Photo: From upper left, clockwise – Bone Meal, Kelp Meal, Soybean Meal, Alfalfa Meal, Rock Phosphate, Dried Blood, Fertilizer Mix
The Killing Fields.
Vegans and Jehovah Witnesses should not read this post! As an ovo-lacto vegetarian, I can hardly deal with the dried blood and bonemeal myself, always wearing gloves when I handle this recipe. But for an affordable organic fertilizer, it’s necessary to either use blood meal or well-composted manure for green, leafy plants. I’ve never added manure to the soil in my greenhouse, although the fields have received quite a bit of horse manure from my neighbor Mark and the 100 chickens we used to have years ago.
Cost: This is as affordable as I can get. When reading gardening books and the back of fertilizer bags for the application of rock powders, it’s shocking to encounter the humongous amount that is recommended per 100 square feet. From Elliot Coleman to Epsoma, one needs a small bank loan to accomplish their level of soil fertility. So, I just add a quart for each of my 4×4′ vegetable blocks and scatter as much I can in the herb and flower gardens. The beauty of rock powders is that they hang around for a few years.
If you can find greensand, add a bag to the mix. I used to get it when we grew baby salad greens. There’s a lentil soup story in here but we won’t go there right now.
I hold off on adding any limestone or wood ashes until I have fertilized my potato planting bed. You really should do an initial soil test to get a grip on your soil pH. Depending on where you live, your soil could easily be 3.5 or 7.
Liquid feed: I use either fish emulsion or fish emulsion with kelp for a foliar feed. Follow the package directions.
There are many articles out there from extremely knowledgeable tomes on homemade fertilizer, proper NPK ratios, encyclopedic exposes (one day I’ll learn how to do accents on this program) on the joys of composting. I’m all for simplifying at this point in my life. When I think of the tractor trailer load of organic mushroom compost that we moved by hand every year when we were growing salad greens – that’s shovelful by shovelful!!! – and the bags and bags of rock powders we spread in the field and greenhouse (no wonder the weeds are doing so well), I am amazed at Lewis’ and my strength 25 years ago. I loved the idea of being a salad farmer, the prestige of selling to the Park Slope Food Coop, Balducci’s and Dean and DeLuca (not as romantic as it sounds; NYC produce managers can be a surly group), and selling at the famous NYC Greenmarket but we were terrible farmers. April, May and October would be glorious for the cool-loving greens but the other months, especially summer and anytime the flea beetles were out, could be quite gruesome.
Here’s what your plants need for optimal growth:
N – Nitrogen – Blood meal, soybean meal
P – Phosphorous – Rock phosphate, bone meal
N/K – Nitrogen and Potash – Alfalfa meal, kelp meal, greensand
- 1 50 lb. bag soybean meal
- 28 lb. bag rock phosphate
- 4.5 lbs bone meal
- 4 lbs kelp meal
- 3½ lbs blood meal
- 3 lbs. alfalfa meal
- 1 gallon wood ash or agricultural limestone
- The above amounts are what came in the bags I purchased from the garden supply center in my area. A few pounds either way won't make a difference and more kelp and alfalfa meal is more desirable if your pocketbook can handle it.
- Store in an a container that will exclude both wild and domesticated animals and rodents.
All expectations of an early Spring were dashed this month, but it looks like we are finally having planting weather with no frosts predicted for the rest of April. Yay!