Where can you get Cheap Natural Fertilizers and Soil Amendments?

Tom Miles

Where can you get Cheap Natural Fertilizers and Soil Amendments?
David Hall, iVillage GardenWeb

One of our composting experts and friends on this site, David Hall (DcHall_San_Antonio), recently gave a great list of some of the major benefits from soil high in organic matter:

"Chemical fertilizers rely on an assumption that plants only need three elements to survive and thrive. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are those three. This is the equivalent of saying that we need protein, fat, and sugar to live. While this may be mostly true, pure protein, pure fat, and pure sugar do nothing to supply the vitamins, minerals, and diverse supply of bacteria and fungi in our diets.

Here is a list of a dozen things that you can do with organically fed soil that cannot be achieved with conventional chemical feeding.

1. Decompose plant residues and manure to humus.

2. Retain nutrients in the form of stable humus.

3. Combine nitrogen and carbon to prevent nutrient loss.

4. Suppress fungus and bacterial diseases.

5. Produce plant growth regulators.

6. Develop soil structure, tilth, and water penetration/retention.

7. Clean up chemical residues.

8. Shift soil pH to neutral and keep it there.

9. Search out and retrieve nutrients in distant parts of the soil.

10. Decompose thatch and keep it from returning.

11. Control nitrogen supply to the plants according to need.

12. Pull minerals out of inorganic soil components for plants.

Soil microbes need sugar and protein to thrive. When you apply synthetic ferts, none of the things on this list gets done. The microbes normally get sugar from plant roots. Protein in nature comes from dead insects, plants, and animals. The organic gardener applies protein artificially in the form or organic fertilizers. It is usually in the form of a ground up meal made from plants and animals to try to replicate the natural process."

15. Wood Ashes - Wood ashes, not charcoal ashes, are great organically recommended soil amendments. Wood ashes contain up to 70% calcium carbonate or calcium oxide (natural liming agent) and lots of potassium. If you have native acidic soil, a little sprinkled wood ashes are perfect for your lawn or garden as a soil amendment or liming agent. However, if your native soil is highly alkaline, never put wood ashes straight on your soil! Wood ashes is absolutely safe in a hot compost pile. A hot compost pile always buffers the pH of its ingredient organic matter materials so that the mature compost has a near neutral pH. The main disadvantage of composting wood ashes is that the high alkaline ashes will chemically react with high nitrogen products in the pile like animal manures or grass clippings, thus creating excessive ammonia gases that will be wasted and evaporated out of the pile. Therefore if you compost wood ashes, only use a few cups of ashes per cubic yard of compost piles.

See: iVillage GardenWeb