Compost may be all you need to achieve ideal garden humus, but sometimes additional amendments can meet specific plants’ individual needs. There are many natural fertilizers available that feed the soil instead of feeding the plants as conventional fertilizers do. Healthy soil yields healthy, balanced plants. Natural fertilizers carry the power of their source’s energy and provide complete support for soil and plants.
Studies show that vegetables grown in organically amended soils contain dramatically more nutrients than those from chemically amended land. Conventional fertilizers also tend to contain petroleum products (many fertilizer companies are affiliated with the petroleum industry), so organic fertilizer helps us reduce our use of non-renewable resources.
To determine which amendments are best for your soil, take a soil test, ask local nurseries or the extension office what they recommend for your area’s soil, or quite simply ask the soil itself. Keep in mind that without a lot of organic matter in the soil via compost or composted manure, plants cannot absorb fertilizers effectively. The soil is not unlike your own body; if you eat well and drink lots of water, your digestive system can absorb supplements better.
Build the soil first and protect it with mulch (any substance that covers the soil while allowing the flow of air and water), then add natural amendments. Vegetable garden soil should be slightly acidic, but it will depend on the plant. Most vegetables prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8; incidentally, the human body prefers a similar pH of close to 7. Flowers’ acid preference can vary greatly (and changing the acidity of the soil can even produce different results in the same plant, like determining the color of the flower); a plant guide can help steer you in the right direction for whatever flowers you wish to grow.
You can make your soil more acidic (lower the pH) by adding composted manure, about 2 cubic feet of manure for each 100 square feet of garden. To raise the pH (or make the garden more alkaline), mix in 5 to 10 pounds of dolomitic lime for each 100 square feet; sandy soil requires less lime while loam and clay need more. Lime can be found in garden centers.
On a package of fertilizer, you will find a number indicating the ratio of nitrogen (N) to phosphorus (P) to potash or potassium (K). Traditionally only these three are listed, but many of the organic amendments that balance N, P, and K levels also add trace minerals like calcium and iron.
Here are suggestions for giving back missing minerals to the soil, and the plants that need these nutrients in high amounts:
- Cotton meal, coffee grounds, or alfalfa or green clover planted as a cover crop and worked into the soil, for nitrogen- corn, potatoes, brassicae (cabbage family), cucumbers, leafy greens, and onions need high amounts of nitrogen. Add these amendments regularly, as nitrogen is a key nutrient in the garden.
- Egg shells, dolomitic lime, or wood ash for calcium- legumes need an extra boost.
- Kelp meal for potassium, iron, and trace minerals; wood ash, granite dust, and greensand for potassium- brassicae, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers need lots of potassium, and brassicae, leafy greens and the tomato family need plenty of iron. Bone and blood meal also contain iron but are from animals killed in slaughterhouses, so I personally stay away from them. Kelp meal is also a natural fungicide.
- Limestone (especially lomitic lime) to raise the soil pH and add calcium and magnesium- needed by grains, corn, and the tomato family.
Add amendments at the beginning of a season, then let the garden breathe for a few days before planting. To reduce future nutrient imbalance, rotate crops each season. Crop rotation means that one year you might plant corn in a plot, then the next year plant legumes to replace nitrogen, and the following year plant tomatoes.
This assures the soil has a chance to recover from the previous year’s crop. Mix compost and worm castings into the sol periodically throughout the season and before planting a new crop. Add mulch to the soil surface to reduce nutrient runoff.
This article was taken from Sacred Land by Clea Danaan
All images were found on Google.com