Organic Fertilizers

South Florida, FL(Zone 10b)

Hello, I am new to organic gardening. I have a one year old son and I am doing everything I can to try and make his life better. I started a new garden to grow veggies (which he loves to eat). I'm trying to keep my garden as chemical free for him as I can, but South Florida has poor, very sandy, soil. I've been trying to find true organic fertilizers and soil builders, but most seem so expensive (I'm on a limited budget). Any suggestions? I live in the city so the best thing (a compost pile) is pretty tough for me to do. Is the store bought "compost" in a bag worth it?

Does anyone know if "Doctor Earth" fertilizer products are any good?
Does anyone know about "Supreme Growers" products like Myco Blast or Soil Blast? Are these worth the money?

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. I am new to growing, but I love learning and read everything I can get my hands on.

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

Good morning Dragunov! :)

Funny you should ask; when I first saw words in your post like "organic" and "fertilizer", the FIRST thing that popped into my head was "Dr. Earth"! =) I use Dr. Earth fertilizers and I absolutely love them. We sell them where I work (a privately owned nursery/garden center), and we use them there as well; especially when we cut back our hanging baskets mid-season. Dr. Earth carries great soil-type products as well, including compost. Yes, it is worth it! =)
Milo Shammas, owner of Dr. Earth, wrote a really cool book, "Healthy Garden Healthy You", which is available at amazon if you're interested:
http://www.amazon.com/Healthy-Garden-You-Milo-Shammas/dp/B005GHQNDK
(I see it available elsewhere, but amazon has the best price) Yes I own the book, and yes I've read it cover-to-cover. Incredibly informative!!

I don't know anything about "Supreme Growers" products, so I'm sorry I can't help you there, but I sure do love Dr. Earth!

Is there a bagged product called "Leafgro" available in your area? I'm guessing not, I think it's a regional thing, but... just thought it was worth a try. Leafgro is a trade-name, but really it's just compost. I use that a LOT in all my gardening, including as a dressing on my lawn.

Hope this was helpful! =)

South Florida, FL(Zone 10b)

Thank you so much. You helped a lot. :-) The reason I asked is because I usually wind up paying double what the organic fertilizer is when I order it online because the shipping is so high (sometimes $20 and up). I found some Dr Earth products on Amazon that qualify for the free shipping and wanted to know if it was good. Thanks for letting me know.
I've never seen Leafgro. I have to rely on the big box stores where I am and they seem like all they want to offer is Miracle Grow and other synthetic fertilizers. Are there any websites or catalogs anyone recommends for a newbee to organic gardening? Of course besides Daves Garden.

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

Good morning. :) I'm glad I was able to help, thank you!

I really think Leafgro (leaf mould/compost) is the best thing going; it's such a GREAT soil conditioner, especially for your type of soil conditions. Sometime about 3 years ago or so they started marketing it to some of The Big Box stores, and several of the HD and Lowe's stores started carrying it, but I'm not sure if it made it down to your area. You can check out their website (here: http://www.menv.com/leafgro/retailers.html ) and see if there's any way you could order it from them.... or from one of their retailers.

I can only think of one organic gardening website off the top of my flat head right now... organic gardening dot com. ;) (very original name, huh? heehee) http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/beginners-guide-organic-gardening I bet you'll be able to find lots of cool info in there! =)

Harrisburg, PA

I know I'm a bit late to this discussion but for anyone else interested I've found Ringer Lawn Restore to be a great organic fertilizer: http://www.saferbrand.com/store/organic-lawn-care/lawn-fertilizer

Hobart, IN

I was just reading about Ringer's this morning. It has been almost impossible to find around here. We used to buy it but then couldn't find it. Thanks for posting that.

Eastlake, OH(Zone 5a)

I have been switching slowly to organic fertilizers. This is my first year. I have used Espoma in the the past for roses. I just bought some alfalfa meal. Is that considered a fertilizer or supplement? Can I use both, or just one or the other. Don't know much about alfalfa meal other then it is high in nutrients and nitrogen
. Please advise.

Hobart, IN

You might want to do a little research on alfalfa meal. While I have never used it, it does appear to be a good fertilizer, providing mainly nitrogen and potassium. Not sure if the phosphorus level is high enough to stimulate good blooming although it is recommended for roses. It is supposed to be a great soil conditioner. It does tend to be alkaline so you wouldn't want to use it on acid-loving plants. If you're striving for an organic garden, you may need to check if your alfalfa meal is non-gmo.

Pompano Beach, FL

Sound like you may be living near my area. Check out a place called Sublicious Farm and see you're near it, they have some pretty good products. I use their mushroom compost, horse manure compost and coconut coir which make a pretty quality mix. If you buy from them directly it's cheaper than ordering online. I add my own composted leaves and worm casting that I make.

