Ripe Red Tomatoes
Organic Garden Fertilizers
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The case for using organic fertilizers in the garden as opposed to commercially available synthetic fertilizers lies in how they affect the natural environment. Plants themselves don't actually have a preference.

Organic fertilizers release nutrients slowly over a period of time. They are not immediately available to the plants because it takes time for the bacteria in the soil to break the organic fertilizer down into a form that is available for the plants to use. The advantage of this is that while the bacteria are breaking down the organic fertilizer, the soil is being enriched with organic matter.

Commercial fertilizers are the opposite and act quickly to release nutrients. Commercial fertilizers are often applied excessively (especially in farming practices) and excess nitrates in the soil not taken up by the plants leach into the soil during rainfall events or irrigation eventually reaching the groundwater, which is a source of drinking water. Commercial mineral fertilizers are also made of synthetic ingredients derived from petroleum products, which are non-renewable resources.

If you're thinking of giving organic fertilizers a try in your garden here's a primer on some of the more commonly available ones:

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Bat Guano
Bat guano is a medium release organic fertilizer that contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It is a natural nematocide and fungicide with an ability to kill off pest nematodes and fungi in the soil.

Fish Emulsion
Made from partially decomposed fish that has been pulverized into a fine meal, fish emulsion is high in nitrogen and should only be applied after plants seedlings have established themselves to lower the risk of root burn from the levels of nitrogen.

Kelp Meal
Pulverized kelp a marine algae, is high in potassium but contains only trace amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus. Kelp is an excellent fertilizer to use in seed germination because it won't burn the tiny root system. Use kelp meal in vegetable gardens, for berry fruits, and perennials.

Manure
Cow, sheep, chicken, pig, and horse manure are used as fertilizer. Manure is considered a complete fertilizer but varies considerably in the amount of nutrients it provides, depending on the amount of decomposition that has occurred. The more decomposed manure is, the fewer nutrients it has. Aged manure is best used as a soil enhancement rather than a fertilizer.

Bone Meal
Bone meal is an excellent source of phosphorus with lower levels of nitrogen, calcium, and very little potassium. Bone meal is used for fruit and flower production.

Crab Shell Meal
The shells of blue crabs are kiln dried and ground into a fine meal to be used as fertilizer. It is a good source of slow-release nitrogen and is beneficial for vegetable and flower gardens, as well as lawns.

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