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Composting > Making Complete Organic Fertilizer

Making Complete Organic Fertilizer

The basic ingredients used for making balanced organic fertilizers can vary and what you decide on will largely depend on where you live. Seed meal usually forms the body of the blend. Seed meals are high in nitrogen and moderately rich in phosphorus because plants concentrate most of the phosphorus they collect during their entire growth cycle into their seeds to serve to give the next generation a strong start. Seed meals contain low but more than adequate amounts of potassium.

The first mineral to be removed by leaching is calcium. Adding lime can make all the difference in wet soils. Dolomite lime also adds magnesium and is the preferable form of lime to use in a fertilizer blend on most soils. Gypsum could be substituted for lime in arid areas where the soils are naturally alkaline but still may benefit from additional calcium. Kelp meal contains valuable trace minerals. If I were short of money, first I'd eliminate the kelp meal, then the phosphate source.

All ingredients going into this formula are measured by volume and the measurements can be very rough: by sack, by scoop, or by coffee can. You can keep the ingredients separated and mix fertilizer by the bucketful as needed or you can dump the contents of half a dozen assorted sacks out on a concrete sidewalk or driveway and blend them with a shovel and then store the mixture in garbage cans or even in the original sacks the ingredients came in.

This is my formula.

4 parts by volume: Any seed meal such as cottonseed meal, soybean meal, sunflower meal, canola meal, linseed meal, safflower, peanut meal or coconut meal. Gardeners with deep pocketbooks and insensitive noses can also fish meal. Gardeners without vegetarian scruples may use meat meal, tankage, leather dust, feather meal or other slaughterhouse waste.

1 part by volume: Bone meal or rock phosphate

1 part by volume: Lime, preferably dolomite on most soils.

(Soils derived from serpentine rock contain almost toxic levels of magnesium and should not receive dolomite. Alkaline soils may still benefit from additional calcium and should get gypsum instead of ordinary lime.)

1/2 part by volume: kelp meal or other dried seaweed.

To use this fertilizer, broadcast and work in about one gallon per each 100 square feet of growing bed or 50 feet of row. This is enough for all low-demand vegetables like carrots, beans and peas.

For more needy species, blend an additional handful or two into about a gallon of soil below the transplants or in the hill. If planting in rows, cut a deep furrow, sprinkle in about one pint of fertilizer per 10-15 row feet, cover the fertilizer with soil and then cut another furrow to sow the seeds in about two inches away. Locating concentrations of nutrition close to seeds or seedlings is called "banding."

I have a thick file of letters thanking me for suggesting the use of this fertilizer blend. If you've been "building up your soil" for years, or if your vegetables never seem to grow as large or lustily as you imagine they should, I strongly suggest you experiment with a small batch of this mixture. Wouldn't you like heads of broccoli that were 8-12 inches in diameter? Or zucchini plants that didn't quit yielding?

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