Updated June 06, 2019 by Gia Vescovi-Chiordi

The 10 Best Organic Fertilizers

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This wiki has been updated 26 times since it was first published in May of 2016. If you are looking forward to enjoying all the fruits and vegetables you are growing in your garden, make sure you don't harm them -- or your family -- by adding toxic or potentially harmful chemicals to the soil. These organic fertilizers will enable you to produce more healthy, tasty and nutritious foods than you can find at your local supermarket, and most are safe to use around kids and pets. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best organic fertilizer on Amazon.

10. ChickenFuel Compost

9. Fox Farm Big Bloom

8. Dr. Earth Home Grown 704P

7. Espoma Tomato-Tone

6. Organic Plant Magic

5. Humboldts Secret

4. Neptune's Harvest

3. EarthPods Easy

2. Down To Earth All-Purpose

1. Unco Industries Wiggle Worm

Editor's Notes

May 23, 2019:

Whether you're growing delicious garden vegetables to feed your family, tending to shrubs, trees, and other landscaping, or simply want to keep toxins out of your indoor potted plants and away from pets and children, there is an organic fertilizer for every need. Our diverse list features options to suit those needs, with the inclusion of everything from bat guano and chicken manure to hydrolyzed fish, seaweed, and greensand. Naturally, we prioritized products by effectiveness and sustainability as well as price and composition (liquid or granular) and ease of application.

While we still stand by our previous #7 pick Shin Nong Pro as a solid selection, we felt that a more effective replacement was needed. We chose Down To Earth All-Purpose (ranked at #2), another gentle, OMRI-listed formula that's jam-packed with proven, popular ingredients.

The easiest of our selections to apply are the EarthPods All Purpose capsules, which simply need to be pushed into soil near the root. For flowers, consider Fox Farm Big Bloom and for vegetables, Espoma Tomato-Tone. If you have plants that are faltering and need a jump start, Humboldts Secret will serve you well. Bear in mind, though, that it can be tricky to administer if you're not a seasoned gardener.

We elevated Unco Industries Wiggle Worm to the top spot due to its fast-acting, effective formula, attractive price, and versatility. It's odor-free, and it only takes a little to see positive results.

Selecting The Right Organic Fertilizer

Pellet fertilizer is slower to break down than powders, thus is great for use around established shrubs, trees, and bushes that will benefit for extended feedings.

Fertilizers are an invaluable aid in raising and maintaining plant life as they serve to replace the nutrients that are depleted from soil as a plant grows. With the right type and ratio of fertilizer, planted fields, beds, and pots need not be left fallow and need little fresh soil year after year, leading to greater efficiency and ease of horticultural management that farmers and gardeners from eras past could scarcely have imagined.

Whether you are concerned about your health and the wellbeing of other people who come onto your property and/or eat foods you raise, if you are dedicated to protecting the environment and eco-system, or if you just don't trust the chemicals used by major agribusinesses, using organic fertilizer is a great way to help your plants robust growth while minimizing exposure to potentially harmful substances.

More often than not, selecting the right organic fertilizer for your needs is as easy as considering what types of plants you will be assisting and then doing a bit of research and reading. Most fertilizer blends are created with specific types of plant in mind, so whether you are hoping to grow robust, productive tomatoes or if you want to restore your lawn to its healthy, verdant luster, with some looking, you can surely find the right fertilizer formula for your needs.

What might require a bit more thought is not so much determining the right fertilizer formula, but the best physical type of fertilizer to use. Organic fertilizers come in pellets, powders, stakes, and liquid form. And not all types of fertilizer medium are equally appropriate for varied applications.

If you are trying to grow a full bed of flowers (such as pansies or moss roses, for example), then turning a handful of powdered fertilizer into each cubic foot of soil is a good approach. For helping citrus trees create tasty, robust fruits, driving stakes of fertilizer into the ground a few feet away from their trunks is the way to go. Pellet fertilizer is slower to break down than powders, thus is great for use around established shrubs, trees, and bushes that will benefit for extended feedings. And finally liquid based fertilizers are great for smaller beds, potted plants, or even for mixing into the water of hydroponic systems.

