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Fertilizing Organically

Mar 04, 2008 -

Organic Fertilizer from GrowOrganic.com The heart of organic growingAt the heart of organic growing is the art and science of fertilizing organically. Healthy soil nurtures healthy plants which grow better, taste better, store longer and have increased resistance to the stresses caused by heat, cold, drought, pests, diseases, rapid growth, etc.Fertile soil is not only the first step for increasing yields and quality but also for natural pest control and season extending.
Index: Click the links to jump to a section

How to get started

Long Term Soil Building

Which Fertilizer

An Important Note Regarding GMO’s

Which Fish Fertilizer To Use?

Using Kelp

Micronized Fertilizers

Foliar Feeding


Soil Testing from GrowOrganic.com

How to get started The best way to evaluate your own situation is to start with a soil test. We offer a Soil Analysis Report that is appropriate for both commercial and homescale growers. It includes all the lab readings you’ll need to begin building your soil organically. Your field or garden is a dynamic ecosystem. The relationship between plants and living soil changes seasonally, monthly and daily. For this reason, most successful organic commercial growers regularly monitor their soil, using lab tests and field monitoring tools (eg, nitrate test strips, field meters, etc. - see Monitoring Tools).It is also important for homescale growers to get occasional lab tests, which can be supplemented with home soil tests..(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)Need a gardening question answered?

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Organic Fertilizer from GrowOrganic.com

Long-term soil building A successful fertilizing program addresses the soil’s long term needs by adjusting deficient nutrients with organic fertilizers and soil amendments.We offer the largest selection of organic fertilizers in the U.S. Use your soil test and/or the general guidelines given ahead to determine which fertilizers will be of most value to you.An equally important aspect of soil building is adding a “green manure” cover crop to your crop rotation in order to build organic matter, nitrogen and biological life in your soil..(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)Need a gardening question answered?

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Organic Fertilizer from GrowOrganic.com

Which Fertilizer?  Use the Fertilizer Solutions Chart where all our products are listed with specific nutrient contents by application method. You will be able to quickly identify products appropriate for your circumstances. The following are general guidelines:

Organic Matter & Humus

Virtually every soil will benefit from regular additions of organic matter and humus. We feel that Compost (in combination with a good Cover Crop program) is the best material to handle this important task.

By compost we mean a material completely broken down aerobically and based upon animal manures and plant residues rather than woodchips.

Raw manures are not a substitute for compost. Raw manure breaks down in the soil, tying up water, nitrogen, and other vital resources in the process. It often introduces weed seeds and pathogens, loses nutrients as it breaks down, and must be applied at 4 to 5 times the rate of compost. Raw manures definitely should not be used right before harvesting a crop.


If your crop needs additional nitrogen, see Bloodmeal, Cottonseed Meal, Eco-nutrients Liquid Fish, Fish Meal, Fish Emulsion, Pelleted Fertilizers, Omega, Feather Meal, Powdered Fish & others. Nitrogen is what plants need to grow vigorously.


To supply phosphorous, Soft Rock Phosphate is the best value. See also Micro Phos, our new micronized soft rock phosphate. Bone Meal or Omega 1-5-5 can also be used. Phosphorus is what plants need to flower.


Most soils have adequate potassium but for those that don’t, use Sulfate of Potash, Sul Po Mag or Greensand. Potassium is what the plants need to establish vigor and resistance.


Most soils need calcium fertilization. In low pH soils, we use Oystershell Lime or Mined Limestone which corrects not only calcium imbalances but also pH. In neutral or high pH soils, Gypsum is the material of choice. Calcium builds sturdy cell walls in plants. If your soil is also low in sulfur (many are) add Gypsum.

Trace Minerals

Almost every field we test is low in trace minerals. We get excellent response from soil applications of Compost, Algit Kelp Meal or multiple trace minerals (Azomite or Nutra Min). In extreme cases specific trace mineral supplements may be needed. Trace minerals are as essential to plants as vitamins are to people.

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An important note regarding GMO’s To our best knowledge, and to our vendors’ best knowledge, none of our products contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). However, since it is estimated that over 30% of corn, 40% of soybeans and 50% of cotton grown in America is now grown with genetically engineered seed, we cannot guarantee that these products are totally GMO free. We are informing you of this fact so that you can make the appropriate decision about your purchases. We are currently working to find sources of exclusively non-GMO products.As you can imagine, we obviously toally reject the dubious merit of these bio-technologies when applied to the field of conventional agriculture.
Fish Fertilizer from GrowOrganic.com

