Is your region famous for its fertile black soil? You are very lucky! However, even the most fertile soil, after several years of active exploitation, gradually loses its useful properties. It is not for nothing that in large farms the fields are left “fallow” in turn, giving the land a little rest and “come to its senses”.
In a small vegetable garden with an area of three to four hundred square meters, of course, leaving even a piece of land “fallow” is no longer advisable – the site is used to the maximum, which ultimately leads to a decrease in yield and depletion of the soil.
And even the alternation of different crops in the beds, which differ in the degree of exactingness to the soil, which we talked about in the article about garden planning, does not always give a noticeable effect.
That is why, in order to increase yields and make the most of the opportunities of a small vegetable garden, fertilizers are used almost every year. What types of such beneficial soil additives are there? How and when are they different??
The resources of even the most fertile soil are depleted over time and fertilizers are indispensable neither in a large farm, nor in a tiny personal plot
The word “fertilizer” is usually used to refer to a variety of substances that contain elements useful and nutritious for plants. Fertilizers do not have such a “telling” name for nothing – their main goal is to fertilize, make the land “kinder” and more fertile and, as a result, achieve a good harvest.
All fertilizers are divided into two large groups – organic and mineral. Organic, as the name immediately implies, have nothing to do with chemicals – these are environmentally friendly fertilizers that have arisen, so to speak, naturally, with virtually no human participation. The composition of organic fertilizers includes organisms contained in plant residues and animal waste, as well as various microorganisms that are involved in the decomposition of these residues.
Organic fertilizers include manure, bird droppings, compost (plant residues), humus, peat, wood ash and lake silt.
Mineral fertilizers are inorganic compounds containing plant nutrients in the form of mineral salts. Mineral fertilizers are divided into nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and complex fertilizers. Unlike organic fertilizers, which occur naturally, mineral fertilizers are products of chemical production and the work of human hands..
Such ready-made fertilizers, produced at chemical plants, contain useful substances in high concentration, in complex mineral additives there are several types of substances.
In large farms, fertilizers are scattered with the help of special equipment, and gardeners will have to manually “feed” their plants in the beds
Features of different types of fertilizers
Immediately, we note that usually there are much fewer problems with mineral fertilizers – they are sold in factory-made packaging, already completely ready for use. For gardeners who have chosen this type of useful additives, it remains only to purchase the required amount of fertilizer in bags and scatter it around their site. Convenient and simple, isn’t it? In addition, the manufacturer immediately indicates on the packaging for which type of soil this type of ready-made mineral mixture is suitable, for which plants it is intended and in what dosage it is used..
Nitrogen fertilizers are usually represented by ammonium nitrate – this is a universal type of useful additive that is suitable for almost all plants and a wide variety of soil types. It is very simple to use saltpeter – it is sold in bags in the form of granules and is usually just scattered on the beds immediately before planting. Remember, nitrogen is easily washed out with water, so adding ammonium nitrate in the fall is useless..
Phosphate fertilizers are represented by phosphate rock and superphosphates. Such additives are made from phosphorite or apatite. Phosphorite flour dissolves in the soil gradually, so it will become a useful additive for plants for more than one season. This type of fertilizer is often used on acidic soils. Superphosphate is phosphorite or apatite treated with sulfuric acid. This fertilizer is sold in granules, used directly when planting plants, once a season.
Potash fertilizers are mainly potassium chloride and 40% potassium salt. They are also easily washed out with water, so they can be used several times a season to feed plants.
These are the white “grains” of ammonium nitrate can be scattered by hand over the beds just before planting seedlings, potato tubers or seeds
Organic fertilizers, it would seem, do not need production – so they appeared in nature by themselves. However, such organic additives cannot be used in their original form – special, often rather lengthy preparation is required.
So, fresh manure will only harm the plants and “bring” a lot of weed seeds to your garden. Before using such animal waste as fertilizer, they must lie down for some time (at least a year, and preferably two years). Such muted manure is called humus and it is a truly irreplaceable and versatile fertilizer. If fresh manure can only be used for feeding cucumbers, pumpkins and cabbage and is usually applied to the beds in the fall, for digging, then all vegetables and flowers, without exception, will definitely be “delighted” with humus and can be applied at any time of the year.
Poultry manure is considered the richest in nutrients and fast-acting type of organic fertilizers. It can be used even fresh, simply diluted with water or scattered between plants. For a long time, chicken droppings can be stored together with soil, peat, straw or sawdust, without losing their useful properties. A popular way to use this type of organic fertilizer is dilution with water in a special container. You can also bring in already dry bird droppings, directly during planting and during the warm season, for feeding vegetables.
Compost, that is, prepared plant residues, also requires a fairly long storage. To prepare this type of organic fertilizers, you need to build a box or other container on a shady place on the site, where all the remains of plants will be poured – roots, leaves, shoots, grass torn from the site. Wood ash can be added to this pile of plant residues, and on top must be covered with a layer of soil or straw. In this form, compost is stored for at least a year. When finished, it looks like a fairly homogeneous dark mass..
Remember – the compost is applied to the beds in the fall, before deep digging of the garden. For a greater effect, it must mix well with the soil, so such an additive will not only increase the content of nutrients in the ground, but also improve the quality of the soil itself.
