Learn Organic Gardening

How to Master Organic Gardening
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Organic Soil and Fertilizers

The key to a beautiful, healthy lawn and garden is the soil. Synthetic fertilizers often force plants into a flush of growth, making your lawn and plants look healthy, but actually causing them stress and shorter lifespans. Organic fertilizers, however, not only help plant growth with a balanced formula of nutrients, they also add natural, organic matter to the soil, improving its underlying health and diversity.

All fertilizers contain trace elements of minerals, which plants need in small quantities. The three major nutrients are shown on all fertilizer packages, often as three numbers, which are percentages of the total package. In order of these numbers, they are:

  • Nitrogen (N) - promotes green, leafy growth
  • Phosphorous (P) - encourages fruit growth and strong roots
  • Potassium (K) - creates larger, more colorful flowers and helps in overall plant strength

Organic fertilizer for your garden - Solutions

If you need a product to help your soil and plants, but do not know where to begin, simply click what best describes what you are looking for:

My soil is poor quality, and I need to add some life to it

Answer: Compost and Compost Tea

Compost is the best soil amendment and conditioner there is, and can be used all around your garden and lawn. It can be created from your kitchen waste in a compost bin, and is high in humus and soil microorganisms. It helps bind together sandy soil and breaks apart clay soils. Though not high in actual nutrients, the microbes in the compost help loosen existing nutrients from the soil to be used by plants. Thus, it “conditions” the soil.

Compost tea is an organic gardener’s dream, and is a highly concentrated liquid brewed in water using a blend of compost. Sprayed on plants and soil, compost tea has been shown to suppress disease, fight toxins, and increases nutrients available to the plants. Some gardeners say it makes vegetables taste even better.

ARBICO Organic Compost Plus 5 lb Bag

ARBICO Compost Tea

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Arbico-Organics Coupon

I’m looking for an organic weed and feed for my lawn

Answer: Organic lawn fertilizer with corn gluten meal

Corn gluten meal has been shown to be a great pre-emergent natural herbicide, meaning it does not allow a weed seed to germinate. Studies show it does take a few seasons, with a 60% effectiveness rate after the first season, and over 90% after the third season. As a bonus, corn gluten meal is an excellent source of nitrogen for existing turf! Note that it should be used on existing lawns. Wait 4-6 weeks before seeding your lawn with new grass.

It is also a good idea to test your soil - Weeds take over lawns mainly because the pH of the soil is imbalanced, encouraging weed growth. By knowing how to rebalance the soil, you encourage the strong growth of your lawn, crowding out and eventually killing existing weeds.

WOW! Supreme™ Pre-Emergent Weed Control And Lawn Fertilizer

Accugrow™ Soil Test Kit

I’m looking for a high quality organic potting soil mix

Answer: A special mix of compost with coir (coconut fibers)

A special blend of compost is used in this mix, including humus (the final product of compost), worm castings (yes, nutrient-rich worm poop!), calcium for root growth and minerals. Coir is added to keep the soil light and fluffy, allowing long-term water retention.

You can, of course, mix organic potting yourself yourself. If you have ready-made compost, simply mix with coir or vermiculite and builder’s sand to create a loose, fluffy soil with high water-retention and spaces for oxygen - a perfect combination for houseplants.

Perfect Start™ Natural Potting Soil

ARBICO Organic Compost Plus 1 lb Bag

I’m looking for the best organic fertilizer for vegetables

Answer: Rich, organic compost, compost tea and composted manures

Mixing compost into your vegetable garden in the spring helps condition, fluff up and reinvogorate your soil. Tea adds the neccessary nutrients. Composted manure (that is, it looks and smells like soil) adds nitrogen, and acts similiar to compost. Finally, specialized organic fertilizers add neccessary trace nutrients to encourage tastier and juicer vegetables and fruit.

Vegetables Alive!® Fertilizer

Tomatoes Alive!® Plus 100% All-Natural Fertilizer

What is the best organic fertilizer for my flowers?

Answer: Rich, organic compost, various meals and trace minerals for bulb growth

Using compost helps condition the soil in your flower beds, allowing it to better retain moisture and allowing roots to grow faster and grab essential nutrients. Special organic mixes are measured with the right mix of essential minerals based on the type of plant. Compost and natural meal additives also do the same thing. Two important meals include:

  • Kelp Meal - A brown seaweed, it is a powerful source of potassium and dozens of trace nutrients. Excellent for your lawn and flowers.
  • Bone meal - Source of phosphorus and calcium, it is great for root growth, bulbs and transplants
  • Alfalfa Meal - An extremely potent source of essential nutrients and minerals, it also contains Triacontanol, a natural plant growth hormone. Alfalfa meal contains millions of beneficial microbes, which upon contact with the soil will immediately convert soil ingredients into plant-available nutrients. In fact, many gardeners have reported their soil heating up due to the activity, so either dust it lightly on top of the soil (within and the heat might damage the roots) or, better yet, mix it with compost tea for an energy boost. Also, add to your compost pile.

Flowers Alive!™ for Annuals

Flowers Alive!™ for Perennials

Roses Alive!™ 100% All-Natural Fertilizer

Bulbs Alive!® 100% All-Natural Fertilizer

What is the best material to break up clay soils?

Answer: compost, composted manure and gypsum

Clay soil is difficult to work with and retains too much water, making it clumpy and hard. If you live in a region where clay soils are the norm, so the best thing to do is think long term. Adding compost and composted manures are the best ways to break up clay soils, because of their “fluffy” texture and organic material. Gypsum (calcium sulfate) also breaks up heavier clay soils, though it’ll take repeated applications and adds no real nutrients to the soil. Do not add gritty sand - if you add the wrong amount, it’ll turn the clay into a concrete-like material (oops!) Lime also breaks up clay, but it’ll change your soil pH - only use if your soil is too acidic.

ARBICO Organic Compost Plus 5 lb Bag

ARBICO Organic Compost Plus 1 lb Bag

How about a fertilizer high in nitrogen?

Answer: Composted manures, blood meal, guano, green manure

Nitrogen is what gives plants their green vibrancy, and is available in many different forms. Nitrogen is broken down into nitrates, which are water-soluable and absorbed through the roots. If you previously resorted to chemical fertilizers, be aware that most organic fertilizer is slow-release, as nature intended. This means your plants will not burst into leafy glory as quickly, but then, you place too much stress on the plant if you do.

Do not use fresh manure on your garden, as the nitrogen content is too high, and could burn your plants - not to mention the smell and risk of pathogens. Blood meal is a great nitrogen additive, as is guano (usually bat or seagull.) Finally, green manure is the practice of growing nitrogen-producing ground cover, such as alfalfa or clover, then plowing them into the ground (or adding them to the compost), as a source of nitrogen.

Bat Guano 8-3-1