What kind of fertilizer can we use that is natural or organic? This has been a hard choice for us for many years. Since we eat everything that we grow, well I should say some of everything that we grow, and our whole vision is to keep our produce natural so that it is Real Slow Food for our own health and nutrition; how do we get enough fertilizer on the plants so that they are healthy and produce vigorously?
Well I’ll begin by telling you what we have done in the past and what we are trying to do now. Ken and his dad were raising beef cattle when we were married 33 years ago. Of course being good farmers we ‘dressed’ our garden every year with a healthy amount of natural cow fertilizer. The worms loved this environment and would quickly break it down into a very rich fertilizer which grew some lovely gardens in our sandy soil. As our garden grew larger and we started selling at the Farmers Markets in 1995 we found that it was almost impossible to ‘dress’ enough nitrogen for the heavy feeders like the corn. Corn is just like grass it needs a high first number on the fertilizer bags like 20-0-0. Of course the worms do not like this as it is too hot for them. The good news is that corn does pull-up fertilizer from as deep in the ground as the weeds nearby are pulling it up for them. So weeds do have a good purpose after all, but we have had to supplement with this higher percentage nitrogen fertilizer.
A few years ago we found a natural pelleted fertilizer and it is working very well for most of the crops. It is called Nutri-Rich made by Stutzman Farms in Canby, OR. This comes in a 50 lb. bag and is a 4-3-3 combination: 4 % Nitrogen, 3 % Phosphate, 3 % Potash and actually has 7 % Calcium which is what keeps the tomatoes from blossom end blight and peppers from having spotted blight. This is a slow release pelleted product. Their web site is stutzman-environmental.com
Nutri-Rich is labeled to broadcast at 8-12 Lbs for a 100 foot row. We bought just one bag for the whole greenhouse; it was around $10 at our local feed store. We spread it in the row and tilled it in, then sprinkled it on top right where we would plant and laid our plastic mulch down. This ended up about 20 lbs per 100 foot row; so it cost $4.00 for 100 foot. It will be well worth it to us. The worms love it and the plants too as you can see from the pictures of the cucumbers. Our local Azure Standard Company also carries the product and our feed store ordered a ton for us which saves us time and shipping if we were to go truck it in ourselves.
Another fertilizer that we use as much as we can is Rabbit dressing. It is very natural and again if you have a local Rabbitry they often are glad if you will help them to get rid of their wonderful dressing. My daughter raises rabbits and is very generous to give us her extra dressing.
Last fall we prepared our garlic bed with rabbit dressing and supplemented with the Nutri-Rich. Our garlic has a larger neck on it than it ever has had before. And look at how the weeds love the new plan. I always say, “If you can’t grow strong weeds you probably can’t grow a garden.” It looks like this fertilizer is going to be a good choice. 🙂