Vegetable Garden Fertilizer

What are good vegetable garden fertilizers and what to choose? I have noted some ‘secret recipes’ just for you.......

Ideally, fertile soil should have a neutral pH level plus good soil structure and drainage, containing adequate amounts of the major plant nutrients- nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, plus sufficient micro-nutrients (trace elements) – zinc, manganese, boron, copper, iron, magnesium, molybdenum and chlorine. Adding organic matter, humus and a wide range of soil micro-organisms will maintain healthy soil.

In an organic garden it is important to have a good understanding of soil fertility, recognising the role of organic matter and soil structure. A good vegetable garden fertilizer is normally made up of a few different natural materials to maintain the overall health of the soil.

Complete organic fertilizer

- 4 parts cotton seed or Soya bean meal

- ¼ part crushed (rock dust) mineral fertilizer

- ½ part blood and bone

- ½ part kelp meal

Note- all measurements are in terms of volume not weight

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Sources of Organic Nitrogen


Chemical sources may be a lot higher in nitrogen but Organic nitrogen releases slowly over a longer period.   


Chicken Manure Pellets


This is a great vegetable garden fertilizer as the pellets are quiet concentrated and only small amounts are needed for the vegetable garden only 2 kilograms or a 1 litre ice cream container per 30 square metres.


Fresh chicken manure


From your own chickens or bought in bags, fresh chicken manure is very high in nitrogen and will burn your plants if applied directly. Apply to your garden beds with grass clippings or mulch (straw) 4 weeks prior giving it time to break down a little before planting out seeds or seedlings. The best place to put fresh chook manure is in your compost heap it will help it to heat up.



Cow manure


Cow manure is a good vegetable garden fertilizer as it won’t burn plants. It has about 10% nitrogen, 7.5% potash and 2.7% phosphate and contains large amounts of undigested organic matter which will become valuable humus in the soil. Cow manure contains a high population of bacteria which can be up to 30% of its mass. Add fresh cow manure straight to your garden bed, but dry pads will need be to broken up before application.


Stable horse manure


Horse manure is readily available from horse stables and contains large amounts of bedding straw mixed with manure. Horse manure is very rich in nutrients containing around 18% nitrogen, 4.5% phosphorus and 13.2% potassium.


Horse manure can be added directly to the soil or the compost heap. Ensure the manure collected doesn’t contain medications, that may have been given to horses as it is excreted through the urine or manure. Composting the manure for a few weeks however will assist in breaking those down.  


Blood and bone


Rich in phosphorus and nitrogen, bones have been used for centuries as a fertilizer. Suitable for all plants including natives it provides nitrogen for good leaf growth and phosphorus for root development. It does need to be mixed with potash for a total plant growth fertilizer.


Fish emulsion


Fish Emulsion contains high organic nitrogen and available soluble P and K, and has very good benefits as a foliar feed. It is also a great soil conditioner and contains bacterial food to help feed those soil micro-organisms. Even though there may be 4-5% organic N, 1% soluble P, and 1% soluble K in fish emulsion, there may be up to 6-8% total N, and 2-3% total insoluble P or K in it, that gets broken down later by the soil micro-organisms.




Seaweed is a wonderful vegetable garden fertilizer, a great soil builder and an excellent compost activator. Seaweed contains complex carbohydrates and these really get the soil humming with life. This has two really important functions for the garden, firstly it stimulates the microbial fungi in the soil and these assist plants in their uptake of nutrients, they also assist in defending plants from soil born diseases. So adding a seaweed fertilizer helps crop protection, and plant nutrition.


General garden fertilizers


There are many different commercial general mixes that may contain: chicken manure, seaweed, blood bone, sheep manure, cow manure or a combination of two or more that are great for the garden. Always check the bag for ingredients, if the products have been pre composted you can add to the garden immediately. Check out your local nursery to see what is available.



 Mushroom compost


Mushroom compost consists of about 80% straw, wood shavings, horse and fowl manure 10 % gypsum and 10% limestone. It is a by product of the mushroom trade which is rich in organic matter and manures that can be used as an organic fertiliser or mulch.



Rock dust mineral fertilizers


Glaciers and volcanoes are the primary methods nature uses to produce ground mineral rock. As this is an extremely slow process, mineral fertilizers are added to the soil. When a powdered rock is added as a vegetable garden fertilizer to the soil the micro-organisms digest the powder and convert the minerals into an available form for the plants to intake.


Lime and Dolomite


Agricultural Lime or Garden Lime is made from pulverized limestone or chalk. As well as raising the pH it will provide calcium for the crops and trace nutrients. Dolomite lime is similar to garden lime but contains a higher percentage of magnesium. It’s best to lime the garden in the autumn and let it work into the soil over winter.


So there you have it – all my ‘top secret’ information and recipes – no not really.


This is just a basic run down on some favorite tried and true vegetable garden fertilizers you can use in your garden.


Happy gardening!

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