And choosing a fertilizer is no easy task. When you go to the store, you see tons of fertilizer bottles lined up on the shelves, so you just grab one and hope for the best. But is it really the best type of fertilizer for your garden? Not necessarily, as it all depends on the types and quantities of plants you grow, your local climate, and soil composition.
So we figured you could use a little help with choosing the optimal type of fertilizer for your home. Typically, the choice lies between four main varieties — compost, commercial synthetic fertilizer, organic fertilizer, and mulch. Which one’s best for you?
In the organic gardening community, compost is often called black gold. And it’s easy to see why, as few, if any other fertilizers are as cost-effective and potent as compost. Also known as worm castings, compost is outstanding for enriching the soil in your garden and feeding plants that require a lot of nutrients, such as vegetables and fruits.
Compost is a natural fertilizer produced by letting organic materials like dry grass, leaves, and food scraps be fully dissolved by worms into nutrient-rich soil. Worm castings can be purchased in-store, but you can also make your own compost at home. Just follow the guide here: Make a Compost in 6 Easy Steps.
Worm castings work great for vegetable gardens and flower beds, and you usually need to have your own yard to fit in a compost pile. To use compost as a fertilizer, just spread a 2-3" layer of worm castings over your garden soil before planting once a year. Alternatively, sprinkle a little compost as a top-soil dressing at any time of the year if you see that your plants need a boost.
Those who own a fairly large yard or garden but have no time to waste on compost and aren't particular about organic farming can simply purchase commercial synthetic fertilizers. These fertilizers typically contain a balance of nutrients in concentrated forms, so the results you can expect to see are also instant.
Synthetic fertilizers can be added at any point, and they come in many forms: granules, sticks, and liquids. Liquid synthetic fertilizers often need to be diluted with water and then added to the soil right after watering. They are better for a monthly treatment, whereas granular and stick ones are slow-releasing, meaning that you only need to fertilize once every 3-6 months. Granules typically work best by being mixed into the soil, and spikes and sticks just need to be pushed directly into the soil.
Synthetic fertilizers are a practical solution for both indoor and outdoor gardens, as well as lawns and trees. Just make sure to pick up the right one for your needs - there are different varieties for flowering plants, lawns, vegetables, and indoor plants.
These commercially available fertilizers are made of organic sources, such as fish emulsion, bat guano, kelp meal, bonemeal, etc., which is why they tend to get a little pricier than chemical fertilizer. Due to the higher cost, store-bought organic fertilizers are mostly used in indoor gardens or in small outdoor gardens. The easiest place to find organic fertilizer is a plant nursery.
If you grow plants indoors and insist that the fertilizer you use must be organic, things like fish emulsion will likely work wonders for you. Just keep in mind that most organic fertilizers must be diluted in water and reapplied on a weekly or biweekly basis.
Many people don’t even consider mulch a viable fertilizer, but high-quality organic mulch does have many beneficial natural compounds, such as tree bark, dead leaves, and straw that can be used to nourish plants. Note that we’re not talking about synthetic mulches here. These can be made of plastic, stone, or rubber, and they don’t have the same properties as organic mulch.
Keep in mind that it takes a long time for mulch to start adding nutrients to the soil, so it’s no instant solution. However, mulch has many other purposes in the garden. For example, mulch is used to control weeds, seal in moisture in the soil, and protect plant roots from extremely high and low temperatures. This is why many people choose to add mulch around the shrubs and trees in their yard.
H/T: The Spruce