I read both of Steve Solomon's book this past winter (awesome!). And he includes a recipe for homemade organic fertilizer that I am excited to try. 'Cause heaven knows, buying organic fertilizer is costly.
Do you make your own? Recipes?
First post! Home made organic fertilizer
I read both of Steve Solomon's book this past winter (awesome!). And he includes a recipe for homemade organic fertilizer that I am excited to try. 'Cause heaven knows, buying organic fertilizer is costly.
I never have... I use what I can find... mostly corn gluten and hasta grow
I use what I have available, and that is compost made from all the Horse Chestnut leaves and grass cuttings. I mulch the flower beds with it and they all love the natural food, moisture retaining and weed suppressing qualities.
I think that if the plants roots have a good growing medium then they will make stronger roots which can then better feed the plant. Compost also encourages micro-organisms and plants benefit from the fungi and microbial elements which work together to combat disease, making the plant grow more healthily.
This then eliminates the need for the fertilisers and disease combatting chemicals which can be likened to a human taking lots of medicines, each one causing yet another problem which then requires another dose of what is not good for the system........and so on the sorry tale goes........
Poison the earth, poison the bugs, poison the birds.........much better to feed the earth, feed the bugs feed the birds!
I found a pdf which tells the story,
Very interesting article Wallaby1.
Yes I do make my own compost, have been making it for 35 years, also brew my own compost tea very economically, working with Nature is a wonderful endeavor.
renwings, would love to see the recipe for homemade organic fertilizer. Could you post it?
Solomon's book was fascinating.
When I say "fertilizer", I'm not referring to compost. I have realized now, that compost is a really great way to condition, replenish soil I do agree! But it doesn't provide your FOOD crops with an adequate balance of nutrients, that in turn provide you with an adequate balance of nutrition.
Chemical fertilizers are detrimental to plants because the N-P-K is highly refined and absorbed into the plant at a rate it can't possibly do anything good with. Causing a burst of growth, then it holds and stores these chemicals (they are usually soluble salts) resulting in less healthy and less productive plants.
Complete Organic Fertilizer - a la Steve Solomon
4 parts of any type of seed meal, excluding copra meal
3 parts of any seed meal plus 1 part blood and bone, meat meal or my preference, blood meal you can try feather meal too
1/4 part agricultural lime (unless you have alkaline soil, my soil is quite acidic, proper pH is important to nutrient absorption)
1/4 gypsum (or double the agricultural lime)
1/2 part dolomite lime
1 part phosphorus source - finely ground hard or soft rock phosphate, bone meal, guano
1/2 to 1 part kelp meal or 1 part basalt dust
This is only cost effective if you eat almost exclusively out of your garden during the growing season. If you buy large sacks of these ingredients from farm supply stores, you get a better deal. I can get 50 lbs. of seed meal for $20 or 20 lbs. of blood meal for the same price.
Good recipes, and information in "The Complete Natural Gardener", Donald W. Trotter, PhD. Hay House, Inc. ISBN 1-56170-716-3
"General-purpose long-lasting vegetable food:
1 Part feather meal
2 parts fish meal
1 part alfalfa meal
1 part cottonseed meal
2 parts bone meal
1 part Sul-Po-Mag
2 parts fossilized kelp (Kelzyme)
This mix is a good one to use for any general vegetable gardening project and feeds your plants for the entire growing season with no trouble. I also use this mix to feed landscape plants and other general garden plants and trees. This is one of those plant foods that I mix up in big batches, so I have some around and handy all year long. I apply this food at varying rates, ranging from 10 to 20 cups per 100 square feet of garden space." P. 90-91
You mean compost isn't enough? That's pretty much all I've gardened with. One of the bigger organic growers down the road doesn't even irrigate. He says rainwater brings down all the nutrients plants need.
I think it depends to a good extent what your soil is like, some have very fertile soils that will grow anything whatever and forever.
