When growing fruit and vegetables at home or on an allotment the question inevitably arises as to what organic fertiliser to use. Some people are lucky with their soil and find that their first year produces a good harvest with little addition. Working the soil year in year out will mean that nutrients are deleted and without putting something back yields are likely to reduce and there is a greater chance of unhealthy plants.
There is a scientific way of working out what nutrients your soil needs, and soil testing kits are available to show whether your soil is acid or alkaline as well as nitrogen, phospherous and potash levels. Once you know this you can then find the right organic fertiliser match to improve your soil. This article is not about the scientific way.
The thing with allotments, and large vegetable patches at home, is that they are big. Two compost bins will not provide enough organic fertiliser. The biggest challenge for an allotmenter on a budget is often to find enough organic fertiliser (each year) for their plot without breaking their budget. At my allotment, and thanks to the hard work of the organising committee, they source a big pile of well rotten horse manure from a local stables. Not everyone is so lucky, so here is a list of organic fertilisers for the home grower. I hope it is helpful.
(not ranked in priority)(remember to rot down before using)
- Rabbit droppings
Great if you have big rabbits – if not you may want to read on.
- Pigeon droppings
As with rabbit.
- Sheep / goat
High in nutrients. The challenge is collecting the droppings…
- Chicken poo
A great rich source. Many allotmenters now keep chickens, and chickens have their coup and pen that makes collecting droppings quite straightforward. This is an excellent way of feeding your plot.
- Horse manure
Often a combination of horse bedding and manure. This can be an excellent source as it should be available in large quantities and at a low price (free) if you’re lucky. There is debate over the amount of weed seeds it may contain as a horse’s gut won’t break down the seeds. Rotting down the manure solves the problem.
- Cow manure
Another excellent source. A cow’s gut will break down the weed seeds, but compared to horse manure it may be available with less organic content (straw).
- Pig manure
and now for some alternatives to animal manure
- Green manures
This is where you scatter sow seeds of fast growing plants (green manure) in late summer to provide ground cover (blocking out weed growth) with the intention of cutting back the following spring (strimming) and then turning into the soil to fertilise it. This can be an excellent and cost effective way of fertilising soil, but it can be hard work especially if you miss the optimum moment to cut back and the plants grow too strong. See green manure on Amazon UK.
You may like to see my article on the Best Wormeries. Wormeries naturally produce liquid from the composting process and this can make a good fertiliser. Simply dilute the worm liquid with water and you should have a plentiful supply of liquid feed during the growing season.
Like pig manure, this is not one for people with a sensitive nose. When comfrey leaves rot they give off a black liquid that can be diluted to make a highly nutritious liquid feed. To avoid smells, place the comfrey leaves in a big bucket with a hole in the bottom (don’t add water) and collect off the excess liquid at the bottom.
Failing all of the above, an alternative is to look for dry fertilisers – see dry fertilisers on Amazon UK. However, these may not be organic and are often made from the waste products of the animal farming industry (ie not vegetarian).