Mar 27, 2014

Easy, Chemical Free Yard & Veggie Fertilizer

I tell tell my kids to "run like mad into the house when you see the poison trucks coming."  Many people on our street use a lawn maintenance company, one that sprays fertilizers and weed killers.  Call me paranoid, but I don't want my kids near that stuff.

So imagine my excitement when I realized that I could fertilize my lawn (and veggies) easily and naturally.  When using once living, or organic, materials there is little danger of burning your plants from over application (common with synthetic fertilizers).  Plus, you will not be polluting the streams or harming anything, like children.  Kids can play in the yard immediately after application.  Or heck, while you're spreading it.

Natural fertilizers, often used by organic or chemical free growers, improve biodiversity and long term improvement of the soil.  These things are translated to healthier plants (i.e. tastier veggies) and more micro-nutrients for human absorption.  The above recipe I used on my yard but will also use in my garden.

As you can see from the picture below, the zoysia is just beginning to emerge here in central Arkansas, after a long winter.  Now is the time to give your lawn a boost of energy.  If you are able to disperse just before a gentle rain, even better!
Synthetic fertilizers contain a combination of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium - otherwise known as NPK.  The recipe I used mimics popular synthetic fertilizer combinations and adds other trace elements.  Win-win.

Wood ash nutrients varies with the species of wood that is burned.  The typical range is
- phosphorous 1 to 3%
- potassium 3 to 14%
- calcium 14 to 28%
- magnesium 1 to 3%
- sulfur 0.3 to 0.5%.

Bone meal brings phosphorus to the table and has small amounts of magnesium, iron and zinc as well as other trace elements - minerals that I would like to have in greater abundance in my diet.

Blood meal packs the highest amount of nitrogen of all organic sources.  If you make it into a "tea" (wet application), the faster it will be utilized by plants.

 
Depending on the quality and quantity of bone/blood meal purchased, it is possible to fertilize your yard for under $20 - with some left over to use in the garden.  For the remainder that I will use in the garden, I am also going to add a bit of epsom salts for additional magnesium.  (Tomatoes especially like epsom salts.)  The application rate of this mixture in the garden will be about 1 cup per 30 square feet.
Crudely we measured each amount according to volume.  My nine-year-old loved the mixing part.

Mel Bartholomew, father of the square-foot gardening technique, recommends this blend for vegetables:

1 part blood meal
2 parts bone meal
3 parts wood ash
4 parts leaf mold.

The nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium value of this mix works out at approximately 2.6-4.9-2.4 or the same ratio as the standard 5- 10-5 recommended for vegetable gardens.

Check out this link for additional organic mixtures.

As for killing weeds, the only successful non-chemical solution I've found for lawns is elbow grease.  Pull weeds of the yard before they sprout seeds and have babies.  In the garden, mulch liberally around your veggies.

What do you use on your lawn?  In the garden?
-Julie

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