I have been using some granular fertilisers for the few vegetables I grow, but last year I didn't want to buy any more so started down the route of trying without. Of course there will be some nutrients left in the soil, but mine is sany and acid so it leaches quickly. The spot I grow carrots etc on is fairly good soil, and I know rotation should be practised, but the area I use for potatoes is in a lot more shade, I get some shade everywhere. I spread a mixture of leafy compost and fire ash from a bonfire on top of the ground before sowing, I think it had a good effect so I will continue to try to get enough bonfire ash, burn some woody rubbish instead of putting it in the recycle bin, last year I put all the grass sods dug from new beds on bonfires. Not everyone can have bonfires though, if in the country that is easier.
For the potato patch I dug out old grass and old tree roots starting in 1998, it has been topped with some soil/rotted leaves dug from the drains, and I always put compost in the bottom of the trench when putting in potatoes. I also throw fire ashes on it and rake over the top, some wood ash but mostly coal ash, I don't know if it is any different but it is an advanced stage of wood after all. The Amazonians improved useless sandy soils with charcoal, which provides nutrients and holds moisture. In one year where I had a lot of lumps from ash in the soil, and it was a very dry summer, I did notice the potatoes growing in that spot did well and the soil held water. I also now don't dig the soil in spring before planting potatoes, it gets dug when they are dug up, I think this helps hold water.
The texture of the soil has gone from black, sour, lumpy and poor to having a good texture and improved fertility although I have used general purpose fertiliser 7-7-7. Potatoes do need higher potash for tuber growth, now I am hoping to do without added fertiliser, I don't think it is good for anyone but somtimes for a start can help. I have noticed when digging to put in the next year's seed potatoes there is often some granular fertiliser still there undissolved, we have had little rain in the last two years but I would have thought in winter it would have disintegrated when a little wetter.
Diseases are suppsed to be held at bay by rotation, in the years I have been growing potatoes in the one bed I have had none other than late blight which is brought in by rains, it came from year one and I always get it at some time. I don't try to spray for it, instead I grow varieties which mature earlier before the tops die back. Even the so called blight resistant varieties now are not so resistant, could this be the result of over-use of chemicals and the strengthening of viruses as is the case with many viruses. If others are continuing to use chemicals while some try to manage without it can be a losing battle, if all follow an organic route the battle may be swung.
summerkid rainwater does bring down nitrogen, which the plants turn into proteins. Have you noticed how you can water until the cows come home, but plants never really grow well until it rains?
I searched and found some good links
Wood ashes are wonderfull for plants but do raise the soil ph 2/3 as much as lime. So if soil is acid to begin with you have a winner on all counts. Wood ashes have an average nutritional rating of 0-2-7 , 10-30% calcium, 3-6% Magnesium, .02% Iron and a rich scource of trace minerals. Be careful around growing plants as it can burn. I started heating with a woodburning stove last winter and applied my wood ashes to my beds in the spring on my slightly acidic soil and noticed a BIG difference, especially in bulbs. It would be well worth considering the idea of wood heat if it is economical in your area or searching out folks who have fireplaces and asking for their ashes. Folks who don't garden just throw them away. I now consider the value of the wood ashes as a major benefit of my woodburning stove, one I hadbn't really considered when I bought it. I have also heard the ashes deter some insects, anyone know anything about this? This year I think I am going to mix them with other ingredients as you described and create a more balanced natural fertilizer, thanks for the recipees, I'm going to check whats available at my feedstore.
Balvenie, thanks for the tip on Trotto7ers book just ordered it from Amazon. Renwings, I have Solomons book "Gardening when it counts", good book. Have you read his composting book? Here is review.
Great explanation of composting., October 4, 1997
Reviewer: A reader
Steve Solomon's "Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades" is a truly wonderful book and a must for anyone gardening west of the Cascades. "Composting" is a very good book, but is variable. It feels as if Solomon is getting a little crotchety as he ages, and the book would have profited from an editor with a strong pen since the writing style occasionally gets annoying.
Solomon's explanation of Carbon Nitrogen ratios is excellent. I now understand better why my compost does what it does at different speeds different times of the year. He is realistic about the benefits of compost and does not uncritically accept the Rodale "Organic" party line. However, I think he goes too far in rejecting it. Solomon has clearly seen many people overcompost and damage their soil's ecology. Yes, too much of anything can be bad and one can increase humus content irrationally, but I think he is too negative. Most of the gardens I see have been neglected and one really can "build the soil" to improve fertility, moisture retention, etc. I would prefer the message to be "It takes time. Don't try build your soil too fast. Do soil tests regularly." not "only try replace the humus you take out". He ends one section with "I conclude that organic matter is somewhat dangerous stuff whose use should be limited...". On this I disagree strongly. In my experience it is a rare case when someone overcomposts. However, I must strongly agree with Solomon on the advantages of using soil testing and using a good organic fertilizer mixture in addition to applying compost on your garden. He gives his famous recipe for complete organic fertilizer (I originally saw it in "Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades") and I can vouch for its efficacy.
Solomon raves about poor nutrient value of vegetables caused by over composting. I only partially buy his nutrition arguments. Yes, poor soil can grow veggies with poor nutrition. But the argument does not follow not to build your soil. If veggies grow well and taste great, I trust that measure of nutrition. On the nutrition arguments he is doing what he accuses other of, making an assertion and providing no evidence to back it up.
If you are interesting on composting the book is well worth reading. In fact, it is probably more fun because of the flaws I have just complained about
Does he really complain about overcomposting? I cant imagine anyone with any size garden could really overcompost. I would definately say there is more danger of undercomposting than overcomposting. Read "Farmers Of Rorty Centuries" and see how the Chinese supported millions millions of people on little acreage using composted everything, imcluding human manure. Can't understand where he could be coming from on this issue. Guess I'm gonna have to buy the book! LOL
Spot, I haven't read Solomon's West of the Cascades book, but think I might have to get it. Thanks for the reference.
Wood is available by some locally who cut and sell it but it's not cheap, neither is coal but wood burns fairly quickly. I think they are trying to sell to people who have moved into the area and have money! We get what we can if it's going for free but that is used at the end of the cold weather when a small fire on chilly nights is needed.
I would think ash isn't a good environment for insects, they seem to live in loose leafy matter. I wonder if it deters carrot root fly, I didn't have much damage last year, although one variety I grew was a resistant one I did grow another variety and had very little root fly damage. I did spread ash on the carrot bed.
On the subject of too much compost, if you read how bacteria works in relation to plant roots, how the plant is helped to take up nutrients, and the environment bacteria lives in, yes I would say you can compost too much. Too much vegetable matter makes too much Ammonia, and it has to be a balanced relationship.
The wikipedia has some good explanations,
Earth's atmosphere is about 78% nitrogen, making it the largest pool of nitrogen. Nitrogen is essential for many biological processes; it is in all amino acids, is incorporated into proteins, and is present in the bases that make up nucleic acids, such as DNA and RNA. In plants, much of the nitrogen is used in chlorophyll molecules which are essential for photosynthesis and further growth (Smil, 2000).
Processing, or fixation, is necessary to convert gaseous nitrogen into forms usable by living organisms. Some fixation occurs in lightning strikes, but most fixation is done by free-living or symbiotic bacteria. These bacteria have the nitrogenase enzyme that combines gaseous nitrogen with hydrogen to produce ammonia, which is then further converted by the bacteria to make its own organic compounds. Some nitrogen fixing bacteria, such as Rhizobium, live in the root nodules of legumes (such as peas or beans). Here they form a mutualistic relationship with the plant, producing ammonia in exchange for carbohydrates. Nutrient-poor soils can be planted with legumes to enrich them with nitrogen. A few other plants can form such symbioses.
Other plants get nitrogen from the soil by absorption at their roots in the form of either nitrate ions or ammonium ions. All nitrogen obtained by animals can be traced back to the eating of plants at some stage of the food chain."
The next sections on Ammonia and other things should be read too
Bingo on the wood ashes deterinhg the carrot rootfly Wallaby! I thought I had read something about this before so I googled carrot rootfly wood ashes. Here is what I found.
