Types of organic plant food

Learn about the different types of organic plant food available to make or buy, in our No Fuss Guide.

In this No Fuss Guide, David Hurrion takes you through the different types of organic plant food.

He explains what the word organic means and the difference between organic and inorganic fertilisers. He then offers advice on the importance of improving your soil with organic matter such as pelleted chicken manure.

Fancy making your own organic plant food? here, David demonstrates how to make a comfrey liquid feed, for feeding tomatoes and other flowering plants:

David then discusses the benefits of bonemeal and blood, fish and bone, describing what they are, when to use them and the benefits they bring to your plants.

He then looks at the different types of seaweed and which plants they are good for and those they are not.

Finally, David shares his advice on which fertilisers are not organic and how to spot them to ensure you can garden in a totally organic way.

Types of organic plant food: transcript

Anyone who wants to garden organically will know that if you’ve been to the garden centre, the shelves are absolutely crammed with all sorts of fertilisers, but very few of them are organic. So we’re going to run through some of the options that are available. Organic really means that anything that has been once living, so it’s part of the natural cycle. So anything that you put onto the ground will be taken up into the plants and then recycled back for reuse later. Inorganic fertilisers are manmade, so they’re artificial and they bring other elements into the garden that you might not necessarily want.

The key thing is to make sure that your soil is in really good condition before you start. So the ultimate form of organic fertiliser really is organic matter. Organic matter actually breaks down into the soil and it not only improves the soil, the condition of the soil, but it also adds nutrients as it gradually decomposes. It’s really an
essential slow release form of organic fertiliser. You'll also find a limited range of manures that have been turned into another form of fertiliser like this pelleted chicken manure. Now, this is really just manure that has been dried out and formed into these compressed pellets. Nothing added, nothing taken away, but it will be gradually broken down in the soil to release its nutrients and it will also have some soil improving capacity as well. You’ll also find organic fertiliser in the form of bonemeal. Now, this is a by-product of the meat and dairy industry, and it really is just the bones of the dead animals that have been crushed up. It’s a great source of  phosphate, so it’s brilliant for putting into the soil at planting time when you’re planting any of your plants. And phosphate will encourage really good root development. A more balanced fertiliser is blood, fish and bone. Blood adds lots of nitrogen, which is good for strong leafy growth, the fishmeal will be good for a bit of Potash in there, but then the phosphate again is supplied by the bonemeal and that’s, as I
said, that’s good for root growth. So this is a traditional, balanced, organic fertiliser.

Then moving on, you’ll also find different formulations of seaweed. So there’s one thought, which is this calcified seaweed – it’s seaweed crushed down, dried and crushed down and then with added calcium, lime added. And that’s really good because it’s a general purpose fertiliser, very high in nitrogen for leaf growth, Potash for flowers and phosphate for root growth. But it’s also got all the other little micronutrients
that plants need to stop them having nutrient deficiencies. Really good, but it’s not very good to add around ericaceous plants because of the lime content in there. You’ll also find seaweed in various liquid formulations like this. And this is great for giving plants a quick burst of nutrients. The major nutrients are there, the nitrogen, Potash and phosphate, but also all the trace elements as well. But again, beware. Sometimes you’ll find that seaweed fertilisers have other things added to them and they can be inorganic. So again, look for
that organic label on the front of the packaging.

And don’t forget, there are some things that sound like they might be organic that aren’t. Things like Growmore, for example. That sounds like a really good old fashioned traditional fertiliser, doesn’t it? But it’s totally manmade. It was developed during the Second World War for the Dig for Victory campaign and, although it’s been around for years, it’s not organic. There are plenty of organic choices out there. Some of them might need a bit of tracking down with a bit of web research, and you won’t find too many of them on your supermarket shelves. But it’s well worth looking out for them and using them so that you can garden in a totally organic way.