Build Better Garden Soil With Free Organic Fertilizers!

Avoid high fertilizer costs — here are your best organic fertilizers, including two that you won’t even have to pay for! Build better garden soil using organic fertilizers found in your very own backyard.

You can build better garden soil by applying the right types and amounts of organic fertilizers.
Photo by Barbara Pleasant
Grass clippings
One of the best options for organic fertilizer is also the cheapest. Putting fresh grass clippings in your garden is a great way to add nitrogen to your soil.
Photo by Walter Chandoha
Alfalfa Meal
By reading the packaging and doing a little math, you can compare exactly how much you’re paying for the nutrients in different types of fertilizer. For example, when you use this bag of alfalfa meal as fertilizer, you’re paying about $17 per pound of nitrogen.
Photo by Rick Wetherbee
Fish Emulsion
With this type of fish emulsion fertilizer, a pound of nitrogen would cost about $112.
Photo by Peyton Baldwin
Worm Poop
With this type of fertilizer, it would cost about $14,000 to get a single pound of nitrogen!
Photo by Peyton Baldwin
Compost 1
Although it’s rarely labeled as a fertilizer, adding compost is a great way to build your garden soil. You can give plants an extra boost as they’re growing by applying the compost as a “side dressing.”
Photo by David Cavagnaro
Beds and Paths
Another useful strategy for improving your garden soil is to construct beds and paths. With this garden plan, you can add any soil-improving fertilizers directly to the beds, where they’re most needed, while restricting foot traffic to the paths, where it does the least damage.
Photo by William D. Adams
For a great low-cost fertilizer, try planting vetch as a cover crop.
Photo by David Cavagnaro
Crimson Clover
Plant crimson clover as another nitrogen-fixing cover crop.
Photo by David Cavagnaro
Red Clover
Red clover is another great choice for a cover crop that will add nitrogen to your garden soil.
Photo by David Cavagnaro
Bill Adams
Mother Earth News contributor Bill Adams in his Burton, Texas, garden.
Photo by William D. Adams
A mulch of grass clippings, straw or leaves helps suppress weeds and also feeds the soil as the organic materials slowly break down.
Photo by Barbara Pleasant
Wood Ashes
Wood ashes can be sprinkled on acidic soils to provide phosphorous and potassium. Do not apply more than 2 cups per 100 square feet per year.
Photo by Walter Chandoha
Prices for various dry fertilizers.
Illustration by MOTHER EARTH NEWS
Prices for various blended fertilizers.
Illustration by MOTHER EARTH NEWS
Prices for various liquid fertilizers.
Illustration courtesy MOTHER EARTH NEWS

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