Choosing a fertilizer: the good, the bad and the fishy

It’s Spring. The bulbs you planted last fall are sprouting, the grass is growing fast, and new leaves and buds are covering your trees. If you haven’t done so already, you’ll want to grab a rake and shovel to clear out the garden beds for the lush summer season ahead. This is a critical time to apply soil amendments, so in this, our first newsletter, we’d like to give you some tips on how make sure your plants receive the nourishment they need during this active growing season.

General Fertilizers: Synthetic vs. Organic

What many gardeners do – and this is certainly the easiest thing – is to get hold of a good general fertilizer. However, we would recommend you choose one that is organic, because, as gardening expert Sharon Lovejoy puts it, “chemical fertilizers give plants a quick fix, but they can also burn your plant roots, build up salts, and destroy beneficial bacteria in the soil.”  What’s more, organic fertilizers contain micronutrients that are not found in synthetic fertilizers, and they often include microbial agents that help your plants better absorb those nutrients. Finally, and most importantly, organic fertilizers are safe for your family, your pets, and the environment. If your pet or toddler gets into them, you don’t have an emergency on your hands, and there are no harsh chemicals that will eventually find their way into the ground water.

Neptune’s Harvest

Fish emulsion and seaweed fertilizers were developed to take advantage of the vast storehouse of nutritional treasures found in the ocean. However, fish proteins and oils tend to smell, and the way they are typically processed damages their nutritional value. Neptune’s Harvest got around that by developing a cold process that minimizes the odor while preserving all the micro and macro nutrients. The result is a super fertilizer called Neptune’s Harvest Fish & Seaweed Blend that increases yields and improves the shelf life of fruits and vegetables. Its ingredients are so pure that it has been listed with OMRI for use in USDA-certified organic farming operations. This doesn’t surprise us: Neptune’s Harvest gets its fish parts from Ocean Crest Seafood, which produces some of the best fresh and frozen fish fillets on the East coast.

Plant-Specific Fertilizers

Even if you’re using an organic product, different plants have differing nutritional needs. That is why some companies offer plant-specific fertilizers. Espoma, the most trusted name in natural organics, was one of the first to do this. After scoring a huge hit with Holly-tone sixty years ago, they went on to formulate Tomato-tone, Rose-tone, Flower-tone, Tree-tone and other plant-specific preparations. You can be sure they know what they’re doing: Espoma has been making organic fertilizers since the current owners’ great-grandfather released the company’s first product, Espoma Organic, in 1929!

Soiling Testing for Professional Results

If you really want to get professional results, have your soil tested. Many people know this and yet don’t do it  – perhaps they don’t want to go through the trouble of contacting the nearest cooperative extension or land grant university. However, thanks to new and inexpensive technologies, you can now test your soil yourself using an electronic soil tester, and it will take you less than a minute. Once you have the results in hand, you can develop a customized fertilizer plan based on your soil’s specific needs and the climate and plants you’re working with. Our master gardener Karen will be happy to help you.

The Best Fertilizer

The bottom line is that whether you’re using a general, plant-specific, or customized fertilizer, your plants will appreciate the extra care you’re giving them. And you will appreciate the results, when you see your garden thrive! Just enjoy the anticipation, which some claim is the best thing about gardening and keep on with your watering, weeding, and mulching. Ultimately, as the old adage tells us, “the best fertilizer is the gardener’s shadow.”

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    April 29, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    […] If your soil test tells you that your soil is deficient in one of the major minerals, you will need to add fertilizer. To do this right, please read our newsletter Choosing a Fertilizer: The Good, the Bad, and the Fishy. […]

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