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Homemade Organic Fertilizers

Create your own plant-feeding formulas, from the seed-starting to the fruiting stage, with help and inspiration from these recipes.

| Summer 2020

garden
Photo by Getty Images/aluxum

This article is excerpted from his book No-Till Intensive Vegetable Culture (Chelsea Green Publishing), available below. 

Vegetable growers traditionally bring large amounts of nutritive materials onto their land to improve soil and plant function. Although adding volumes of compost and mulch is still the basis of fertilizing vegetables, these are often supplemented by modern fertilization materials. If these materials are concentrated, they can supply nutrient needs through very small additions of a only few pounds per acre, or even less.



On our 3-acre property, Tobacco Road Farm, we’ve developed our own formulas for side-dressing and foliar application. These recipes have been created for our particular soils and environmental conditions, including high organic matter, loam soils under the influence of intense pollution, and a generally degraded ecosystem. Because of our growing situation, our recipes are relatively complex, and we frequently alter the ingredients based on our assessment of specific crop needs, or because of field conditions or availability of materials. Simpler versions may well work in other situations, including yours.

The following recipes are provided as examples to offer insight into how materials can be combined, and in what relative volumes. The ingredient lists are offered simply to help stimulate your own thought process. We use Stage II materials the most because, in our situation, there’s often more than enough growth force to provide for initial leaf growth (Stage I). However, we might still utilize a Stage I recipe for cabbage head sizing. You’ll also find a recipe for a fruit-sizing (Stage III) solid material to apply by side-dressing, but on our farm, plants are often so large and difficult to access at that stage of growth that we frequently choose to rely on foliar fertilization instead.



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