Which fish fertilizer to use?Fish products are excellent sources of N-P-K & trace minerals for a farmer or gardener, but which one to choose?Fish products come in the form of meals, emulsions or hydrolysates and/or enzymatically digested.Fish meal is ground, dried fish waste with the oil removed, generally dried at high heat and is used in soil applications. It has a high nitrogen & phosphorus analysis and is a slow to medium releasing source of nitrogen.For a fast-acting, water soluble fish fertilizer, use fish powders, liquid fish emulsion or enzymatically digested hydrolyzed fish. Fish powders are spray-dried fish materials, dried with heat and turned into a water soluble powder. They can be used for foliar feeding or in irrigation systems once put into solution.Fish emulsion, a popular product used in organic agriculture, is used as a soluble fish fertilizer but is processed with heat.Enzymatically digested hydrolyzed fish retains more of the proteins, enzymes, vitamins & micronutrients than emulsions, which can be processed with high heat & acids. Heat tends to denature amino acids in proteins, making them unavailable to the plants. Enzymatic digestion of fish allows the minerals and amino acids to become readily available to plants and makes those nutrients water soluble, so you can use them in foliar spraying or through drip and other irrigation systems.

Where did the fish emulsion go? One of the original organic fertilizers, fish emulsion is quickly becoming less available. Rather than offering it at rapidly increasing prices, we have decided to discontinue it. We offer hydrolyzed fish products as alternatives and consider them to be superior to fish emulsion.

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Kelp fertilizer from GrowOrganic.com

The best “kelp” secret Every farmer and gardener should be using kelp in conjunction with a regular fertilizing program.Research and field trials have confirmed the role of kelp in increasing crop yields, drought resistance, frost protection, and stress recovery. Although kelp extracts do contain small amounts of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium, their value is not as a fertilizer but as a growth stimulant. They contain potent concentrations of trace minerals, micronutrients, amino acids, and vitamins essential to plant growth — but most important, kelp contains many growth hormones, including cytokinins, auxins, and gibberellins, which stimulate cell division and larger root systems.Kelp extracts can be applied as a foliar spray or as a soil soak and are excellent as a root dip for reducing transplant shock. It is important to use recommended rates because these extracts are so potent.Kelp extracts are concentrates which are created quickly with heat, but which can affect the quality of the end product. Cold-processing preserves much higher levels of proteins and growth hormones. Enzymatically digested kelps are even better because their nutrients are in a more readily available form that have not been damaged by heating..(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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Micronized fertilizer from GrowOrganic.com

Micronized fertilizers, the smaller the better Micronizing has the capability to make a huge impact in organic agriculture. Micronizing refers to the practice of grinding and screening solid materials to a very fine mesh.These products have been ground using a sophisticated ultra sonic grinder, to a particle size of up to 1,000 mesh (mesh indicates the number of wires found in 1” x 1” screen; in this case 1,000 mesh=1,000 wires!) Very fine powders greatly increase performance and reduce the amount of material needed to impact plant growth and microbial activity. The finer the particle size of a material, the more rapid and complete the uptake by plants and microbes.The benefits of micronized materials include:
1) greatly improved ability for the material to stay in suspension,
2) eliminates clogging of emitters & nozzles,
3) dramatically enhanced absorption & uptake by the leaves & roots of plants and
4) a huge increase in surface area, which significantly increases the rate of multiplication of micro organisms feeding on the applied material.The net effect of these benefits is that plants and microbes can be positively stimulated in much less time, at greatly reduced application rates.For example, onfarm research showed a 90+% reduction in root knot nematodes in 3 weeks when applying only 20 lb/acre of Eco-Poly 21 Micro Shrimp through a drip irrigation system.

To achieve similar results, using regular shrimp shell products, requires 1,500-2,000 lb/acre and a minimum of 4-6 months!

Micronizing also allows the grower to apply materials such as soft rock phosphate & humates via irrigation and foliar sprays which heretofore was impractical or not possible. Solubility of these materials gives the rapid response associated with soluble fertilizers.

A truly revolutionary production aid for organic growers. Some growers report greater efficacy when combining micronized products with vinegar or Biotron inoculant.

See Micronized Cranford’s Compost, Micronized Nutra Min, Micro-Phos, Eco-Poly 21 & Micro-Hume or Activate.

