What Are Organic Fertilizers: Different Types Of Organic Fertilizer For Gardens

Hand Holding Organic Garden Fertilizer
organic fertilizer 1
(Image credit: Gardening Know How, via Nikki Tilley)

Organic materials in the garden are more environmentally friendly than traditional chemical fertilizers. What are organic fertilizers, and how you can use them to improve your garden?

What are Organic Fertilizers?

Unlike commercial chemical fertilizers, organic fertilizer for gardens is typically made up of single ingredients and can be matched to your garden's particular nutritional needs. The various types of organic fertilizer can come from the plant, animal, or mineral sources, depending on what chemicals your garden requires. In order to qualify as an organic fertilizer, the materials must naturally occur in nature. Fertilizer for organic gardening isn't the quick and instant fix that chemical fertilizers can be. With organics, you have to let moisture and beneficial organisms break down the content of the fertilizer material in order for the plants to get the nutrients inside. In general, half of the nutrients in an organic fertilizer ingredient can be used the first year it is applied, and the rest of it is slowly released in the years to come, feeding and conditioning the soil.

Different Types of Organic Fertilizer for the Garden

What is the best organic fertilizer to use? There are a number of organic fertilizers from which to choose. There may be all-purpose chemical fertilizers, but this doesn't exist in the organic side of gardening. Different organic fertilizers add different nutrients and ingredients to the soil. The materials you need depend completely on your soil and the plants you are growing in the garden.

Plant-based fertilizers

Plant-based fertilizers break down quicker than other organics, but they generally offer more in the way of soil conditioning than actual nutrients. These materials, such as alfalfa meal or compost, help to add drainage and moisture retention to poor soils. Other plant-based fertilizers include:

Animal-based fertilizers

Animal-based fertilizers, such as manure, bone meal, or blood meal, add lots of nitrogen to the soil. They're great for leafy plants and strong growth in the early weeks of gardening. Additional animal-based fertilizers for the garden include:

Mineral-based fertilizers

Mineral-based fertilizers can add nutrients to the soil, as well as raising or lowering the pH level when needed for healthy plant growth. Some of these types of organic fertilizer are: