Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

Alternatives to Chemical Fertilizers

By Katie Jensen ; Updated September 21, 2017
Cows provide manure, which is a good fertilizer.
Dutch cows image by Robert Soen from Fotolia.com

What you put on your garden to help it grow may end up in your food. That's why many people avoid chemical fertilizers and prefer organic alternatives. Fertilizers provide nitrogen, phosphorous and potash as well as trace minerals like zinc and copper. Apply these organic alternatives when the plants are actively growing. Avoid feeding plants right before the first frost in the fall as it wastes the plants' energy.


Set up a compost heap in an unused corner of the yard. Use kitchen scraps such as vegetable and fruit peelings and eggshells. Lawn and garden trimmings, dead leaves and shredded paper also work. An effective ratio is 1/3 kitchen refuse, 1/3 green garden trimmings and 1/3 brown matter such as dead leaves and paper. Water the compost pile to start the decomposition process. In two or three months, the compost will be a rich crumbly brown with an earthy smell. Don't use dairy products, cooked food or meats in the compost heap. These attract rats, dogs and cats.


Make a natural plant food by using water mixed with a variety of ingredients. Rabbit pellet food is compressed alfalfa, which is high in nitrogen. Mix a pound of the pellets in 5 gallons of water. Stir every day. Let it mature for a week. Use it to water plants. Green and black tea diluted to one-half strength boosts plants' vitality.


Animal waste products from herbivores and birds add lots of nutrients and nitrogen to the soil. Aged manure won't burn the plants. Don't use waste products from carnivores such as dogs or cats. Manure that has been heat-treated is available bagged at home improvement stores. It doesn't look like fresh manure, but it does have a distinctive odor. The smell dissipates after a few days. Spread around plants and dig into the soil.

Fish Emulsion

It's smelly, looks bad and has to be mixed in a watering can or bucket. Fish emulsion is the leftovers from the production of fish oil and fish meal. Fish meal is used in pet foods. Plants do really well when fish emulsion is used as a natural fertilizer because it's high in nitrogen. Try not to let the emulsion splash on the plant leaves or on you. Rinse out the can or bucket to get rid of the smell.


About the Author


Katie Jensen's first book was published in 2000. Since then she has written additional books as well as screenplays, website content and e-books. Rosehill holds a Master of Business Administration from Arizona State University. Her articles specialize in business and personal finance. Her passion includes cooking, eating and writing about food.