheap Natural Fertilizers and Soil Amendments?

captaincompostal(z7 AL Bham)January 1, 2013

One of our composting experts and friends on this site, David Hall (DcHall_San_Antonio), recently gave a great list of some of the major benefits from soil high in organic matter:

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"Chemical fertilizers rely on an assumption that plants only need three elements to survive and thrive. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are those three. This is the equivalent of saying that we need protein, fat, and sugar to live. While this may be mostly true, pure protein, pure fat, and pure sugar do nothing to supply the vitamins, minerals, and diverse supply of bacteria and fungi in our diets.

Here is a list of a dozen things that you can do with organically fed soil that cannot be achieved with conventional chemical feeding.

1. Decompose plant residues and manure to humus.

2. Retain nutrients in the form of stable humus.

3. Combine nitrogen and carbon to prevent nutrient loss.

  1. Suppress fungus and bacterial diseases.

5. Produce plant growth regulators.

6. Develop soil structure, tilth, and water penetration/retention.

7. Clean up chemical residues.

8. Shift soil pH to neutral and keep it there.

9. Search out and retrieve nutrients in distant parts of the soil.

  1. Decompose thatch and keep it from returning.

  2. Control nitrogen supply to the plants according to need.

  3. Pull minerals out of inorganic soil components for plants.

Soil microbes need sugar and protein to thrive. When you apply synthetic ferts, none of the things on this list gets done. The microbes normally get sugar from plant roots. Protein in nature comes from dead insects, plants, and animals. The organic gardener applies protein artificially in the form or organic fertilizers. It is usually in the form of a ground up meal made from plants and animals to try to replicate the natural process."

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With that being said, many times it is difficult to find good organic or natural fertilizers and soil amendments from garden stores because most of the garden people that we meet are non-organic users. Therefore as an organic gardener, we have to be creative in order to find our supplies.

This is a simple list of sources for uses in foliar teas, composting and green manure techniques, and other soil amendments:

1. Deer plot mixes or cheap bird seed bags - 50 lb bag is a great source of economical cool season cover crop seeds. Most contain a mixture of legumes and grasses like crimson clover or hairy vetch or winter peas, oats, winter wheat, and rye. Most bird seeds contain sunflowers or millet or other types of non-legume seeds that can be planted as excellent cheap cover crop seeds. Bird seeds make great composting ingredients too for extra protein-nitrogen to speed up compost decomposition.

2. Catfish or pond fish feed - Excellent source of alfalfa meal and fish meal for topdressing or compost teas....

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