The compost bin is an irreplaceable source of nutrients for plants
The rest of the organic fertilizers – peat and lake silt (aka sapropel) – must also be prepared before use. In particular, it is recommended to pre-compost peat like other plant residues. However, it is problematic to stock up on such organic fertilizers on your own. Find a peat bog, remove the top layer of the earth, cut the peat into pieces, bring it to the site … A laborious process. And the extraction of silt from the bottom of the lake will not give pleasure to any gardener.
Today, peat is most often purchased ready-made, and lake silt cannot be called a popular type of fertilizer precisely because of its inaccessibility. Although there are manufactures in our country that specialize in the extraction from ecologically clean lakes and the subsequent processing of sapropel, so you can buy such ready-made fertilizers.
Peat and lake silt are applied to land plots in spring or autumn, before digging a vegetable garden. Remember that sapropel has a very long period of action – it is added to the soil no more than once every ten years.!
Lake silt or sapropel is mined only in ecologically clean water bodies, since heavy metals and other harmful substances can accumulate in it
What to choose
So, we figured out that there are many fertilizers. So what should you choose? Consider the main advantages and disadvantages of organic and mineral supplements.
Advantages of mineral fertilizers:
- Ease of use, the ability to purchase ready-to-use mixtures with an ideal proportion of nutrients.
- Due to the high concentration of nutrients, mineral fertilizers are required much less than organic ones. Only three to four kilograms of ready-made fertilizers per one hundred square meters of the garden will replace 400 kilograms of compost or manure.
- With the help of mineral fertilizers, it is possible to control not only the yield, but even the quality of vegetables. For example, after the application of potash fertilizers, it is the tubers of plants that grow better..
Despite all of the above advantages of mineral fertilizers, a huge number of gardeners mistrust this “brainchild” of chemical products. Often, nitrates and nitrites are called real poisons, considering that eating vegetables grown using such fertilizers is harmful to health. It should be admitted that such an opinion is justified.
Disadvantages of mineral fertilizers:
- Overdose potential. Scientists unanimously argue that the harm of mineral fertilizers is greatly exaggerated, and they bring many benefits. However, it has been proven that an overdose of ammonium nitrate and other mineral additives can really cause poisoning, the accumulation of harmful substances in plants and the death of plantings. Mineral fertilizers must be applied very carefully, carefully observing the dosage, following the instructions specified by the manufacturer.
- High price. Unlike such “gifts of nature” as compost and manure, mineral fertilizers can only be bought and often ready-made mixtures will not be cheap, especially given the large area of the site.
- It is necessary to apply mineral fertilizers annually, especially for potassium and nitrogen fertilizers, which are quickly washed out with water.
The main advantage of mineral fertilizers is their ease of use – it is much easier to scatter ready-made granules in the beds than manure or compost
The benefits of organic fertilizers:
- The use of organic additives increases the content of extremely useful humus in the soil.
- The physical properties of the soil also improve: it becomes looser, it is easier to dig such soil, the soil perfectly permeates moisture, heat and air, ensuring good survival of seedlings, fast seed emergence and growth of root crops.
- The introduction of organic fertilizers allows you to activate all the resources of the plant and soil organisms.
- Organic fertilizers contain a much larger set of micro and macro elements than in the most complex mineral mixture.
- In addition to useful elements, natural fertilizers also contain physiologically active substances.
- You can prepare organic fertilizers yourself without spending a penny.
- If mineral fertilizers need to be applied annually, then organic fertilizers not more often than once every three to four years, and in the case of using sapropel – once every ten years. They have a longer lasting effect.
Disadvantages of organic fertilizers:
- Fresh manure can burn plants and must be used very carefully, for example, by diluting and watering only the soil between plantings..
- You need more organic fertilizers than mineral.
- The introduction of humus or compost is associated with hard work – you need not only to scatter a heavy mass over the garden, but also immediately dig up the beds until the useful nitrogen has disappeared from the fertilizer.
- The exact amount of nutrients in organic fertilizers cannot be determined, so it will not be possible to control the quality of vegetables.
- Growing onions and carrots immediately after fertilization with manure is fraught with plant flies. It is worth planting onions and carrots only two years after using the manure in this area..
- Organic fertilizers are often difficult to obtain. Of course, if you have your own poultry house or shed with cows and pigs, then the problem is solved. Otherwise, you will have to go to a poultry or farm, spend money on fertilizer delivery, look for sapropel producers or purchase peat. The most accessible type of organic matter is compost.
- And, finally, yes – manure and bird droppings are not very aesthetically pleasing, and they do not smell very pleasant, and you will have to get dirty. But, admit, any work on the ground is associated with the need to get your hands dirty!
At the sight of such a trailer with organic fertilizer, you immediately want to pinch your nose and step aside. And plants really like such additives, and even how!
To summarize – today, mineral fertilizers are most often used in large farms, aimed at obtaining maximum profit from the sale of crops. But in relatively small private gardens, organic fertilizers are usually used – they are more affordable and definitely will not harm health.
The choice of the type of mineral fertilizers depends on the characteristics of the soil and the type of plants grown. But when choosing organic fertilizers, farmers are most often guided by their availability – I have a chicken coop, so they will fertilize with bird droppings, no – I will make a compost heap.
In general, if you are an adherent of organic farming, then the use of mineral fertilizers is immediately excluded. But if the result is important to you – as many vegetables as possible for the family or for sale – then you should not ignore the achievements of the chemical industry.