In general, it’s a good idea to spray less fertilizer, more often, rather than just dumping it all on at once in the spring.
So I come through my garden at least once a month with some form of liquid application, generally combining a few ingredients at once.
When I’m around and have the time, I’ll even cut the application rate by 75% and spray weekly instead – especially useful during the spring when fertilizing often brings the most benefit.
Here’s what I use:
Most organic gardeners focus on organic fertilizers (let’s call that the chemistry of the soil), but just as important is the life in your garden (the biology).
Microbial inoculants bring in that biology, the beneficial microorganisms that are often deficient for various reasons. We need them back in there to feed our plants and bring them water and protect them from predators and so on.
Here’s how I do it:
- SCD Probiotics or EM. Definitely my favorite microbial inoculant. I use it monthly along with molasses, liquid seaweed and either sea minerals or liquid fish.
- Mycorrhizal fungi. Perhaps the most important soil microorganisms in the world. I always use this inoculant during planting, plus I’ll apply it one time into an established garden if it wasn’t done during the original planting of that garden.
- Compost tea. Excellent for boosting microbial diversity. I use it once each in spring, summer and fall with dextrose (glucose), EM, liquid seaweed and either sea minerals or liquid fish.
And then of course comes a bit of high quality compost in spring and/or fall – just a dusting of 1/8 inch or less is all you need unless you’re building a new garden bed on poor soil and then it can make sense to bring in an inch or more.
Liquid Organic Fertilizers
While we’re bringing the biology back into the garden, we want to make sure our plants have access to the chemistry – the minerals and vitamins and other building blocks.
And we want to go beyond just nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to give them all of the dozens of minerals they need. Here’s how I do it:
- Liquid seaweed fertilizer. An organic gardening standard that’s especially known for boosting plant health. I use it monthly with EM or compost tea.
- Sea minerals fertilizer. My favorite organic fertilizer, providing broad spectrum nutrition. I use it every other month with EM or compost tea, rotated with the liquid fish below.
- Liquid fish fertilizer. Another excellent organic fertilizer, a great source of nitrogen and phosphorus and whole proteins. I use it every other month with EM or compost tea, rotated with the sea minerals above.
- Molasses or dextrose. Both of these feed microorganisms. Molasses is especially used along with EM, while dextrose is used with fertilizers to help them penetrate into the leaf. I always use at least one of them in with my monthly sprays.
I also offer the most important dry organic mineral fertilizers to help you boost your soil’s fertility.
While liquid fertilizers are great for feeding both soil and plants with nutrients that can really help in the short term, dry mineral organic fertilizers are used for boosting long term soil nutrition.
Here are a couple of important notes:
- Rock dust and calcium carbonate are the two that can be used by everyone, without a soil test, regardless of your soil type.
- For the most part, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and specific micronutrients are only used based on a soil test, so I’m really just making them available down the page here for people who’ve had that done, especially my gardening students.
- If you can find these dry fertilizers in your local area, you’ll probably get a better deal because the shipping is what makes them a little more expensive online. But the big difficulty for most people is finding them in their local area at all, so that’s why I’m offering them here and I’m actually able to do so at fairly good prices.
So Which Is Right For You?
Well that depends on your goals.
To keep things simple, I’m going to create 3 categories – beginner, intermediate, advanced – to give you some tips on what to buy, whether from me or your local garden center.
I’ll also suggest how much you need per 1000 square feet (100 square meters) of garden space.
For those of you who aren’t the best with measurements, here are some sizes to relate to:
- Take 10-12 big steps, do a 90 degree turn. Do that 3 more times and you’ve just outlined a square of 1000 square feet.
- An average 2 car garage is 300-400 square feet.
- Any of the big face-off circles on an NHL hockey rink are 700 square feet.
- One half of a professional indoor volleyball court is 900 square feet.
- 8 average (8 feet by 16 feet) U.S. parking spaces in a row is 1000 square feet.
- Half of an NBA basketball court is 2350 square feet.
- 1/8th of an acre is about 5500 square feet.
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