Compost and wood ashes will also scare off not only carrot flies but carrot weevils, wireworms, and other carrot pests. Probably the best organic way to get rid of pests is to soak the bed once a week with a thin mixture of wood ashes and water using a watering can.
I understand about the whole nutrition, soil, compost thing. My point is though that most people would have a hard time producing enough compost to get the point where there is too much. It is far more likely that the average garden is lacking in humus, not oversupplied. Though I suppose that it would be possible for an overzealous gardener with acces to a large supply of compostables and too much time on their hands and not enough garden to go overboard. On the subject of the nitrogen, good compost involves nitrogen AND carbon sources in correct proportion for proper function. It is interesting to note also that bacteria are not the only microbe out there in our gardens feeding the plants. Fungi play a major part in breaking dowm carbon materials. So I can see someone making poor unbalanced compost, not good for plants, but an overabundance of GOOD compost in the soil would seem pretty hard to acheive. The best book I have found on what really goes on in the soil is "Teaming With Microbes". Fantastic book that gives a lot of good solid scientific knowledge in a language the average person can understand. But I have got to get Solomons compost book to see exactly what he is talking about.
Isn't it great when we get to exchange and find out things by accident! I haven't heard of carrot weevils.
I think that's true too, we are mostly struggling to get together enough compost to supply our demands. The type of soil, and type of compost should really be considered, I suppose a poor compost may put demands on other elements, where vital resources are robbed to satisfy the demands of the compost. I can only give an example of plants which prefer an acidic compost as oppsoed to a neutral one, Rhododendrons like to be acidic and are best with pine needles or oak leaves for compost. Composted leaves from deciduous trees will reduce acidity so should not be applied too often, I have used them around mine once but I also have acid soil, and Leylandii hedge clippings I shove under the hedge behind them. There is usually leaves on the ground over winter also, some oak leaves which are blown from a nearby tree, and worms compost many of those. The Rhodos were fairly poor until I composted them and left the ground undisturbed, this will also be where the effects of mycrorrhizal fungi which grows well in leaf compost have their uses.
i wonder about the cottonseed meal because pesticides used in cotton production?
Me, too. Cotton and tobacco use enough pesticides in growing to choke us all!
I imagine inTX you would get high temperatures too frostweed. Plants that are grown organically are much more able to withstand harsh conditions, your lush garden is proof of that.
I bet you have visiting birds too, and other beneficial wildlife, which rid you of the pests.
I see a lot about alfalfa being used, which should be good and it appears to be easily obtainable in the US. There doesn't seem to be an equivalent here and I don't see the offerings of re-usable byproducts.
We do have a council operated recycling system where we have 3 bins, one for normal rubbish, one for paper, plastic and glass and one for vegetable matter and garden rubbish. The councils compost that and I imagine it is available somewhere, they probalby use it for their own garden schemes and sell some to nurseries.
I googled and found some of the answers, all about wormeries too.
I see some councils are selling the compost back to the residents, bring their own bags, pay their £2 and fill it up themselves. A good idea! I like self help. Some smaller places have a community compost where people take their garden waste.
wallaby, if you have any horse farms/riding stables nearby that would be a great place to check for alfalfa; pelleted horse feed is normally 100% alfalfa.
Darius and pamsue, you're right about cotton being heavily "pesticided" (new word?). However, Hoffman makes an "all natural organic" cottonseed meal and is the only company I've seen that offers it.
Shoe, there is a riding stables less than a mile away! So horse feed is used? I wonder how it would do on vegetables.
I found a long list of horse food suppliers, one mentioned alfalfa in the link. I have a neighbour who has two horses, she rents space for them nearby, she also lectures equine husbandry at a nearby college!
Yes, we do have birds, squirrels, opossum, raccoons and assorted lizards that come to visit.
Our yard is a certified habitat through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Urban program. Our plants are mainly Texas native plants which is required in order to be certified, we also provide water and food for the wildlife.
Here are some of the plants last Fall.