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Foliar Feeding Fertilizer from GrowOrganic.com

Foliar FeedingFoliar feeding addresses the immediate needs of a growing crop, as opposed to long-term soil deficiencies, by spraying water-soluble fertilizers onto the leaf surface of the plants.All plants absorb nutrients through their leaves and stems, using stomata - little openings similar to the pores of our skin. Plants absorb foliar sprays 20 times faster than soil-applied nutrients. It is like the difference between eating and digesting a meal and receiving an I.V. Foliars help plants compensate for soil deficiencies (low fertility, low soil temperature, etc.) during the growing season.Foliars fortify plants facing other types of stress as well, such as drought, heat, cold, mechanical or insect damage or the onset of disease-susceptible periods.Foliar feeding can also be timed to encourage and/or enhance critical points in the plant’s growth cycle, such as seedling emergence or rapid growth phases or flowering, fruiting and seed formation.Many crops benefit from 6 to 8 foliar applications per season. Some growers apply weekly foliars at low concentrations to improve nutrient balance.

Foliar fertilizers can also be applied through irrigation lines (known as “fertigation”) by multiplying the foliar rate by at least five times.

Materials suitable for Foliar Feeding have a statement indicating this on the web listing, and are also listed as such on our Fertilizer Solutions Chart.

How to do it

Foliar feeding should not be done during the heat of the day. Leaf stomata (pores) close at temperatures above 85°F. In greenhouses or summer climates where the temperature is above 85°F during the day and below 85°F at night, apply foliars at sunset if possible. It is important to use a spreader-sticker with all foliar sprays.

Foliar Spray Enhancers

These materials are selected for their desirable effects in combination with foliar pest control and/or fertilizer sprays. They increase the spray’s effectiveness by enhancing its coverage, life, or uptake (the plant’s ability to take up materials being sprayed).

Therm-X70 is the best spreader-sticker on the market (Brix Mix contains it). Check the spray mixture pH using a pH meter and make sure it is between 5.5 and 6.5 for maximum effect.

Apple cider vinegar is excellent for lowering a high pH. Farmers should measure the oxygen content of their foliar solution with an ORP Meter (see Soil Testing). If the ORP reading is below 150, add 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide to improve uptake.

All of the foliar materials mentioned above can be combined in the sprayer. Add Therm-X last, to reduce excess foaming. Many of these products have further beneficial effects in their own right, such as growth stimulation, stress reduction, etc. Some can be used as soil conditioners as well as foliar sprays.

Tips for Home Gardeners

Start with a nitrogen fertilizer like Eco-Nutrients’ Liquid Fish, Fish Powder, Fish Emulsion or Omega 6-6-6. Combine this with a kelp extract (Eco-Nutrients’ Kelp, Algamin or Maxicrop). Brix Mix is also an excellent, well balanced foliar spray to apply 2-3 times per season.

Then, later in the season, to encourage flowering rather than vegetative growth, hold back the nitrogen & continue with kelp & Omega 1-5-5, Micro-Phos or high P Seabird Guano tea.

Tips for Commercial Growers

Use plant tissue testing, as well as sampling with field meters and refractometers (see Soil Testing) to determine foliar needs and responses.

For most situations, there is no better all-around foliar than Brix Mix. It contains everything necessary for plant health and it can perform marvels for your crop.

To address specific needs or deficiencies, consider the following:

is needed to build insect and disease immunity, use Calcium 25.

for disease resistance or coldhardiness, add Soluble Sulfate of Potash.

Kelp extracts
(Eco-Nutrients’ Kelp, Algamin or Maxicrop) are the best general source of trace minerals.

Metal Chelates
are good for correcting specific trace mineral deficiencies. Micronized Wettable Sulfur will increase protein formation.

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Fertigation supplies from GrowOrganic.com

FertigationFertilizing through an irrigation system is referred to as Fertigation.

Historically, the products used (known as “injectables”) in this type of application have primarily been conventional (non-organic), or, if organic, uneconomical.Now that micronized organic fertilizers have been developed, these limitations have been minimized. To denote which fertilizers are appropriate for injecting, we have indicated on the product that they are appropriate for fertigation and they are listed as such on our Fertilizer Solutions Chart.Some of of these products are dry and must be pre-mixed with water before being injected.Irrigation lines should always be cleaned after fertigation by flushing with clean water before and/or after fertilizing. Use Therm-X70 when flushing lines out after completing your fertigation application to prevent algae build-up.

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Categories: Cover Crop, Green Manure, Soil Test, Composting, Growing Medium, Soil Amendments, Organic Fertilizer, Liquid Fertilizer, Pelleted Fertilizer, Powdered Fertilizer, Liquid Fish, Foliar Fertilizer, Organic Lawn Fertilizer, Organic Nitrogen Fertilizer, Organic Plant Food, Water Soluble Fertilizer, Fertilizer Tablets, Soil Inoculants

In The Loop » Blog Archive » Fertilizi Says:
Mar 4th, 2008 at 3:58 pm

[...] just finished putting up a very handy organic fertilizing info page taken from GrowOrganic.com here on the site. If you have any questions this season about what to do [...]

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