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Organic gardening is all about building quality soil. Sometimes, you can do that by just adding compost, but it takes time. I use gentle, general-purpose fertilizers starting with the seedling stage, as well as some manures and mineral supplements.
As for bug sprays, steer clear of chemical pesticides and go the natural route – Neem oil is a personal favorite. If you choose not to spray your plants, be mentally prepared to share them with some slugs, bugs and critters – that’s perfectly natural, and you’ll have plenty of food left.
As a bare minimum, I use liquid fertilizers to keep my seedlings fed and happy until it’s time to transplant them outside. But since I’m growing vegetables intensively – very close together – I can see a difference when I supplement with fertilizers.
You can probably tell we’re passionate tomato growers, and fertilizing tomato plants is a MUST! You’ll find tomato fertilizers for every stage below.
- Fish & seaweed liquid fertilizer. This organic fish & seaweed blend is a popular option. You can use it to fertilize your seedlings at half-strength and boost plant growth at full strength.
- Worm tea. You know what I love even more than worm casting for my garden? Worm tea concentrate – I use it as a weekly gentle feed for some of my hungriest plants. You only need to mix a tiny amount with water, and as a bonus, you can use it as a compost starter.
- Bone meal. Bone meal is a potent fertilizer, but you need to get the timing right. Use it on your potatoes at planting, or to feed your tomatoes before the flowering stage.
- Organic granular fertilizer. This universal granular fertilizer from Miracle-Gro has the perfect NPK ratio to support flowering tomatoes, but don’t shy away from using it on other vegetables and herbs. It’s easy to sprinkle and it’s got raving reviews.
- Cal-Mag. This micronutrient supplement, rich in Calcium and Magnesium, prevents nutrient deficiencies and is great to use at the fruiting stage. We use it on tomatoes to help strengthen their skins and avoid blossom end rot.
- Azomite. With azomite, a little sprinkle goes a long way. It’s perfect for adding those trace minerals into what might be a nutrient-depleted soil. You’ll never know what it can do for your garden until you give it a try.
Compost & manures:
With compost and especially manure, you can source them from your local farms, add a thick layer to your entire garden in late autumn and call it a day. But for those of you who can’t (or won’t) do that, there are some great alternatives:
- Organic compost. Wouldn’t it be great if we all had our homemade compost, readily available? I make my own compost, and still have to buy some to supplement. Choose a reputable organic brand of compost to fill your containers and raised beds.
- Vermicompost. Worm castings are an incredibly powerful feed. We already mentioned worm tea, but I also like to add a teaspoon of vermicompost (basically, worm poop) to the transplant hole when transplanting young seedlings.
- Chicken manure pellets. Sprinkle chicken manure pellets lightly wherever you’re not growing vegetables. This is an acceptable alternative to spreading cow or horse manure in autumn, if you don’t have access to it. Chicken manure pellets will act as a slow-release fertilizer, and you can use them in containers too.
- Rabbit manure. Rabbit manure is gentle, odor-free, and one of the best instant manures you can use, as it doesn’t require aging. While fresh rabbit manure can be hard to come by, you can order powdered rabbit manure. Sprinkle it sparingly on your beds in autumn and spring.
Organic pesticides & bug sprays:
- Neem oil. Neem oil is a classic natural pesticide. Use it sparingly and don’t spray on hot sunny days – it could burn your plants! I use neem oil to kill aphids and to prevent early blights and powdery mildew.
- BT spray. BT concentrate is a spray I use to control the caterpillar population, particularly on my brassicas. It’s based on a bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis (or BT) that produces endotoxins which kill worms and caterpillars. BT is completely safe for humans and pets.
- Zeolite. I stumbled upon this product while researching organic slug-deterrents – because I didn’t have enough eggshells to deal with my slug infestation. I sprinkle zeolite around my plants and its sharp granules seem to keep slugs at bay. It’s a completely inert mineral, and it’s great for your soil!
- Borax. Neem oil and borax go hand in hand in my garden. You can’t kill an aphid infestation without killing the farming ants, and borax does just that. Don’t worry, you’ll still have ants, but you don’t want their nests growing out of control.
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Have a great gardening season!