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No manure in Montezuma? There are other choices.

by Timber Press on August 22, 2012

in Gardening

In the latest Garden Problem Solver, Mari from Montezuma, Georgia, asked:

What natural fertilizers are there besides animal manure? I have a large garden, but no tractor or large equipment. I know about alfalfa meal and cottonseed meal — I can apply those by bucket and hand. But are there others that are good that do not take large equipment to spread?

David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth, authors of What’s Wrong With My Vegetable Garden?, answered:

The living ecosystem in which all plants grow needs our care and protection to stay healthy. This starts with healthy, biologically active soil. The tiny community beneath our feet consists of bacterial and fungal decomposers that break down organic plant matter. Larger multi-cellular organisms like beneficial nematodes feed on the decomposers. And these, in turn, become food for larger creatures like insects and worms. All of these organisms ultimately utilize the energy captured by plants from the sun, which is stored in dead plant material. In other words, to create healthy, biologically active soil, feed this dynamic community dead plant material: compost, organic fertilizer, manure, and mulch.

Alfalfa meal and cottonseed meal are both excellent sources of nitrogen for your garden, and, even more important, they feed the beneficial soil micro-organisms like bacteria and fungi in the decomposer community. The soil community is full of the good guys that help fend off diseases.

A handy chart of organic fertilizer components from our book, What’s Wrong With My Vegetable Garden?, explains the benefits of each type. All of these are easily applied by bucket or hand.

Case-in-point: Young new foliage that turns yellow while the veins stay green indicates iron or manganese deficiency. Sources of dead plant material that act as slow-release organic fertilizers include compost and mulch, both of which are excellent sources of nutrients for your garden.


More from David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth:


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Julie Michaud August 22, 2012 at 3:47 pm


My question is related to container gardening. One of my containers was planted with lettuce last year. This year I wanted to plant with lettuce again, so I fertilized it with Sea Fertilizer (natural). But none of the seeds even sprouted. I did this twice, with no result.

I would like to plant kale or collard in that container for the fall/winter. Is there anything in particular I should be doing to increase my chances of success?

Thank you.

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