I talked a little about organic fertilizers in my fertilizing tomatoes post. But now I want to talk a little more in-depth about this wonderful way to grow your tomato plants.
Especially when it comes to growing anything (for example, tomatoes) that I plan to eat, I think organic fertilizers just make more sense. I mean, we get enough in the way of chemicals in our daily living; we certainly don’t need to ingest more if we can avoid it.
Organic Fertilizer and Worms
Now my absolute favorite organic fertilizers is…worm castings. It’s been difficult for me to find in small enough quanitites for a reasonable price. These days, I don’t grow a large garden, and I don’t need 50 or 60 pounds at a time. But I have found a good source recently; it’s packaged in 15-lb bags as Greensense earthworm castings.
In my experience growing veggies of all kinds (and tomatoes in specific) earthworm castings seem to be well-absorbed by the plants. No burning of even the younger plants, totally organic, lightens the soil, and quite concentrated; a little amount can fertilize a lot of plants.
But recently I discovered something else worm-related that I like; it’s called Terracycle organic fertilizer.
You may be asking…TerraCycle? It’s liquified worm castings…or as described on the container, “worm poop”. It comes pre-dissolved and ready to use. You can get it with a spray top and use it as a spray fertilizer, or pour it onto the soil right after a normal watering. And one other nice thing about TerraCycle is that it’s packaged in recycled materials, which is better for the environment.
Other Organic Fertilizers
Another natural fertilizer that I like is fish emulsion. Yep, it’s pretty much what it sounds like; liquified fish. Although a bit on the, umm, aromatic side, it’s great for the plants. Prior to finding the TerraCycle, it was my favorite liquid organic fertilizer. You’ll find it in just about any decent-sized garden center. Sometimes it’s in a power form other times it’s a concentrated liquid, so you’ll need to add water to it before using.
Let’s talk a little about the garden staple, compost. You can buy it pretty much at any garden center, but try to find one labeled organic. I know, in theory it should be organic by definition, but labeled organic means that the manufacturer had to pass some pretty stringent guidelines to be able labeled as such.
If you have the space and the time to make your own compost, I highly recommend it. Basically you need things like household garbage (not including anything with protein, fat or plastic), grass clippings, dried leaves and a means to compost it, like a compost bin.
Keep in mind that it generally takes a few months to create well-cooked (so to speak) compost, but there are “tumble” bins like the one in the link above that can create compost in a month or so. But whether it’s one month or six months, the most important thing is that the result is well-composted. Here’s a hint; it’s ready when there is no smell to the compost; if it still has an odor, it’s not “finished cooking”.
Manure is also a time-tested organic fertilizer. Cow manure is easily found in a garden center. Horse manure is generally only available if you have horses or know someone else who does. Chicken manure generally isn’t recommended unless incorporated in small amounts with other “normal” compost, as it’s pretty potent all by itself and can easily burn your tomato plants.
Well, these are the best of the “whole plant” fertilizers. If you’re planting in the ground (instead of in containers), unless your are very fortunate, you’ll also need other kinds of soil amendments. These include sphagnum moss, vermiculite and other minerals, in addition to compost and/or manure. But I’ll talk more about those in a different post.