Organic fertilizer recommendations?

This is the place to discuss Organic lawncare.
mabehr
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Organic fertilizer recommendations?

Postby mabehr » October 24th, 2017, 10:18 pm

Are there any recommendations for brand/types of organic fertilizer? I’ve been using Ringer Lawn Restore II for many years because at one point it was OMRI listed... but can’t find a mention of it on the OMRI website anymore. Ditto for Espoma, Jonathan Green, and most other major brands with which I was familiar.

Interestingly, Scott’s Natural Lawn Food is now OMRI listed, as is Dr Earth’s SuperNatural Premium Concentrate (the liquid; interestingly, the granules are not, for some reason. Maybe it’s the micorrizhae?).
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andy10917
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Re: Organic fertilizer recommendations?

Postby andy10917 » October 24th, 2017, 10:25 pm

I like the Soybean Meal that comes in no-name brown paper bags, and Milorganite is a core element of my regimens. I also like blood meal for the Hosta, which seem to like the "hotter" natural Nitrogen.
mabehr
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Re: Organic fertilizer recommendations?

Postby mabehr » October 25th, 2017, 12:05 am

Isn’t milorganite sewage sludge, which the NOP is pretty clearly opposed to? Not saying it’s not good/effective (my neighbor swears by it) but can it really be called “organic?”

Soybean meal is an interesting suggestion. OMRI approves it as per a decision tree... it might take some work to actually find that decision tree though!!!
mabehr
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Re: Organic fertilizer recommendations?

Postby mabehr » October 25th, 2017, 12:41 am

OMRI seems to indicate that urea is banned. This may have been recent.

https://www.omri.org/generic-material/urea
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andy10917
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Re: Organic fertilizer recommendations?

Postby andy10917 » October 25th, 2017, 7:57 am

I don't give a damn what OMRI says - it's more political than anything else. The day that I need the USDA to tell me that they bless products is the day I cash this hobby in.

TimmyG
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Re: Organic fertilizer recommendations?

Postby TimmyG » October 25th, 2017, 10:34 am

mabehr, you asked for recommendations on organic fertilizer, not "certified" organic fertilizers. Most here focus on the former, not the latter. Milorganic is organic, but it is not "certified" organic. Please see Re: Tips for a Organic Lawn. I realize you mentioned OMRI a few times in your OP, but to avoid confusion, you should distinguish between organic (the scientific definition) and certified organic (a paid-for label). You'll certainly get more pertinent recommendations if OMRI really is that important to you.
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andy10917
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Re: Organic fertilizer recommendations?

Postby andy10917 » October 25th, 2017, 10:57 am

There is also a strong tendency on this site (encouraged!) to shy away from attributing quality to brand names, and to focus on the quality of what's in the bag.
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Re: Organic fertilizer recommendations?

Postby TimmyG » October 25th, 2017, 11:21 am

^And on that note, Organics What's in the bag. Just because.
mabehr
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Re: Organic fertilizer recommendations?

Postby mabehr » October 25th, 2017, 12:02 pm

TimmyG wrote:
October 25th, 2017, 10:34 am
mabehr, you asked for recommendations on organic fertilizer, not "certified" organic fertilizers. Most here focus on the former, not the latter. Milorganic is organic, but it is not "certified" organic. Please see Re: Tips for a Organic Lawn. I realize you mentioned OMRI a few times in your OP, but to avoid confusion, you should distinguish between organic (the scientific definition) and certified organic (a paid-for label). You'll certainly get more pertinent recommendations if OMRI really is that important to you.
Thanks. Organic is, unfortunately, a loaded term so I will be sure to specify certified (or certifiable, in the case of soybean meal). Unfortunately, neither Milorganite nor Urea meet that definition, urea being a recent change by the NOP, sludge being an old fight. The “scientific” definition that I used back in Orgo was “containing carbon,” so what would distinguish Milorganite from, say, Scott’s Lawn Food? Beyond the ratios of NPK, slow release to fast release nitrogen, and maybe micro nutrients like iron, of course.

