9 Best Organic Fertilizers for Your Vegetable Garden
Just like pretty much every other living thing on this planet, plants require nutrients to help them grow properly. But it’s rare to have the exact combination of nutrients your plants need in your soil. Instead, you’re going to need to use organic fertilizers to keep your garden healthy and provide your plants with the nutrients they need.
But there are a lot of different options available, and sometimes marketing techniques can be deceiving. So how do you know which ones are right for your needs?
This guide on the best organic fertilizers goes over your top options for everything from your vegetable garden to your houseplants, so you can easily find the one you need for safer and healthier plant growth.
What Is an Organic Fertilizer?
Non-organic fertilizers are often made with ingredients like petroleum products and synthetic chemicals. Not only are they terrible for the environment, but they can also harm the health of your soil over time.
Organic fertilizers are natural products that provide the nutrients your vegetable plants need to grow and contribute to the overall health of your soil. Some products may be entirely plant-based, completely animal-based, or include a combination of plant-, animal-, and mineral-based ingredients.
Organic fertilizers mainly include the macronutrients nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). This is referred to as the NPK ratio and is often indicated in numerical form.
As an example, a 2-3-1 NPK ratio would mean the fertilizer has 2% nitrogen, 3% phosphorus, and 1% potassium.
It’s important to note that the term “organic” is not regulated for fertilizers. This means anyone can slap that word on their label, regardless of the ingredients they actually use in their product.
This is why you need to look for products that have the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) seal. OMRI is an independent, nonprofit organization that certifies products that are compliant with USDA organic farming standards.
The Advantages of Using Organic Fertilizers
The benefits of using organic fertilizers go beyond environmental protection. Here are some of the other advantages they offer over chemical fertilizers:
- Supplies nutrients to plants in a natural, slow-release form.
- Supports healthy and diverse ecology in the soil.
- Increases soil carbon, in the form of humus, which helps absorb water and nutrients that would otherwise runoff.
When Should I Add Organic Fertilizer to My Vegetable Garden?
The right time to add organic fertilizer to your garden depends on two things: what type of vegetables you’re growing and what growth stage those plants are at.
Since organic fertilizers are designed to slowly release nutrients, it’s ideal to apply them to your garden soil before planting.
Once your plants are growing, you should follow the directions on your seed packages to know how often to feed them until it’s time to harvest. If you don’t have the seed packages anymore, or they don’t have any directions for fertilizing, you can usually add fertilizer every other month without harming your plants.
Keep in mind that some vegetable plants are “heavy feeders” and might require more frequent fertilizer feedings than other plants. Some of the common heavy feeder vegetable plants include:
If you’re looking for an easy way to keep track of when to fertilize your plants, check out our garden planner bundle! One of the many helpful sheets in this bundle is a garden calendar where you can mark the days you need to feed your plants.
1. Best All-Purpose Organic Fertilizer
Jobe’s Organics All-Purpose Fertilizer is a granular fertilizer that contains NPK at a ratio of 4-4-4. It’s made from feather meal, bone meal, processed poultry manure, and sulfate of potash. It also includes beneficial bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms that help boost the long-term health of your soil.
It’s a great choice if you want to have only one type of fertilizer because you can use it on vegetables, flowers, shrubs, and trees. You can work it into the soil at planting time or apply to existing plants at the drip line.
Be aware that the smell can linger with this product. Therefore, you’ll either want to stick to using it outside or try to minimize the odor by mixing it with soil, instead of applying it on the surface.
2. Best Soil Builder
If you’re looking to build your soil and improve its health over time, Wiggle Worm Soil Builder is the perfect product. It’s made of 100% screened worm castings, which is the digested soil produced by worms.
Although its NPK ratio is 1-0-0, it’s an efficient way to boost the biodiversity in your soil and a little bit goes a long way. You can mix it in with regular soil when you’re transplanting, or apply it on the soil surface every 2 months during the growing season.
Plus, since worm castings are non-toxic and odor-free, this particular product is ideal for indoor and outdoor use.
3. Best Liquid Organic Fertilizer
Many gardeners find liquid fertilizer more convenient and easier to use than dry fertilizer because you can simply mix it into your watering can and apply it when you’re watering your plants.
While Neptune’s Harvest offers just fish fertilizer and just seaweed fertilizer, the fish and seaweed fertilizer is an outstanding option that combines the best of both products into one easy-to-use formula.
Fish emulsion and seaweed build the natural sugars in plant leaves, which help the leaves grow stronger — even in dry or excessively hot weather conditions. Plus, not only does this fertilizer help the leaves and flowers grow stronger and be more productive, but some people also say the fruit has a longer shelf life.
