Gardening Articles: Landscaping :: Trees, Shrubs, & Vines

Organic Fertilizers (page 2 of 2)

by National Gardening Association Editors

Mineral-based fertilizers

Naturally occurring mineral fertilizers are considered organic only in the sense that they were not extensively processed. Among them are Chilean nitrate, rock phosphate, greensand, and sulfate of potash magnesia.


Compost is the "Cadillac" of organic fertilizers. Although making compost from a variety of raw materials is possible, the finished products are remarkably similar in their final concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Composts generally contain a good balance and wide spectrum of nutrients, and they're rich in humus – even though their actual nutrient concentrations are relatively low.

Composts are available commercially or can be homemade. They can be used along with other fertilizers. Commercial composts typically are made from various kinds of animal manures and lawn and garden wastes. Making your own compost is an ideal way to recycle yard waste and make fertilizer simultaneously -- and you always know what ingredients went into the finished product.

Compost also makes great tea for your plants. Watering with a compost tea is an easy way to get many of the benefits of compost, without the hassle of moving heavy materials into the garden. Aerating the tea to increase the oxygen content stimulates the production of the compost microbes, making for better tea and healthier plant growth.


Manure is derived from mammals, birds, and in one case, insects. Manure is available fresh or dried. Composted manure is the safest form because unlike fresh manure it doesn’t burn plant roots, doesn’t contain weed seeds, and plant and animal diseases have been destroyed. The composition of manure varies not only with the source animal, but also with the age of the animal, the bedding, and the method of manure storage and application.

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