On the topic of NPK, Micro nutrients, and Slow/Fast release, is there anything else I should pay attention to? Some initial look ups seem to indicate that soybean meal, alfalfa meal, etc, are all 100% slow release.
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andy10917
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Re: Organic fertilizer recommendations?

Postby andy10917 » October 25th, 2017, 1:14 pm

In general, a good approach is to determine what the state of your soil is, via a soil test from Logan Labs and an interpretation/plan from ST6. In many cases, remediation is required - and remediation with less-dense organics can be both expensive and a very-long process (like a decade!). Often we recommend an approach that uses a hybrid of organics and synthetics to get to a remediated state - and get it into the rearview mirror. Then we can get to all-organics if the Member prefers that.
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Re: Organic fertilizer recommendations?

Postby TimmyG » October 25th, 2017, 3:47 pm

Note: grains and other organics aren't exactly "slow release" per se but rather are "slow to be processed" by the microherd (conversion of proteins). We just use the term out of convenience when comparing with synthetics, which are either immediately water soluble (fast release) or made water insoluble (slow release) by way of coatings, etc.
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Re: Organic fertilizer recommendations?

Postby Dchall_San_Antonio » October 28th, 2017, 3:10 pm

Slow release is a terrible description, but it happens to work when you know what you're talking about. The reason many organic fertilizers are so slow to feed the plants is that they have to be process biologically by the microbes in the soil. There are roughly 35,000 (and up) different species of bacteria, fungus, yeast, microarthropods, and other invisible beasts there to do various things. One of the paths that the soil food web takes results in plant food. That process takes about 3 full weeks when you start with grains like alfalfa, soy, corn, wheat, etc. With products like blood it only takes a day or two. Blood must be used carefully, because as Andy mentioned, it's "hot," meaning it can burn plants when used too heavily. For the average homeowner, blood should not be dabbled with for your lawn. It comes built in to some commercially bagged fertilizers, and is safe when use by the instructions on the bag, but blood is not a DIY element in lawn fertilizers. At the other extreme of release speed are feather meal and hair. Although these are very dense in protein/nitrogen, these can take months to decompose into plant food. If you use them often enough they will decompose more quickly as the soil microbes adjust their populations to accommodate for the different foodstuffs.

The only reason to consider OMRI approved fertilizers on grass is if you are in the business of selling organically certified turfgrass. Otherwise, there is no OMRI police coming knocking to inspect your garage and purchase receipts. If it makes you feel better, then stick with OMRI, but 99.99% of us never look at their listings. Soybean meal, corn meal, cottonseed meal, and corn gluten meal, is as unsullied as you can get. Alfalfa meal is unsullied but the pellets have a binder. If you get animal feed then that can be blended with vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, which, not coincidentally, are important for the microbes in the soil.

NPK labels for organic fertilizers are required by the rules made to protect the chemical industry. Back in the old days companies were putting junk into bags and selling it as fertilizers. To be fair, people were putting compost into bags and calling it fertilizer. As we know, fertilizer is not fertilizer. Ammonium sulfate is not the same fertilizer as compost. So putting NPK on the label is a good idea to keep it clean and let the buyers know what they're getting. NPK is low in organics, but you make up for it by applying poundage of product. With a chemical fertilizer, those are extremely dense with chemicals which gives them the appearance of a salt. Organic fertilizers are, literally, food. They should never look like salt. Food value of the organic ingredients is measured in protein and carbohydrates. Protein supplies nitrogen while carbohydrates provide sugars for the microbes. Chemical fertilizers might be applied at a rate of 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet, but organic fertilizers would be applied at a rate of 15 pounds per 1,000 square feet. To get the same NPK from compost requires 700 pounds per 1,000 square feet. The pounds of N, P, and K work out when you go heavier on the application. With organics you can feel safe applying too much N, P, and K because the microbes use the nutrients in their conversion process. Chemical salts go right into the roots.

If you want to learn more about the biology of your soil, here is a link to the Soil Biology Primer, by Dr Elaine Ingham.

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