If you can't compost there are other ways like mulching. The leaves and wood chips will breakdown eventually, it will help retain the water in Florida sun and help bring the microbes up to the top soil. Making a worm bin is a good idea. And you can brew compost tea, worm casting is a good ingredient for brewing, this is a very good solution for those who don't have enough actual compost.

Lima, OH(Zone 5b)

I have been using Standlee brand alfalfa pellets and alfalfa hay for fertilizer and mulch; but just discovered Standlee has been adding GMO alfalfa to their products beginning in 2013. I purchased these at my local TSC, very convenient. Alfalfa is becoming more of a GMO crop in recent years. TSC does sell one Standlee product, timothy grass pellets, which is non-GMO; is this useful in the garden?

Dallas, TX

Oh, there are so so many brands, especially of liquid fertilizers. I am only going to discuss ones that are organic, so we can set that issue aside. First, I want to commend Dragunov79 for wanting to be organic AND for having a 1 year old son that likes his veggies.

I have never heard of the brands (except the dreaded MG) y'all have mentioned, but they could be more regional. I mix and match and use whatever I have within reach. The key to what I use is that they are either singular or combinations of the following: Liquid Seaweed (yum), Liquid Fish Emulsion (yum, yum), maybe mix in some Liquid Molasses (sounds a little better, eh?) and the kitchen sink. (kidding) Our local organic guru, Howard Garrett aka the Dirt Doctor, says he'll sometimes add just a wee bit of vinegar (not sure but guess it would be apple cider) and maybe a few drops of orange oil (but not the stuff like Goo-B-Gone even tho it has a cool name.) Howard has a website and a Facebook page. On both of those he'll post the recipes for making the really good stuff like compost tea. You can find him under Dirt Doctor or Howard Garrett. (He also has a nationally syndicated call-in talk show on AM radio somewhere on your dial.)

Some of the brands that I have sitting around are Nature's Guide, Maxicrop, Medina, LadyBug, and Maestro Gro. I have a lot b/c I'm lazy and don't use it as much as I should, but also b/c a local store was closing and selling stuff 75% off so I stocked up. I think Howard Garrett also markets stuff under his name but then he gives you the recipes to DIY.

It's always good to have your soil tested so you'll know what its components are. For example, if your soil is high in nitrogen, then you'd be wasting your precious resources by using something that's high in nitrogen. I'm sure that there's an Ag Dept of some sort in FL that you can send a soil sample to.

I think that you should go slow this first year so you can be building up your soil. There are many amendments like greensand, dried molasses, lava sand, corn gluten meal, etc etc. These tend to be expensive but you'll probably only use them once, And each is designed for a specific purpose so that's why you need to know what kind of soil you're starting out with. I would not, however, buy these online. It would cost a fortune.

maxjohnson has some very good advice. I almost forgot about worm castings (yum). And I noticed that he also mentioned compost tea.

My local big box stores (Lowe's mostly and Home Depot a little) are selling some of the organic stuff / brands that I mentioned. I think if customers keep asking, the stores kinda catch on that there are products in demand. So much of my yard is bare soil and Mother Nature is not happy about that. I end up buying a lot of mulch at Lowes. The one near me sells torn bags at half off. I also have oaks that provide a lot of good mulch. Whenever anyone mows my yard I will insist that they mow the leaves so they're shredded up nice and fine. And all mown grass has to stay in place. I try to be outside when the yard guys come b/c they'd rather skip mowing the leaves.

Well, this has certainly turned out to be a treatise. Hope you're still awake. Just want to add one more thing. If your neighbors bag their leaves and wait for the city to haul them away, grab those leaves and start using them for mulch. Be sure, of course, that your neighbors don't use any of the nasties that abound. Oh, and lots of people get bags of free coffee grounds from Starbucks. Apparently coffee grounds are a good thing but not sure exactly what they do.

I've had my house (and naked yard) in Dallas since '98. I've watched as many of the local nurseries and garden centers have gone from non- to 100% organic. Many of them have websites with useful info, like why and when to use alfalfa. If you like, I can come back later and list some websites for you. They may be right here in Big D, but the advice is helpful no matter where you live. And one last thing. If you know of a good local nursery or garden center, don't be shy. Go there and ask questions. You don't have to buy anything. (If they make you feel like you have to buy something then it's the wrong place and just turn around and walk out.) Check to see if there's a local or county branch of Master Gardeners. They love to give advice.

Good luck. I know you'll do just fine.