As you probably guessed, the fertilizer has a strong, fishy odor. Fortunately, the smell dissipates within a day. However, the scent can attract dogs and cats, so you might want to make sure you put up some type of barrier to keep animals away until the odor fades.
4. Best Organic Fertilizer for Starting Seeds
Whether you’re starting seeds or transplanting seedlings into your garden, a starter fertilizer can help your plants grow big and strong. Dr. Earth Root Zone Starter Fertilizer has an NPK of 2-4-2. The slightly higher ratio of phosphorus helps the roots establish.
This people- and pet-safe fertilizer doesn’t contain any synthetic chemicals. It’s also the only non-GMO Project Verified fertilizer in the U.S. They create their fertilizer using human- and feed-grade ingredients, so you know what you’re using won’t bring any potential health risks into your garden .
5. Best Organic Fertilizer for Vegetable Plants
Heavy feeder plants like the ones listed above will often go through nitrogen at a fast pace. That’s why the NPK ratio of FoxFarm Happy Frog Tomato and Vegetable Fertilizer is 5-7-3.
This fertilizer also contains calcium to help fight off blossom end rot, humic acid to help with seed germination, and 20 species of beneficial microbes that help convert fertilizers into important plant food.
6. Best Organic Fertilizer for Flowers
We talk a lot about fertilizing vegetable plants in your garden, but what about the flowers you have planted around your yard to attract bees to your garden? They need nutrients as well!
Miracle-Gro Performance Organics Blooms is an OMRI-listed plant food that promotes more blooms and better overall plant health. You can use this fertilizer in both potted and in-ground plants.
Plus, Miracle-Gro is working to help out our environment. Not only is the container made from 25% recycled plastic and recyclable, but the company has also launched a Parks for Pollinators program to help expand pollinator habitats in parks across the country.
7. Best Organic Fertilizer for Lawns
We’re big fans of shrinking lawns. Small lawns require less water to maintain, and natural areas are better for pollinators. Plus, smaller lawns mean wasting less time on grueling yard work and more time having fun!
However, if you do have some grass in your yard you need to maintain, Kellogg Garden Organics Lawn Food is the best option for it.
This fertilizer has a balanced NPK ratio of 4-4-4. It’s easy to apply and you can use it on all types of grasses. Plus, it’s safe to walk on immediately after applying, and it can green up your lawn without burning grass.
8. Best Organic Fertilizer for Houseplants
Your indoor plants obviously need help getting the nutrients they need to grow. However, if you overfeed them, they become more vulnerable to diseases and pests. Fortunately, Jobe’s Organics All-Purpose Fertilizer Spikes take the guesswork out of feeding your houseplants.
These pre-measured spikes have a balanced NPK ratio of 4-4-4, and you don’t have to mix anything to use them. Simply stick one spike in the pot (or several spikes for larger pots) and you’re done!
The spikes have almost no odor, which makes them ideal for indoor plants. They also contain time release fertilizer that slowly feeds your plants all season long.
9. Best Organic Fertilizer for Succulents
People love growing succulents because they don’t need a lot of attention. However, they do grow better when they’re fed during their active growth period in the spring or summer.
If you have some succulents at home, Espoma Cactus! Succulent Plant Food doses out just what they need when you water them. The fertilizer has a 1-2-2 NPK ratio that’s ideal for all cactus and succulents. While it is a little on the stinky side, the odor doesn’t last long.
Plus, the company is committed to sustainability and always working toward reducing their carbon footprint. Their manufacturing facility is 100% solar powered, they strive to create zero waste during the manufacturing process, and they use plant-based resins in many of their packages.
Don’t Forget About Compost!
Don’t forget that the compost you make at home is also a great source of nutrients for your garden.
Although it takes time to create compost, it offers huge environmental benefits in terms of building healthy soil, reducing food waste in landfills, and even preventing planet-warming greenhouse gas pollution. You can learn more about how to get started composting here.
Best Organic Fertilizers for Vegetable Gardens
Whether you’ve just started planting seeds, or you’re right in the middle of your growing season, giving your garden plants the nutrients they need will help them provide you with abundant, healthy food. Fortunately, it’s easy to feed your plants and protect the environment at the same time when you choose to use these best organic fertilizers.
More Helpful Gardening Tips
Did you enjoy learning more about the best organic fertilizers? Are you interested in discovering even more helpful gardening tips? Then please be sure to take a look at some of our other popular posts:
- Why Every Organic Gardener Needs This Garden Hose Water Filter
- 15 Vegetable Plants That Are Ready to Harvest in Less Than a Month
- The Best Vegetable Plants That Grow in the Shade
- Perennial Vegetable Plants You Can Harvest Year After Year