Groundwork

Employ only organic controls in a “productive” landscape to maintain nutrition levels, soil health, and non-toxic conditions.

  • Site crops to gain a full measure of necessary sun for maximum flavor, efficient growth and production.
  • Cultivating edible crops removes a tremendous amount of organic matter from the garden necessitating regular replacement and boosting soil nutrients.  Build soil with compost, manures and slow release organic fertilizer for good tilth and water retention.
  • Adequate watering and irrigation is necessary to maximize flavor and avoid bitterness in many crops.
  • Plan and plant to avoid waste.

A brief guide to organic amendments

  • Alfalfa pellets or meal – Alfalfa is a legume crop closely related to clover.  Legumes are excellent in “fixing” atmospheric nitrogen in nodules along their roots which in turn is available for plant growth. NOTE:  don’t confuse pure alfalfa pellets with rabbit food which has added salts that could be harmful to your plants.
  • Blood meal – Just like it sounds – a by-product of the slaughter house industry.  Blood, dried and ground is an excellent source of water soluble nitrogen which is quickly available to plants.  Care must be used around some plants which might put on too much foliar growth at the expense of fruit, (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant etc.)  Makes a great side-dressing for quick-growing lettuces, greens and corn.  It will attract dogs and some wild critters and is best dug into the soil.
  • Cottonseed meal – A valuable source of nitrogen, phosphorous and potash.  Often chosen as a vegetarian form of readily available nitrogen.  Because of its acidity, this is a good fertilizer for acid loving plants such as blueberries, camellias, and rhododendron.
  • Feather meal – Feathers are pressure cooled, dried and then ground to make a product that is high in nitrogen, but in an insoluble form.  This make feather meal a valuable amendment for all plants requiring steady, long lasting supply of nitrogen as well as for use in the early spring when rainy weather will quickly wash away and water soluble nitrogen.
  • Fish meal – A very high quality fertilizer with a high nitrogen and phosphoric analyses.  Use like the blood meal being careful to not over-feed plants which would be harmed by too much leafy growth.
  • Greensand – Originating as an undersea deposit, greensand contains traces of many, if not all the elements which occur in seawater and is a fine source of potash.  Greensand is also used to improve soil structure, breaking up heavy clay and introducing air spaces.
  • Guano – Droppings of either seabirds or bats collected from caves or in regions without rainfall.  Because of the lack of leaching action guano is a rich source of nitrogen and phosphorus.
  • Kelp or Seaweed – The use of kelp as a fertilizer dates back many centuries.  Kelp is primarily used for its high potash content, as well as a source for many trace elements.  Additionally kelp has many anti-fungal and growth promoting properties that contribute to the general health of the plant – a tonic.
  • Oyster shell flour – Oyster shells are an excellent source of calcium (ranging from 35-55%.)  Ground oyster shells can be added to the compost heap to insure an adequate calcium supply or they may be mixed in sparing amounts with other organic materials for direct application to the soil.  The shells also contain lesser amounts of aluminum, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphate, silica, zinc, chlorine, fluorine and nitrogen.
  • Rock phosphate – This is a naturally occurring mined mineral providing 20-60% phosphorus. These minerals are ground very fine, yet they remain insoluble in water; it takes carbon dioxide and organic acids produced by the plant roots to make the mineral available to plants.  Thus there is no leaching; unutilized rock phosphate remains unchanged in the soil until roots develop in its vicinity.  If the rock phosphate is incorporated with compost, manure or green manure, where the microbial activity is very high, the phosphorous will be more readily available.
  • Steamed bone meal – Another by-product from the slaughter house, bone meal is an excellent source of phosphorous and nitrogen.  Because of its lime content it will also reduce sol acidity.  Bone meal with predictably attract dogs and should be dug into the soil.