Soil in Florida is very sandy and low in minerals. Growing anything in such soil can be a real challenge, especially for novice gardeners.
Fortunately, there is an organic nursery in my community that has provided me with excellent advice over the years on how to overcome the difficulties of growing edible plants in sandy soil without resorting to chemical fertilizers.
While I’ve tried a number of different organic fertilizers in the past, my favorite continues to be liquid fish and seaweed fertilizer concentrate. A gallon of this stuff will last you forever – unless you leave it outside which guarantees that it will be ripped open and destroyed by marauding raccoons!
Raccoons seem to just love anything that smells fishy!
The fish and seaweed fertilizer I use has a 2-3-1 ratio which indicates the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium by weight. While these numbers may be important for chemical fertilizers, I don’t think they apply very well to organic fish/seaweed fertilizers given that there are so many other minerals and trace minerals in them.
In other words, chemical fertilizers will only contain 3 minerals – nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Fish fertilizer will contain upwards of 50 or more minerals, including these 3 primary ones.
The completeness of the mineral profile of fish fertilizer is what makes it so very effective for growing things in sandy soil, in my experience.
Adding compost and organic potting soil to the sandy dirt in your garden to gradually improve the nutrient profile can take weeks or months, whereas watering with fish fertilizer a couple of times a week seems to overcome these soil deficiencies quickly and easily!
A gallon of fish fertilizer is going to set you back $35-50, but remember that it lasts forever! Only 1 TBL diluted per gallon of water is what you need to water/fertilize your garden at the same time.
Twice a week watering/fertilizing seems to work very well for me. It’s pretty hard to overfertilize with fish fertilizer so don’t worry about burning your plants or other concerns that arise with the use of chemical fertilizers.
Another organic fertilizer I really like is Peruvian Guano (bird dropping pellets). These work better for my large citrus trees etc than my garden, however. In my garden, fish and seaweed fertilizer is clearly my favorite.
There are many decent brands of fish fertilizers out there, so check out my Resources page in the Gardening section for some that suit your particular needs. And don’t forget to post pictures of your garden’s progress on the Seeds of Change Facebook Wall!
What organic fertilizers do you use and why?
I was thinking maybe you could bury old fish heads and bones in the soil. I’m just worried that all the cats will try and dig them up!
We have yet to use anything but chicken manure (from our own chickens), but perhaps our garden would be more consistent with this additional fertilizer. Our best grower this spring was lettuce….it was coming out of our ears! But, the okra wasn’t as prolific as last year and the tomatoes were disappointing. I’m looking forward to planning our fall garden, and just might try this fertilizer on it.
I have a Can O’ Worms in Minnesota, a really cold weather area and move them into the basement to spend the winter where they are bedded down with lots of shredded newspaper. When I’m in Florida in the winter I buy earthworm castings at ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organizations) in N. Ft. Myers to use on our small space. The worm bin that I use up north has a handy spout for worm tea and I dilute that rainwater and give the worms credit for the beautiful results.
I use worm castings from my Can O’ Worms out in my back patio. I grow exceptional tomatoes and cucumbers in my limited space using these worm castings. My “worm condo” has 3 layers and sits on legs and I feed my red wiggler worms cardboard egg crates (from pastured eggs of course!) and fruit and veggie scraps, as well as used tea bags and a few egg shells and sometimes coffee grounds if I have them. After the initial outlay (about $100 years ago) for the original purchase, it costs me nothing. I bought the red wigglers through the mail years ago and have never had to buy more. The worm castings are considered cool fertilizer, as they can be used anytime and will never burn your plants. There is a lot of info on the web about worm composting. I don’t have the physical strength to turn a compost pile, but with a little help from a friend I can harvest my worm castings easily and don’t even have to touch the little fellers!
Wow, that is fertilizer on steroids! I assume you have a turkey farm where you get the turkey manure for composting?
No turkey farm…we live in Austin, TX close to an exellent organic garden center (The Natural Gardener) that carries high quality composts and soils (there really is no soil in Central Texas, just rocks!). I get my soils and composts from them. The turkey compost comes from organic turkey farms. You can tune in on Sat. and Sun. mornings via the internet on KLBJ AM and listen to their show. Because of this long-running show, Austin is an organic gardening city.
My best fertilizer is a compost tea I brew.
I take a 5 gallon bucket, fill it with water and get it bubbling using a fish tank pump and 3 plastic tubes with aerating stones.
After a few hours the city water chlorine is gone. I put two painter’s straining bags together (to avoid any compost getting out), fill them with turkey manure compost. Be sure to tie the bags with string. Pop that teabag in the water, add 1 T. of horticultural molasses. In 24 hours you will have a brew that will raise the dead (plant-that is).