Homemade Organic Fertilizer

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There as a great article in the June/July 2006 Mother Earth News about making your own organic fertilizer using ingredients from the feed store.

The author is Steve Solomon and he certainly knows a thing or two about growing plants. Steve was the founder of Territorial Seed in Oregon, and the author of several organic gardening books. I have also dealt with him on several email lists and find him to be knowledgeable and helpful.

Back to the fertilizer. He recommends that you mix in small batches, measuring by volume:

4 parts seed meal
1/4 part ordinary agricultural lime, best finely ground
1/4 part gypsum
1/2 part dolomitic lime

And to improve things a bit more:
1 part bone meal, rock phosphate or high-phosphate guano
1/2 to 1 part kelp meal or 1 part rock dust

So I did a bit of shopping around, and this is what I came up with for prices:

Cottonseed meal $20/50 lb.
Canola meal $16/50 lb.
Ag lime $6/50 lb.
gypsum $10/50 lb.
Dolomite $9/50 lb.
Bone meal $30/50 lb.
Soft rock phosphate $14/50 lb.
High phosphate seabird guano $70/40 lb.
Glacial rock dust $16/50 lb.
Azomite $20/44 lb.

So my figuring puts the cost to give this a try at about $70 for the canola, three limes, phosphate and rock dust. Seems like a decent chunk of change till you start doing the math and comparing it to the cost of boxed or bagged fertilizers at the store.

The local organic nursery sells their's at $8 for 5lb and in 25 pound bags it drops to $1/lb. That $70 will give about 70 pounds, with about 3 more 70 pound batches costing only $16 each after that. There won't be any need to be stingy with the fertilizer when you are only paying about 25 cents a pound!

I already have about 400 pounds of dolomite in my garage for the lawn, and half a sack of rock dust that I use to provide grit to the worms in my worm bins, so I have a good start already.

I plan to stick with using the kelp in my compost tea, so there isn't much point in making my fertilizer more expensive. But if you don't already add kelp to your garden, it is well worth the expense to add it somehow.

And don't forget to keep adding compost! The compost is still necessary to provide the organic matter, microorganisms and soil structure that your plants need.