Organic Fertilizer

Written by Sarah Provost
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Organic fertilizer is made from the remains or by-products of living organisms rather than by a chemical process. One of the many important reasons for using an organic fertilizer in your vegetable garden is that you can be certain no chemicals have been taken up into the produce you are going to eat. Use of organic fertilizer is also ecologically sound, since it makes use of waste materials.

Synthetic fertilizers almost always contain more of the actual nutrients plants need, but organic fertilizers perform other important functions that chemical formulations don't do. They increase the organic content of the soil, which makes it better able to hold water. They improve the physical structure of the soil, allowing more air to get to the roots of the plants. They also are less likely to contribute to water pollution when they leach into the groundwater.

Types of Organic Fertilizers

The most common types of organic fertilizers are manure, cottonseed meal and fish emulsion. Horse, cow, pig, chicken and sheep manures are commonly used, and should be well rotted before adding to the garden to prevent burning. Do not use feces from domestic animals.

Cottonseed meal tends to be acidic, so it is often used to fertilize acid-loving plants such as azaleas and rhododendrons. Fish emulsion is a liquid made of finely ground and partially decomposed fish. It's one of the best of the organic fertilizers, and its only drawback is that it smells less than appetizing. The smell usually dissipates in a day or two, however, and your plants will be grateful for the nutrients.

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