Spectacular! It's amazing how much wildlife comes to an organic garden, I have noticed a marked increase in many birds, frogs, toads, butterflies and moths which I had very few of when I first moved to this house 9 years ago. There is even a regular Hummingbird moth which I think breeds here, it can only get better.
Beautiful, frostweed! Garden on! :>)
Wallaby, yes, horse pellets are usually straight alfalfa. I buy it by the bag and just broadcast the pellets in the garden, sometimes tilling it under, sometimes letting it break down on top of the soil. It is also great for adding to compost piles as it will help heat the pile up as well as adding its nitrogen.
For making a plant food/fertilizer I've even powdered the pellets in a blender, then added bone meal, rock phosphate and/or wood ashes and use it by the spoonful on individual plants when setting them out or when side-dressing them.
I bet your neighbor will give/sell you a bag of pellets; bet she might also let you have some of her horse's manure, too! Couldn't hurt to ask, eh?
Thank you Wallaby1 and Horseshoe, I adore my Texas native plants and Wildflowers!!!
Gorgeous Frostweed, just gorgeous. I used to think my yard looked good but you and bonitin have givin me much higher aspirations! You mentioned aereated compost tea, I have been reading about this. Did you purchase a commercial brewer or make your own? What are your thoughts on it compared to conventional compost tea? The principle seems sound, considering it myself, would like to hear your thoughts.
Thank you Spot8907. I have this article I wrote, I hope it is not too long for the thread. This is how we do it.
Making Aerated Compost Tea at Home the Economical Way. By Josephine Keeney.
Compost tea delivers concentrated benefits to your plants and soil faster than any other fertilizing method.
Aerated compost tea benefits plants and soil by replenishing beneficial microorganisms that may have been destroyed by chemicals and harmful bacteria.
Compost tea starts to degrade as soon as the aerobic process is stopped. By making it yourself, you can use it immediately to obtain the greatest benefit.
Fixed Cost of equipment.
$00.00 1 five gallon bucket which we already had
$13.00 1 ten gallon aquarium pump with three hoses and stones
$01.50 1 yard of fine tulle netting
$14.50 Total fixed cost.
The tulle netting was 50 inches wide and I made 2 bags from one yard. The bags can be reused many times so that is pretty economical. Cheese cloth is usually recommended but we found that but it is more expensive and very flimsy.
Variable cost for each batch.
$.45 1 quart bottle of liquid molasses $3.50 dived by 8
$.20 Cost of electricity to run the pump
$.00 Compost from our bin
$.65 Total variable cost of each batch of 5 gallons.
$4.95 per I gallon of compost tea at the nursery.
$24.10 savings per each 5 gallon batch by making it at home.
Fill the bucket with water from the faucet, install the pump and let it run overnight to clear out the chlorine.
Put 12 cups of compost in the tulle bag and insert one of the three pump hoses in the bag to keep the compost churning. Tie the bag with a twist tie.
Add 1/2 cup of molasses to the bucket and stir to mix, put bag and pump with the other two hoses outside the bag into the bucket and let it work. Stir two or three times a day.
After three days the tea should be very foamy and smell yeasty, but not bad.
Remove the bag and the pump hoses and let it drain into the bucket.
No need to strain the tea, the compost in the bag can be used as a mulch in the garden, worked into the soil, or put back in the compost pile.
You now have 5 gallons of wonderful compost tea that should be used as soon as possible to take advantage of the live microbes.
It can be used full strength to spray your plants, or you can dilute it with water, but be sure to let the water air out beforehand to remove the chlorine.
You can also water your plants with it to give them a boost, especially potted plants that get leached of nutrients by frequent watering.
Compost tea is not harmful to people or pets.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COMPOST AND COMPOST TEA?
Compost, in simple terms, is a mixture consisting of decayed organic matter and microbial colonies, in a well-balanced ratio of carbon and nitrogen. Compost tea, on the other hand, is a liquid extraction of beneficial microorganisms and soluble nutrients from the compost that is reproduced during the brewing process.
