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Organic Fertilizers

Seeds are available in organic and non-organic varieties.

Organic Vs. Non Organic Seed

Planting a vegetable and fruit garden is a rewarding hobby, producing fresh food straight from your landscape. When starting your garden from seeds, you can choose either organic or non-organic seeds, each with its own advantages.

Organic Seeds

Certified organic seeds labeled as organic must adhere to the National Organic Program standards. In general, organic seeds cannot be treated with synthetic pesticides and fertilizers unless they are permitted by the NOP. Organic seeds are produced by organic fruits and vegetables.

Non-Organic Seeds

Non-organic seeds might be treated with synthetic pesticides or produced from treated plants. Seeds not labeled with the term organic are probably not organically grown. Handle treated seeds with care, washing your hands after touching them. Do not consume them, and keep them out of reach of children.

Advantages

Organic farmers do not use synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and therefore do not pollute streams, rivers and underground water sources as much as non-organic farmers. Non-organic seeds are typically cheaper than organic seeds and are less susceptible to disease and insect damage.

Organic Fertilizer Facts

Identification

Organic fertilizer is a soil amendment made from animal or plant materials. Its primary function is to provide nitrogen to growing plants.

Benefits

Organic fertilizers’ slow-release of nutrients, leads to more efficient use. Proper application can also lead to less fertilizer run-off into local waterways and point pollution of water tables.

Features

Animal manure and plant by-products comprise the bulk of organic fertilizers. Most are composted and dried before use. Application is made in dry or liquid form.

Types

Some prepared organic fertilizers are applied before seeding and some during plant growth. “Green manure” consists of cover crops or weeds repeatedly plowed under. This practice, called stale seedbed cultivation, provides nitrogen and controls the growth of weeds.

Significance

Organic nutrients are part of the practice of sustainable agriculture, the objective of which is to grow crops without the need for chemical controls. Inter-planting and use of disease-resistant and native varieties are companion strategies.

Misconceptions

Not all organic fertilizers are completely natural; many contain synthetic or chemical ingredients approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Use of organic fertilizers must be designed to meet the needs of a specific soil; soil tests are recommended before use.

Adding Organic Fertilizer to Garden

How to Mix Organic Soil

Clean the wheelbarrow thoroughly of any foreign debris that may contaminate the organic soil mix. Allow the interior of the wheelbarrow to completely dry in a sunny area.

Add approximately five shovel fulls of compost to the wheelbarrow.

Add two shovel fulls of the sphagnum moss to the compost.

Mix in 2 cups of blood meal and 2 cups of bone meal.

Use the garden hoe and thoroughly mix the dry ingredients.

Add water from the garden hose to the top of the mixture, and combine everything until it is moist. Allow the ingredients to set for up to a week so the ammonia gas created by the blood meal (or other nitrogen component) can dissipate.

Store the organic mixture in a sealed storage container. Excess moisture should be kept from the organic soil mix so the nutrients do not leach from the soil.

How to Prepare Soil for an Organic Garden

Till the natural dirt so that it is softened to at least 2 feet below the surface, using a spade for smaller, easy-to-work spaces or a rototiller for larger areas or new beds. For hard soils, consider watering the area the night before and tilling in the early morning when the ground is most pliable.

Add equal parts commercially prepared garden soil and sand on top of the natural dirt. This combination encourages healthy drainage and prevents root rot.

Add a one-half-inch sprinkling of organic matter such as dried leaves and grass clippings and till the soil well to mix the ingredients together.

Test the soil to determine its pH (acidity level) and any missing nutrients. Follow the instructions in the test kit to ensure accurate results. In general, vegetables thrive in a neutral pH, citrus plants prefer an acidic soil, and nut trees and berries thrive in a more basic soil.

Contact a nursery to determine the appropriate pH and nutrient levels for what you will be planting and the necessary organic ingredients for soil supplementation. Ingredients may include coffee to adjust the pH, fish fertilizer to add minerals such as zinc, or molasses to supplement the soil with iron.

What Is Decaying Organic Matter in Soil?

Compost is rich in decaying organic matter.

Features

The tissues of living organisms are rich in important nutrients. Your body, for example, contains lots of sugars, proteins, nucleic acids and lipids (fats) that bacteria and fungi can use for their nutrition. Once an organism dies, the defenses it maintained against microorganisms while alive cease to function, so fungi and bacteria start to digest the organism's remains. Wastes like feces also contain a variety of nutrients that decomposers can use.

Function

As fungi and bacteria break up the remains and wastes of other organisms before they too die in their turn, they recycle important nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus back into the soil. This process of decay enriches the soil so it can sustain more plant life.

Considerations

In chemistry, the word organic refers to carbon compounds. Since all life is composed of carbon compounds, the chemistry of life is in essence organic chemistry, and organic matter is material that came from a once-living organism. The term organic originated with the 18th-century belief called vitalism, which held that processes in living organisms were fundamentally different from other chemical reactions. This belief has long since been discredited, but the term organic is used up to this day.

Organic Lawn Treatment

Cost

Organic lawn treatments carry a slightly greater expense than their chemical counterpart.

Advantages

Organic lawn treatments can effectively treat lawns without the use of synthetic chemicals, which are harsh on the environment.

How it Works

Organic lawn treatments add necessary nutrients to the soil and also improve the soil’s organic content, which is important to help retain moisture and to develop a healthy root system.

Application

Like any chemical lawn treatment, organic lawn treatments are applied either as a spray or granular form.

Uses

Organic lawn treatments are available to effectively fertilize lawns or to address common pest problems.

When to Add Organic Fertilizer

Making Organic Compost

How to Build Organic Soil

Organic Vegetable Growing Requirements

Soil

According to the Department of Agriculture, in order for plants to be considered certified organic, the soil cannot be treated with any prohibited substances for three years prior to the first harvest. Prohibited materials include synthetic or chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and sewage sludge. Instead, plants must be grown with natural fertilizers such as ground fish, kelp, coffee, molasses, natural bone meal, and organic composts.

Seeds

Organic plants cannot be genetically engineered organisms (GMO's). This restriction is placed due to GMO's inability to reproduce, thus rendering itself an unsustainable resource. Instead, organic seeds must be naturally produced from organic plants through pollination. Farmers desiring to create a self-sustaining farm can rent bees during the flower season to optimize natural pollination.

Pest Control

Pesticide residues exceeding 5 percent of the EPA's tolerance are prohibited on certified organic vegetables. Instead, natural pest control methods must be utilized. Natural pesticides such as certain soaps and herbal extracts can be applied directly to plants. In addition, pest repelling plants such as certain herbs can be planted alongside crops to naturally keep the bugs at bay.

What Are the Benefits of Organic Seeds?

Organic seeds are free of synthetic chemicals like pesticides making them healthier for humans and better for the environment.

Organic Compost Soil Aeration