If you’ve completed a soil test this spring, you may have gotten a recommendation that says to apply a 40-20-10 fertilizer to support your soil nutrition. A quick review of natural and organic fertilizers shows that nutrient concentrations don’t run that high without chemical help. But don’t worry – you won’t have to resort to chemical fertilizers to feed your garden.
The first and easiest solution is just to find the same ratio between nutrients and adjust your application rate. So for a 30-20-10 ratio, look for a 15-10-5 fertilizer formula, and apply twice as much. One of the benefits of natural & organic fertilizers is that they typically break down more slowly, which means that higher application rates can be used without burning plants. However, when increasing application rates, use caution with faster-release nitrogen sources like blood meal and corn gluten. A mix of faster and slower nitrogen sources is safer, especially for young plants.
Of course, it is often difficult to find the exact ratio recommended – unless you use the Garden Maker Naturals customizer to create your own uniquely tailored formula! But if you are looking to use a pre-blended formula, it is important to match the nitrogen requirement most closely, even if the phosphorus and potassium levels are slightly above or below the recommendation. Plants require more nitrogen than any other nutrient, and it is crucial to many plant functions.
Soil tests usually evaluate pH levels, as well. There are also natural & options that can make minor changes to the pH of your soil. For soil that is too acidic for the plants you are trying to grow, an application of lime can help raise pH, such as our Organic Limestone. Wood ash is also used for this purpose, and chicken egg shells have been shown in University of Florida studies to help raise pH slightly. For alkaline soil, the sulfur in our Iron Sulfate can help lower pH. Peat also lowers pH, and also increases the water holding capacity of your soil.
No matter what your soil test recommends, though, a periodic applications of compost can help address almost any soil deficiency. It is almost impossible to over-apply compost. Chock full of nutrients, humus and microbes, it’s like a multivitamin for your garden!