Lawn and garden enthusiasts know a handful of items are essential to maintain a healthy landscape. Water, sunshine and the proper nutrients all work in concert to promote a healthy lawn. Although nutritional material is inherent in the soil, many gardeners feel soil must be amended with some sort of fertilizer to give plants a healthy boost.
All-natural fertilizers are growing in popularity, and home gardeners have a variety of such products at their disposal. Ambitious homeowners can even create their own all-natural fertilizers from items around the house. Organic fertilizers, or those that are derived from living organisms and not manufacturered through chemicals, can provide sufficient nutrients and minerals to grow healthy plants.
In order to store energy and reach maturity, plants need phosphate. This mineral is released over a long period of time from finely ground rock. However, a faster way to supply it to the landscape is through bone meal. Bone meal is a mixture of finely and coarsely ground animal bones that are a waste product from meat-processing plants. Adding bone meal to soil is one of the most effective ways to increase phosphorous levels.
The waste from herbivores (animals that feed on grass), including rabbits, horses and cows, can make super fertilizers. Some gardeners shy away from manure because they believe it to be an odoriferous, dirty product. The best produced manures are allowed to compost for at least nine months and are mixed with hay or straw. They should not produce an offensive odor and will provide plants with a host of nutrients. Never use manures from meat-eating animals, like dogs, cats or humans. Feces can harbor a lot of bacteria, which can be transfered to the garden soil.
Fish and seaweed
Improving soil nutrients may be as simple as looking to the ocean or other bodies of water. Fish emulsion, a mixture of ground fish and water, is a good nitrogen source. Nitrogen gives plants the energy to grow. Seaweed, which is actually a type of algae, contains the primary nutrients that plants need in order to thrive, including phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium. It also serves as a food for natural bacteria that break down nutrients into the soil, making them easier for plants to absorb.
Earthworms are vital to soil health. They burrow and wiggle around in the dirt, helping to aerate the soil. But the castings, or waste, of the worms also provide valuable nutrients to the soil. The castings contain beneficial microorganisms from the worms’ digestive system that help break down organic matter into a form that plant roots can use. Many gardeners participate in vermicomposting, or farming worms in order to use their castings as fertilizer.
Compost can also be used as fertilizer. Gardeners can make their own compost from discarded materials. Compost is one of the most widely used soil amendments in vegetable gardens. Yard refuse, fruit and vegetable peelings, eggshells, coffee grounds, and other items can be added to a compost pile. Natural bacteria will slowly break down these materials into a product dubbed “black gold.” Compost can be mixed into soil before planting and used as a dressing after plants have been established.
Gardeners can experiment with different ratios of fertilizer to create a mix that enhances the soil. Test the soil to determine which, if any, nutrients the soil is lacking so the fertilizer can be adjusted accordingly.