I recently spent time with my Garden Club friends. The Master Gardener presentation was “Fertilizer – Organic or Not” and was very informative.
Her first question to the group got us all talking about what we currently use for fertilizer in our own gardens. I have never really tried a fertilizer. My attempt at compost lasted about as long as Springtime in Pittsburgh – not very. And I’m now convinced that is most likely the reason I’m not so thrilled with the production of my plots as of late.
There are many types of fertilizer available, from the not so expensive garden variety ones that can be found at the big box stores, to the organic assortments available at specialty garden shops. All personal preference of course.
The idea that struck me about organic is that you truly amend the soil with these types. Organic means it comes from once living sources. Blood, bone, dung. Gross. But effective and truly life-giving! The non-organic types are great for instant satisfaction but don’t add any value to the soil – sort of a one-shot deal.
One of the garden club ladies shared her recipe for great soil in her gardens. We live in an area that has much clay in the soil. In fact, I could probably make pottery out of my soil, but that’s a story for another time. On her suggestion, I purchased a huge block of “garden mix” and a large (and extremely heavy) bag of garden soil.
Garden mix is mostly peat moss and perlite (white pellet things that help with aeration). Garden soil purchased in a bag can be just about anything. I opted for a bag of Miracle Grow, which was slightly more expensive than the store brand. But I’ve had horrible experiences with soil in bags that smelled suspiciously like road finishing asphalt. You never know what is behind that mysterious label.
Mix equal parts well in my 5-gallon bucket, add some water, and amend as I weed and plant the borders. I’m sure the plants will respond well. But this is one of those “non-organic” solutions.
We have been tossing the grass clippings behind the fence for years. The thought has crossed my mind every so often to just take a peek under the mound and see what is there.
Unimaginable rich black soil matter (and earthworms!), that is what is under there! I was so excited to discover this. My husband thought I found actual gold. I call it garden gold!
He just doesn’t quite get it!
So now, I’m mixing some of the garden gold with the garden mix and adding that to the borders.
We also learned about the numbers on those fertilizer packages.
Nitrogen – Phosphorus – Potassium. 5-10-5.
A fertilizer with a 18-24-6 analysis means that there is 18% Nitrogen (by weight) in the mix. Now I know you are adding that up in your head – am I right? That’s only 48%. So what about the rest? Filler. And it’s OK because too much of a good thing can burn your plants. So the manufacturers use a good filler to temper the mix.
A high Nitrogen mix is good for greens – grass, leafy foliage. Higher Phosphorus content is good for root development, new plants, and blooms. Potassium helps guard against disease, temperature extremes, and helps if your plants have been attacked by insects.
Did you know gardening could be so scientific!