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Garden Fertilizers that Work


Garden Fertilizers that Work Best for Me
by Dawn Lesley Stewart

I have a large organic vegetable garden as well as many flower beds and plantings in my yard. Each area requires different care when it comes to fertilizing.  Here are the fertilizers that have worked great for me.

While perhaps not a fertilizer in the sense that we think of them, compost is filled with nutrients. And it’s free! All you need is an area or a bin to place yard and garden refuse, keep it moist, turn it every so often, and wait for the garden “scraps” to become rich compost. When ready, the compost can be spread in the garden or around plants. Every year I grow my pumpkins near the compost bin, and they love the nutrients that have leeched into the soil.

Composted Cow Manure
Make sure you purchase “composted” cow manure. If the manure is not composted, your garden will most likely sprout a variety of healthy weeds. Every year in early spring, I add composted cow manure to my rhubarb bed. The plants love it, and my rhubarb is always healthy and tastes great. The cow manure from my local nursery comes in a heavy-duty plastic bag. I rip the bags open with scissors and use a garden rake to evenly spread the manure around the plants.

Fish Emulsion
It may sound disgusting, but fish emulsion is organic and made from the liquefied byproducts of fish. It has a high nitrogen level, and my flowers and flowering bushes love it. I have never had leaf damage when the emulsion comes into contact with them either. Fish emulsion comes in a plastic bottle. It is concentrated, so you need to add a measured amount of the fish emulsion to water. I use a dedicated gallon bucket for mixing the fish emulsion. As you can imagine, fish emulsion can have a strong fish smell. However, there are “deodorized” fish emulsion products available that have a lesser odor.

Garden-Tone Fertilizer by Espoma
Espoma produces a line of fertilizer specifically targeted at different types of plants. Not all plants need the same nutrients. Garden-Tone is organic and designed for use in vegetable gardens. It is a long-lasting and slow release fertilizer that won’t burn plants.  It is 3-4-4 (3-percent Nigrogen, 4-percent Phosphate, 4-percent Potash). It also contains Bio-tone microbes, which are beneficial. For 50 square feet, use 3.5 pounds of Garden-Tone, mixing it into the soil. It is recommended for use with compost, humus, or peat moss. I use Garden-Tone in my vegetable garden every year. I first add Garden-Tone when transplanting plants into the garden. Recommended usage is to feed the plants Garden-Tone once a month.

Plant-Tone Fertilizer by Espoma
Espoma Plant-Tone has a 5-3-3 blend (5-percent nitrogen, 3-percent Phosphate, 3-percent Potash).  It is recommended for use on flowers, vegetables, trees, shrubs and lawns.  I use Plant-Tone on the bushes throughout the yard.  Plant-Tone is also enhanced with Bio-tone microbes.  It is a long-lasting, slow release organic fertilizer that won’t burn plants.  The instructions for garden beds state to spread 4 pounds of Plant-Tone per 100 square feet.  For new lawns, use 40 pounds per 1,000 square feet.  Older lawns: 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet.  When I plant new bushes, I mix a few trowel-full helpings into the soil.

Tomato Fertilizer from Gardener’s Supply
I use this Gardener’s Supply Tomato Fertilizer or the Tomato-Tone fertilizer for my tomato plants. The Gardener’s Supply Tomato Fertilizer has a 5-6-5 ratio. It is an organic slow-release product that will not burn plants. One pound will cover 40 square feet. I mix a trowel-full of this fertilizer with the soil when planting each tomato plant in the garden.  I fertilize again several times during the growing season.

Tomato-Tone Fertilizer by Espoma
Espoma Tomato-Tone used to be available all the time in my area. However, it is more difficult to find, which is why I began using Gardener’s Supply Tomato Fertilizer. Tomato-Tone has a 3-4-6 ratio, plus this organic fertilizer is enhanced with the Bio-tone microbes. It is a long-lasting, slow release fertilizer that won’t burn plants. Instructions state to use 3 pounds of Tomato-Tone per 50 square feet, working it into the soil. I add a trowel-full of the fertilizer when transplanting my tomatoes into the garden. It is recommended to apply Tomato-Tone twice a month during the growing season.

Happy Gardening !

Dawn Lesley Stewart has enjoyed organic gardening for over forty years, learning at a young age from her father. First love is vegetable gardening followed by her interest in butterfly and bee habitats. She considers her yard a sanctuary for birds and wildlife. Her writing has appeared online and in print and has won writing awards. Dawn is the author of Harriet’s Horrible Hair Day (picture book), Mist-Seer (paranormal novel), and her newest book 300-Plus Quilting Tips, Tricks & Techniques features over 35 years of quilting knowledge.

Copyright 2010 Dawn Lesley Stewart

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Copyright 2000 Dawn Lesley Stewart