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.


| April/May 2008


The information in this article was reviewed and updated in January 2015. —MOTHER EARTH NEWS

As more and more people recognize the many benefits of organic gardening methods, a fresh crop of organic fertilizers are sprouting on store shelves. Many are overpriced, and some are stunning rip-offs that reputable stores and catalogs should be ashamed to sell. The really amazing thing is that two of the best organic fertilizers are easily available to most of us absolutely free! (See below) It’s definitely a buyer-beware world out there. If you’re not careful, you could pay five, 10 or 4,000 times more than necessary to get the nitrogen and other nutrients you need. Here's what we found when we evaluated the pricing for 21 fertilizers:

The Best Free Fertilizers

All products labeled as “fertilizer” must be labeled with their content of the three major plant nutrients — nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (N-P-K). Most organic fertilizers are bulkier than synthetic chemical products, so their N-P-K percentages are typically lower than synthetic products, and their application rates are higher.

Also, because organic products are biologically active, their N-P-K numbers may change somewhat from batch to batch and over time. Because of this, it can be hard for producers to comply with the labeling laws. As a result, some excellent organic fertilizer options, such as compost, often are not even labeled as a “fertilizer.” One of the best free fertilizers, grass clippings, break down so quickly that they can’t be bagged and sold.

But make no mistake, compost and grass clippings do what fertilizers are supposed to do: They enrich the garden soil with nutrients that plants and microscopic soil life-forms are eager to use. In most areas, you can easily collect grass clippings from your neighborhood, bagged and set out ready to bring home. And many communities make yardwaste compost (made mainly from grass clippings and leaves) available for free.

So, if you can get free clippings or compost, how much should you use? Here are guidelines prepared with help from soil scientists at Woods End Laboratory in Maine.

Abby
6/10/2016 10:41:05 PM

Due to active organic food market,organic fertilizer is booming recently.To invest organic fertilizer production is a good way to solve livestock manure pollution and realize substance recycle. Fan Way is specialized in manufacturing organic fertilizer production line and providing organic fertilizer production process technology for you. http://fertilizer-machinery.com/ http://fertilizer-machinery.com/production_line/organic-fertilizer-plant/index.html Providing customized organic fertilizer manufacturing process for you.


Chitra
10/8/2015 8:57:44 AM

Hi: Had a quick question. As a vegetarian I am not particularly keen to use fertilizers with meat or fish meal in it. Which of the bought fertilizers that you assess would work but not have anything more than manure? (animal waste product seems fine to me :)) Thx Chitra


Patricia
5/12/2015 6:00:13 PM

I'm surprised that your coffee pot, local Starbucks or some other coffee shops as an avenue for free bags of used coffee grinds. I grab a bag whenever they're available and use them in potting mixes, the compost bin or by blending it directly into the garden soil.






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