May 9th, 2012

Choosing Organic Fertilizers

Please define organic where using superphosphate is concerned. Also when using 10-10-10. Thank you.

blog-dougSuperphosphate is a synthetic chemical fertilizer that is not approved for use in organic agriculture. It is manufactured by treating mined phosphate rock with sulfuric acid. It’s toxic to the microbial life of your soil. Because it’s water soluble, it can also contribute to phosphorus pollution of waterways.

If your garden soil lacks phosphorus, it’s better to apply it in the form of bone meal, rock phosphate, composted poultry manure, or compost made from yard waste and kitchen scraps. These organic materials release phosphorus to the soil slowly as they are broken down by soil bacteria. Fish emulsion and liquid seaweed fertilizers offer a quick phosphorus boost.

The ratio 10-10-10 describes the quantities of nutrients within a fertilizer but doesn’t reveal whether or not it’s organic. That said, the vast majority of fertilizers with a 10-10-10 analysis are synthetic. The three numbers represent the percentages of available nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the fertilizer.

Gardeners who are in the habit of regularly feeding their soil with rich compost often find that they have no need for additional fertilizers. If necessary, you can supplement compost with complete organic fertilizers that blend natural sources of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as micronutrients such as iron and calcium. You’ll know which products at the garden center are organic by their “OMRI Listed” label.  —Doug Hall

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Comments

    How do we find out if the fish emulsion has any BPA or mercury in it?

    Doug,

    Well said on all points, though I would be quick to add (with emphasis) the extra benefits of using worm castings.

    I’ve been looking for organic compost and have found many bags that say “Organic Compost” in big letters across the front, but I can’t find the OMRI Listed label on them. Is there somewhere that lists which brands would be truly organic?

    Question about OMRI bagged soil: Some of the bagged soils (like Kelloggs) that are OMRI listed also use bio-solids (that can contain heavy metals and Phthalates), even though they are ‘organic.’ Are there any studies done on the safety levels of bio-solids, or in some of the soils that use them? If not, how worried should I be about the vegetables I plant into them, and they water run-off that leeches through them? Thanks! Julie

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