The Low-down on Plant Fertilization
By definition, a plant fertilizer is either a chemical or a natural material added to the soil or growing media to increase its fertility and aid in plant growth. Understanding how best to feed your plants increases plant vigor and results in higher yields.
The best natural fertilizer for plants
There’s been a major shift in thinking over the past decade when it comes to how to fertilize plants. We’ve moved away from the idea of “feeding our plants” and toward the idea of “feeding our soil.” When we focus on feeding our soil and all the life contained in it, we provide a more balanced nutrient source to our plants. Science has shown us that fostering healthy, biologically active soil is the best way to encourage hearty plant growth.
The types of fertilizers we choose can play a huge role in supporting this concept, if we choose them wisely. When shopping for plant fertilizers, look for ones that promote biological activity and supply organic matter to the soil, rather than ones made from fertilizer salts synthesized in a laboratory. Naturally sourced fertilizers feed the soil microbes who in turn release the nutrients contained in them to our plants, feeding plants the way nature intended.
Whether you’re gardening in the ground or in fabric aeration containers, compost is the best natural fertilizer for plants. Its high organic matter content is an excellent food source for soil microbes; it improves soil structure, and contains a myriad of macro- and micronutrients essential for plant growth. Work one to two inches of compost into garden soil before planting, or fill fabric aeration containers with a 60/40 blend of compost and high-quality potting soil to best support plant growth.
Other organic fertilizer for plants
There are a number of easy-to-use natural granular fertilizers on the market that also do an excellent job of feeding your soil. These types of fertilizers are derived from assorted combinations of naturally sourced materials. Look for an ingredient list on the fertilizer’s label to learn more about the product. There are four main sources of natural fertilizers.
1. Plant materials
Fertilizer ingredients such as corn gluten meal, alfalfa meal, kelp meal, and cottonseed meal fit into this category.
2. Manure materials
You may see pelletized poultry manure, dehydrated cow manure, cricket manure, bat guano, and worm castings on the label of a natural fertilizer.
Fertilizer components found in this category include things like fish emulsion, bone meal, feather meal, blood meal, and crab meal.
4. Mined minerals
Organic fertilizers for plants may also include mined minerals, such as greensand, rock phosphate, crushed limestone, and sulfate of potash.
Using natural plant fertilizers containing a combination of these ingredients is another terrific way to feed your soil, encourage plant growth, and help achieve higher yields, particularly when compost applications aren’t an option.
The right types of fertilizers, especially when partnered with fabric aeration containers, result in a garden that’s nothing short of spectacular.