Fertilizer, Part II: But what I’m really doing is this.

When my garden starts looking less happy and healthy (droopy lime-green leaves instead of leaf-green leaves being the main sign), in spite of the lazy earth-nurturing I’ve been doing, I do add some organic fertilizer. There are a couple of options here: you can buy something readymade (or concentrated, that needs to be mixed with water) or you can mix your own.

IMG_1194 (2)

The concentrated fertilizer I’ve used a couple times this year is this brand, from Rona. It’s certified organic for Canada and only needs to be applied once a month. I fertilized with it for the second time this past weekend.It has a thick, sludgy texture and you mix it with water, like this:

Action shot!

Action shot!

It’s made of some kind of fish product, and you can tell that because (a) it says it on the container (b) it will make your garden smell like something died. Honestly, it’s unreal. I fertilized with this stuff in the middle of a hot day and within a few minutes flies (HUNDREDS OF THEM) were buzzing around crazily, driven mad by the tantalizing smell of rotting fish-flesh. It was disgusting. But it rained that night and the smell dissipated, so ultimately it’s fine.

In the past I’ve also bought various organic fertilizer pellets and mixed them into my beds and pots in the spring, and this helps too. These are hard to find sometimes, though. This year I haven’t come across any in my greenhouse-travels. That’s when homemade organic fertilizer comes into play.

Now, this sounds ridiculously complicated, but it’s really not. STICK WITH ME, DEAR READER. This is the kind of project you can boast about on Pinterest/Facebook and make other people feel TERRIBLE. Which is AWESOME. Just post a super-cute picture of yourself in an apron and a caption like “Just mixing up some homemade organic fertilizer for my garden! #GardenLove #GoOrganic” and instantly other people start feeling bad about themselves. Oh, also, it will be good for your garden, but that’s more of a side-benefit.

So here’s my usual mix:

Blood meal (for nitrogen) 2 parts by volume
Bone meal (phosphorus) 2.5 parts
Kelp meal (potassium) 1.5 parts

All of these things you can find online or in a garden centre. Then you just mix them together. Optional: Decorate the container you are going to store it in.

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The nice thing about dry organic fertilizers is that they mostly break down slowly, so there’s little risk of over-fertilizing or burning your plants (which can happen with chemical fertilizers). So even if you use too much of something, or maybe use the amount I told you to use but the initial math I did was wrong, it won’t matter.

Also, there are lots of other sources you can use for those three key fertilizer nutrients, but I’ve found those three to be the most commonly available in garden centres. Some other possible ingredients are:

Nitrogen (first number, promotes development of leaves)

Soybean meal
Seed meal
Fish meal

Phosphorus (second number, promotes root development, flowering)

Rock phosphate
Colloidial phosphate
Soy husks
Crushed coral

Potassium* (third number, does lots of things including increasing disease resistance, promoting root development)

Greensand
Wood ash – which also raises soil pH, so maybe only do this if a soil test shows it’s a good idea
Granite dust

Note on Fertilizer

I really wish that fertilizer didn’t include two elements that start with P, because it’s just confusing. We should stop using Potassium (‘K’? What? There is literally no ‘K’ in ‘potassium’) and instead include something else. It might not be as good for plants, but it would be easier to remember.

Dietary Mystery Footnote

*You guys, unrelated note: WHAT THE HECK IS POTASSIUM. I know the Internet could answer this question for me, but I kind of prefer to just wonder. I log what I eat in an app on my phone and I never even come close to eating enough potassium. I eat, like, 5% as much as I’m supposed to. I should sprinkle wood ash on all my food.

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