Many organisms grow in compost tea, resulting in higher numbers of organisms in tea than in compost. The brewing process increases microbial activity in less time than compost. Compost tea is necessary for coverage of plant surface to block harmful organisms access to leaves. Compost tea can be applied to leaves, twigs, bark and soil, whereas compost can only be applied to the soil.
Both are very important tools to use. Happy Composting and Happy Brewing.
Frostweed, thank you for your excellent description. I would like to add one more money saving and recycling idea. Instead of the tulle bags you are using, try used pantyhose. I have used it for regular compost tea with success. If you don't use pantyhose yourself try posting a wanted add on freecycle or ask a lady friend who works in an office to save them for you. Women working in offices typically have a good supply. If you use the leg that has a run in it you can double it over to cover the hole or strain your compost tea before attempting to put it through a sprayer. Used pantyhose also have lots of other uses one of the best of which is plant ties so you could save da,aged legs for other uses.
I take it you are a believer in the aireated brewing method? I have read some about this and am ready to give it a try. What I have read is very incouraging. The aireated tea has a high concentration of good aerobic bacteria. Anerobic bacteria is what gives regular compost tea its bad odor. The good bacteria when sprayed on plants colonizes the surface area, this keeps bad diseas organisms from getting in, there is no room at the inn so to speak. Apparently most diseases are quite effectively controlled in this manner and there is even commorcial lawn care companies using brewed compost tea for this purpose as well as the fertilizer benefits. Obviously it is working well for you, your gardens are beautifull, looks like I'm going to see if I can find a fishtank airpump on freecycle, I think I will take as many as I can find!
Spot8907, thank you for your response, the pantyhose idea is good, but I find it hard to get the compost in them, the bag is nice and wide, and it lasts a long time. I do use the pantyhose for ties, it works great.
The pumps on freecycle!! now why didn't I think of that!!! Great idea!!!
Try cutting the bottom out of a nursery pot, sand down any rough edges and put it in the pantyhose to hold it open for filling. Or better yet if you have an old wide peice of pvc pipe or some such thing, would work too. Just watck for any sharp edges that would snag your pantyhose. Gonna look for that book you mentioned. It is a book correct?
The best info I have found on the subject of aerated compost tea is the book "Teaming With Microbes". Ecxellent book that I highly recomend to every gardener. It explains so much about what goes on in your soil in and understandable way and tells you how to "team up" with the microbes to help them perform their magic.
I forgot to mention sometime back when wood ashes came up that I found another excellent use for them.
One year I planted strawberries and they were beautiful but, the sow bugs or (rolly polys as some people call them) were eating them as they began to ripen, and I couldn't get any perfect ones.
Well, I scattered wood ashes on both sides of the rows and no more chewed fruit, they don't like to walk across the ashes, I guess it harms them in some way.
The title on my post was the title of my article not a book, but i will look for the book you mentioned;
Teaming With Microbes it sounds like a great book to have.
I have heard of a good fertilizer from a company called TerraCycle. They use worm castings. Can be found at Wal*Mart.
This message was edited Mar 4, 2007 4:42 PM
Further out on that limb is a book called The Secret Life of Plants which introduces one to a whole host of ideas.
"i wonder about the cottonseed meal because pesticides used in cotton production?"
You have a good question, and the answer is that the pesticides are oil-soluble, and so they generally go with the cottonseed oil that is pressed out, leaving almost no residues in the cottonseed meal. However, if you eat foods with cottonseed oil, you might want to think twice.
I also use Steve Solomon's organic fertilizer formula (soybean meal is the cheapest locally), and have had fantastic results with it.
Don't send me mail over this post as it may contain information you don't want to read or know anything about. I myself, found it interesting and as I continued to read, I learned an awful lot about organisims, micro-organisims, michrohusbandry, and Thermophilic composting.
I didn't see this above and if I missed it, please excuse the post.
I receive different News Letters like, The Farmers Alminac, Organic Gardening, etc. One of those places, I think it was "The New Farm News Letter" has something on this topic. Here is the link to follow: http://weblife.org/humanure/
This message was edited Mar 19, 2007 3:58 PM