When it comes to fertilising your vegetable garden you can become overwhelmed with the choices available. There are some manufactured options out there that give you the exact combinations of nutrition your plants need, however, I opt for organic matter that will over the long term improve my soil.
For any manure that you use, make sure you either mix it in with your soil or allow it to compost (rot) down so it doesn’t burn your plants.
This is mostly what we use in our garden primarily as it’s readily available to us (ie. it’s free). Horse manure also comes with some challenges in terms of weeds, that’s why it’s best to let it compost down a little before applying to your garden.
If we have to buy fertiliser, this is our go to. If you were collecting from the field, make sure you head for the older patties, as fresh manure has high levels of ammonia which can damage your plants, there is also the risk of E.coli. Cow manure that you purchase is gentle enough to sprinkle around and add to your garden bed preparation.
Sheep manure is like the natural ‘slow release’ fertiliser. It generally smells less and can be used as more of a mulch. It has a low nitrogen content so won’t burn your plants.
We use poultry manure in our garden by adding it to our compost – when we clean out our chicken coop we put the straw and the poop directly into the compost bin to break down. It is very high in nitrogen so if applied directly to plants it’s likely to do some damage so use sparingly.
Another good additive to your soil that will add extra nutrition, but you wont have to worry about it doing damage to your plants as it’s very mild. It also helps with water retention in your soil so if you’re working with a sandy bed this might be a good one to add.
Seaweed solution is more of a plant tonic than a fertiliser, it won’t really improve your soil over time, but it will give your plants a bit of a boost as they will collect all the minerals directly through their leaves. Another fun fact is that it provides the plant with hormones, so if you want to give your plants a headstart when you transplant, apply seaweed solution after planting.
If you have a worm farm (which is probably the first thing I would get if I hadn’t already started collecting my household scraps – you can read about what I use here). Not only do you get the benefit of the castings which are nutritionally power punched with minerals and rich in nitrogen fixing bacteria. Whilst you wait for your wormy friends to get through all the goodies you’re giving them, you can extract the ‘wee’ and create a liquid fertiliser for your garden which is an awesome way to keep your vegetables happy without forking out extra for liquid fertilisers.
I’ll be posting about how we make our own compost tea that we use as a liquid fertiliser for our plants soon. Generally a compost tea consists of using disease free weeds and beneficial plants soaked in water and essentially fermented to create a great soil conditioner.
What is your favourite way to give your vegetable garden a boost? Leave a comment below.