Hobart, IN

tx flower child - I've been listening to Howard Garrett via podcasts for a couple of years now. I do follow his mosquito trap information (I live next to a wetlands) and pass it along when I can. He does have lots of helpful organic information and I do like his advice on trees, especially the tree flare thing that has finally been catching on. I use mainly leaf mulch although I'm in an oak forest. Chop and drop techniques (a permaculture practice) might help you in building your soil.
Actually, I've been thinking about searching for liquid organic fertilizer (short of making compost tea) for stuff like potted African violets and other indoor potted plants. I normally use seaweed/kelp and fish emulsion but kind of smelly in the house.

Dallas, TX

Cindy, I understand the smelly issue, but you gotta admit it dissipates pretty quickly, or at least it does outdoors. If you're able to, why not give your indoor plants a little trip outside for an hour or two and feed them there? I'm doing that with some epiphyllum hybrids. Yes, it's a pain in the 'somewhere else', but the epis were happy. They've now been outside most of the week but I've got to bring 'em back in as more rain is predicted. (These guys are still rooting and live in 'Dixie' cups. A rain could wash them away.)

I think there must be some liquid organic fertilizers but none come to mind. I know a lot of people like Schultz's stuff but it's definitely not organic. It is easy to apply and maybe that's the attraction. Maybe you could dilute the organic stuff you mentioned? I'm curious now so if I come across something I'll come back and post a link.

Just thought I'd tell y'all a smelly (but true) story. Years ago when I was living in Austin, a circus came to town. And as most do, the circus made a grand entrance with a parade downtown. There are so many organic gardeners in Austin that lots of folks were following the elephants with large pooper scoopers! A friend brought us some elephant poo for our garden and not only was the garden happy, but it turned out to be a magnet for both dogs and cats. They were rolling in it, maybe eating a little, and just having a generally good time. Yeah, I don't know how healthy it was for them, but it was a once in a lifetime thrill.

Hobart, IN

Funny about the dogs and cats.
I was wondering about mixing a little of the dry organic fertilizer with water and using that to feed houseplants.

Dallas, TX

Somehow, Cindy, that doesn't sound like a good idea. Maybe someone else will jump in. I've been swamped trying to get ready for a plant RU (RoundUp, if you're new) with my peeps in the Dallas - Ft. Worth area. It's on Sunday. After that, I can maybe dwell on an organic indoor fertilizer. If you listen to Dirt Doctor live, why not call and ask him?

Hobart, IN

Good luck with your RU.
I don't listen to DD live - just on podcasts when I'm in the car.

Dallas, TX

The RU was good fun. Today I stopped by my favorite local garden center. The people who work there are experienced gardeners, do everything organically, and know their stuff. I happen to catch 2 pf them who were having a confab and asked if they knew of an organic fertilizer for houseplants that wasn't stinky like fish emulsion. They both responded 'liquid seaweed'. They also didn't think that it was a good idea to mix a little dry fertilizer with water. So there you have it.

Hobart, IN

tx flower - Thanks for asking about the liquid fertilizer. I did break down and use the stinky stuff indoors. Seems like if I keep the solution weak enough, it doesn't have a perceptible smell. They also got treated to rain water instead of city water (which I can't do in the winter here).

Dallas, TX

If you try it again, I suggest that, if you don't have a gazillion indoor plants, take them outside (in the shade if possible) for a short excursion. Feed 'em, let 'em drain and sit awhile, and then take them make indoors.
I'm going to what is really a tie for my favorite local garden center either Thursday or Friday. I'll ask them what they think.
But you really can do fine with the seaweed and leave out the fish emulsion. I don't remember everything the Dirt Doc says (BTW, in Dallas area, you either love him or hate him), but maybe you can add a little orange oil or liquid molasses. Should help with smell. I haven't been, but if his Facebook page is like most gardeners' pages, you can post your question there.

Hobart, IN

Most of my indoor plants are foliage plants. I do have a few bloomers like African violets, Rex begonias, streptocarpus and streptocarpella. I wasn't sure if just using seaweed/fish emulsion would encourage flowering. I don't want to stress plants out with outrageous blooming but just want a few flowers.

Dallas, TX

Dunno, Cindy. I think the stuff just makes them healthy by keeping nutrients in the soil. Overtime plants get watered, either by us or Mother Nature, some nutrients will wash out. Plus the plant absorbs some. I'm just guessing here, but if you think they're starting to produce too many blooms, maybe you can start pinching them.

Hobart, IN

Me - pinch flowers??? Don't know if I could bring myself to do that. I just don't want to go with a fertilizer too high in phos but enough to give me a few blooms. I'll do some searching.

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