Organic Answers Column - February 1, 2023 - 1st Fertilization
First Major Fertilization of the Year
It surprises some gardeners and many in the landscape business when they're told that late winter/early fall is the ideal time to apply the first major fertilizer application of the year.
Well, it's late winter and time to apply the first major organic fertilizer application of the year.
"Wait until April to make the first fertilizer application of the year," some folks will tell you. If you are still using the destructive high nitrogen fertilizers, that's actually good advice, because that's the only time synthetic, salt products have a chance to feed plants. If applied now when the plants aren't actively growing, the synthetic stuff will completely volatilize and wash or leach away. Most of it escapes into the environment even when applied in April. The remaining 10% or so of the artificial fertilizer that gets taken up by plants is not very good for the plants even though it makes them grow. The high-salt products basically glut plants and causes unhealthy growth that attracts insect pests and diseases.
Organic fertilizers don't dissolve like salts, they stay in place and behave themselves. Put them out now (late winter) at 20 lbs. per 1,000 square feet. These naturally slow-release products will feed the soil, the microbes in the soil and benefit the roots of trees, shrubs and even grasses before the plants start to grow. January and February are the ideal months in most of the country. Folks in the north can wait a little longer.
The list of excellent organic fertilizers that are blends of natural materials includes MaestroGro, Medina Growin Green and Nature's Creation. All these products should be used at the 15-20 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. on all landscaping and food crops. They are clean, easy to apply and not stinky. Corn gluten meal is another organic choice that feeds the soil well and prevents weeds if applied just be they germinate.
Another good organic fertilizer choice is dry molasses, because it is used to quickly stimulate microbes in the soil and provide fertility. It can be applied by itself or used along with the other organic fertilizers at rates from 10-20 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. or on large properties at rates as low as 200 - 400 lbs. per acre. Dry molasses will also, in most cases, chase the fire ants off the property.
If you have planted cool-season flowers such as pansies, dianthus and snapdragons, they can be fertilized with earthworm castings, fishmeal, cottonseed meal, alfalfa, bat guano, and Garrett Juice to supplement the basic organic fertilizer program. Interior plants can be fed with any of the above along with coffee grounds, earthworm castings and other gentle organic products.