Perfect Soil Preparations

Any gardener or landscape professional with a bit of knowledge and experience knows that too much of a "good thing" is actually a bad thing; that is to say, too much fertilizer can be every bit as detrimental to a plant than too little. In fact, it can worse: in high enough concentrations, fertilizers can effectively "burn" a plant, potentially even killing it.

Fertilizer burn typically occurs when an oversupply of nitrogen salts draws too much moisture out of a plant, leaving its leaves (and sometimes its stalk and even the roots) dried and damaged. Fertilizer burn can affect everything from the grass of a lawn to edible food crop plants to flowers and beyond.

To make compost, be sure remember the basic guideline of a twenty to one ratio of carbon to nitrogen.

The best way to avoid damaging a plant by the use of too much fertilizer also happens to be the best way to prepare soil for new plantings, as well: pre mixing soil and fertilizers creates a fecund material ready to help flora grown and thrive. Whether you are preparing a bed for a new year of tomato or pepper plants or you're turning new earth into the ground around a well established citrus tree or row of hedges, choosing the right fertilizer and then mixing it with healthy soil -- and, ideally, some homemade compost as well -- will do wonders for your vegetation.

If you make your own compost, you are well on your way to enjoying wonderfully healthy plants. Mixing a few scoops of compost into each wheelbarrow full of soil (whether fresh soil or that you scoop up from your own land) and then adding a handful of fertilizer can create a nutrient-rich material that may well see your plants needing nothing but water and sunshine for an entire growing season. To make compost, be sure remember the basic guideline of a twenty to one ratio of carbon to nitrogen. That is to say, for every twenty parts of a compost blend made of substances like straw, pine needles, or sawdust to one part nitrogen rich materials like food scraps, grass clippings, and coffee grounds.

Differences Between Organic And Inorganic Fertilizer

As far as plant is concerned, there is little difference between organic and inorganic fertilizers. Both substances deliver compounds the plants need for ideal growth and development, the only difference being the source of these compounds. The real difference between the two substances is that an inorganic fertilizer helps plants without doing much (if anything) to renew thew health of the soil itself. Organic fertilizers can both help a plant grow and can help replenish the nutrients and balance of the surrounding earth beyond the roots.

Eventually, earth exposed to too much inorganic fertilizer simply must be left barren for years or more, or else must be replaced.

In an inorganic fertilizer, the nutrients that will feed the plant are usually derived from petroleum products. Petroleum can be refined into a potent source of the nitrogen a plant needs, but it is a non-renewable resource that can damage the earth during extraction and, ironically, damage it again when put back in the ground as a fertilizer. That's because while nitrogen (and other compounds, like phosphorous) can help plants grow, they also kill off many of the minute organisms that live in soil and which are usually responsible for helping maintain the healthy, natural balance of fertile land.

So fields, beds, or gardens treated with inorganic fertilizer may see a year or two (or even more) of healthy plant growth, it's likely that each year will require more and more fertilizer to yield the same results, thereby further damaging the soil. Eventually, earth exposed to too much inorganic fertilizer simply must be left barren for years or more, or else must be replaced.

Thus while a plant may grow just as well whether it receives organic or inorganic fertilizer, the gardener or farmer concerned about the greater good will always choose the naturally derived approach.

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Gia Vescovi-Chiordi
Last updated on June 06, 2019 by Gia Vescovi-Chiordi

Born in Arizona, Gia is a writer and autodidact who fled the heat of the desert for California, where she enjoys drinking beer, overanalyzing the minutiae of life, and channeling Rick Steves. After arriving in Los Angeles a decade ago, she quickly nabbed a copywriting job at a major clothing company and derived years of editing and proofreading experience from her tenure there, all while sharpening her skills further with myriad freelance projects. In her spare time, she teaches herself French and Italian, has earned an ESL teaching certificate, traveled extensively throughout Europe and the United States, and unashamedly devours television shows and books. The result of these pursuits is expertise in fashion, travel, beauty, literature, textbooks, and pop culture, in addition to whatever obsession consumes her next.

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