Buy One Get One Free
This post isn’t about a great deal on fertilizer or an early order discount program. I happen to be writing it on Black Friday, and that was the best title I could come up with.
What we’re talking about are amendments and fertilizers that do double duty. The ones you get more bang for your buck out of. The ones that you could use by themselves or with others.
In addition to that topic, everything I’ve been talking about over the past year is all starting to come together.
In week 2 – Soil Health vs. Soil Fertility I started laying the groundwork for what I saw as a need in the agricultural industry. Farmers need to have an understanding of basic agronomic principles to be and remain a sustainable and financially viable business while utilizing the incredible resources offered to them by mother nature herself.
I followed that up with a post about the difference between amending and fertilizing in week 5
In week 11 I discussed the similarities between fertilizer blends and pajamas – one size does not fit all. In all seriousness, the fact that fertilizer blends can contain fillers is the real story. A farmer or gardener needs to be knowledgeable of how fertilizer fillers are capable of altering soil chemistry.
Moreover, we’ve talked about the need to understand how, when, what and where to fertilizing in weeks 6 & 10
So, what are some amendments and fertilizers that do double duty-
Typical analysis ranges from 5-30%N 4-6%P
Typically, fish varies from 5-9%N depending on whether it is a meal, powder or liquid
Crab and Shrimp range from 10-30%N with 11-18%Ca depending on the shell to meat ratio
Crab makes an excellent addition to a fertilizer blend for the extra calcium, and the addition on an enzyme called chitin that has been shown to help control nematodes in the soil. This also makes it an excellent fertilizer for tomatoes.
A typical analysis is 3-4%N
It is also a good source of phosphorus at 15-27% and calcium.
When mixed with a calcium source like aragonite, it supplies immediately available and season-long calcium.
A standard analysis is 6-7%N ~2%P
It’s a good source for full season nitrogen supply as well as phosphorus
Soybean meal has been shown to burn new seedlings and reduce germination rates potentially. Care should be exercised when timing the application
Alfalfa and Cottonseed Meal -
Typical Analysis 1-2% K 2-3%P Slow to medium release
These are an all-around season long supplier of not only nitrogen, a small fraction of phosphorus, and potassium as well.
Alfalfa and cottonseed meal can be cost prohibitive in an organic system. However, if used effectively the benefits can out weight the price.
Benefits of alfalfa meal-
-Helps build organic matter
-If used as a cover crop it fixes nitrogen
-Alfalfa adds essential nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, boron, iron, zinc, and magnesium
-Alfalfa feeds soil microbes
-It can be a compost stimulator
Some advantages to using cottonseed meal-
-Cottonseed meal is an excellent option for acid-loving plants like blueberries and roses. It’s a fertilizer, soil conditioner, and acidifier.
Both alfalfa and cottonseed meal both have growth stimulating properties that aid in overall plant health.
Typical analysis 22%K 22%Sulfur 11%Mg Medium to fast availability.
Much like SOP, it is relatively soluble depending on particle size.
SOP covers sulfate, potassium, and magnesium deficiencies at once
Typical analysis 4-13%K Slow to medium release
Kelp can be used as a liquid concentrate, powder, or meal. It can be attributed for being part of all five of the previously listed roles K plays in plant health. If I could only recommend one product, kelp would be it. That being said you still need to use it judiciously as not to decrease its efficacy.
Typical analysis ~5% K Prolonged release
Greensand is a good source of potassium, trace minerals, and soil conditioning properties. When I got into organic agriculture and was working for a fertilizer company, I had never heard of anything like greensand. They would explain greensand as being magic. It could loosen tight soils and tighten loose soils. Not being satisfied with the supernatural explanation, I came to learn the power of greensand is in the structure. It has a unique layered structure unlike any other clay giving it the ability to correct a variety of soil structure issues. Hands down I would use greensand before any others. I often recommend a 50/50 mix of greensand and kelp.
I talk at length about liming materials in the following post
Another critical point to remember is these materials are used as fillers in fertilizer blends to help products flow better or add to the volume of product for packaging. Just as with other chemistries listed in the NPK value, these interact with the soil and alter the chemistry as previously mentioned.
Raw manure is the most nutrient dense. The longer it composts it losses its nutrient value. Over applying it, can lead to not only environmental issues also pest and disease challenges.
Typical analysis ranges depending on the manure, however, if used judiciously from a trusted source it can be a great building block for any fertility program adding not only organic matter but nutrients as well.
Vinegar is to a farmer as a gym sock and paperclip are to MacGyver. You can do anything with it from kill weeds, clean and disinfect tools, use it as an extract for kelp, greensand or aragonite, and use it to mitigate pH issues in fertigation systems.
For even more ideas go to week 18