About Our Ingredients
There are many ingredients on the market that can be used to make organic fertilizers. And each has its own set of characteristics that it brings to the soil and the microbial community. As with all things, some perform better than others. We not only choose what works best in the soil for your plants, but also from sources where we can rely on for consistent high quality.
Feather meal is approximately 12% nitrogen, derived from a protein called Keratin, which occurs in hair, hoofs, horns and feathers. It does not break down easily, and is therefore an excellent long-term, slow release source of nitrogen.
As its name indicates, feather meal is made from hydrolyzed, dried, ground clean poultry feathers. It is almost totally protein in nature.
In addition to supplying nitrogen, feather meal promotes decomposition in the soil, helps the soil to form colloids, and structures soils by the production of glues.Feather meal is good for the growth of stems and leaves. It provides maximum benefits by its steady, long lasting supply of nitrogen. This makes it great for fall fertilizing with its slow breakdown ratio.
All water soluble nutrients in the soil eventually end up in the sea. Consequently, the salt water fish that live in this enriched environment become a repository of many of the macro and micro nutrients needed by plants. Meal made from fish bones provides a steady source of nitrogen, as well as a highly available form of phosphorous and trace minerals such as calcium.
Phosphorous is used by plants to produce sugar during photosynthesis and encourages strong, vigorous bulbs and root systems. It is excellent for flowers and vegetable gardens. Because the nutrients are derived from the bones, rather than the meat of the fish, fish bone meal is never smelly nor oily like fish meal can be. Fertilizers derived from fish meal (waste meat and other byproducts of fish) are typically low in calcium. In contrast, fish bone meal provides one of the highest sources of calcium. Soils in the Pacific Northwest are typically low in calcium due to the leaching effects of heavy rainfall so fish bone meal provides an excellent source to replenish this vital trace mineral. Calcium is essential to all plants and in particular, acid loving ones such as rhodies, azaleas, fruits, berries. Calcium is also necessary for healthy lawns. Dandelions and many other opportunistic plants – otherwise known as weeds – prey on soils deficient in calcium.
Alfalfa…the “Queen of the Forages” is the only forage crop that has been cultivated since prehistoric times. Records show alfalfa in Turkey in 1400 B.C. and in Greece in 490 B.C. Today, alfalfa grows wild in parts of Africa, Asia and Europe. Portuguese & Spanish explorers brought alfalfa to Central and South America and what is now the SW United States in A.D. 1500’s.
This hardy perennial has over a 10 year growth life and is now the 4th most widely grown crop in the United States. Alfalfa Meal is a widely adapted, energy efficient crop, and an important source of biological nitrogen fixation, able to fix 200 kg of nitrogen per acre annually, reducing the need to apply nitrogen fertilizers. Its deep rooting nature allows the plant to bring up important trace minerals which are only present deep in the ground. The Alfalfa meal in our bags has a very high nutritional quality:
PROTEINS: 16% to 25% crude protein VITAMINS: a high concentration of A, D, E, K, U, C, B1, B2, B6, B12, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Panthothanic Acid, Pyridoxine, Choline, Bentaine, Inocitole, Biotin and Folic Acid.
MINERALS: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Sulphur, Manganese, Iron, Boron, Copper, Zinc, Sodium, Chlorine Cobalt, Molybdenum
TRACE ELEMENTS: Nickel, Lead, Strontium and Palladium.
ENZYMES: lipase, amylase, coagulase, emulsion, invertase, pectinase and protease, and 18 amino acids.
GROWTH HORMONES: Triacontanol
Alfalfa Meal is not only a good source of nitrogen that is nicely balanced with phosphorous and potassium, its carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids and growth hormone make it an excellent soil conditioner that encourages and supports microbial activity in the soil that in turn provide essential nutrients to plant materials.
Kelp Meal is made from a type of seaweed called Norwegian Kelp or Rockweed, a common name of a variety of brown algae. Its official name is Ascophyllum Nodosum. These brown algae include the hardy rockweeds that carpet rocky tide pools and the leathery kelps that form towering offshore forests. Undersea Kelp forests are found along the North Atlantic, Nova Scotia and Icelandic shores and the Pacific Shores, and are among THE MOST PRODUCTIVE AND DIVERSE ECOSYSTEMS IN THE WORLD. It is a vital source of food for many marine animals as well as providing fish habitats.
Kelp is harvested by pruning the top one to four feet from the kelp canopy. Kelp grows quickly and recovers rapidly. Harvesting is controlled so as not to deplete the natural plant population and preserve its value as a renewable resource for agriculture and industry. Kelp has long been used for food, and more recently for fertilizer, iodine and caustic soda. Its natural gelling substance, called Algin, is used as a thickener and emulsifier to improve the body and texture of many foods. Engineers have even suggested that kelp farms could be used to absorb carbon dioxide as one way to prevent global warming. Kelp concentrates the nutritious minerals dissolved in ocean water into complex natural food supplements for healthy soils and plants. It contains potent concentrations of trace minerals, micronutrients, amino acids and vitamins. It stimulates microbial activity and provides a strong supply of naturally chelated nutrients that in turn stimulate the growth of plants.
Most importantly, it contains growth hormones, including cytokinins, auxins and gibberellins that stimulate cell division and help create larger root systems. Research and field trials have confirmed the role of kelp in increased crop yields, drought resistance, stress recovery and resistance to frost.
Sulfate of Potash is the scientific name for the potassium-magnesium-sulfur compound found in langbeinite, a natural mineral. Refining this mineral produces a good quality, water soluble, natural source of potassium, magnesium and sulfur for fertilizer.
Potash deposits occur as beds of solid salts beneath the earth’s surface and brines in dying lakes and seas. Although there are several ways of mining langbeinite, the sulfate of potash-magnesia we use is recovered through continuous mining – using specially developed mining machines that remove the ore directly from the vein, without any blasting and with minimal environmental impact. Potassium is a vital plant nutrient – the K of N-P-K. Although potassium is essential for plant growth, its exact functions in the plant are not well understood. Its primary function seems to be tied to plant metabolism: it is vital to photosynthesis, protein synthesis, the breakdown of carbohydrates for energy for plant growth, overcoming the effects of diseases, fruit formation, winter hardiness and it is involved in the activation of more than 60 enzyme systems that regulate the rates of major plant growth reactions.
Potassium is also important to efficient plant water use. It regulates the process of opening and closing of plant leaf pores. A shortage of K causes these pores to only partially open and to close slower, thereby increasing stress from drought.
Potassium deficient plants grow slowly, have poorly developed root systems, weak stalks, small and shriveled seed and fruit, and low resistance to disease. More plant diseases have been retarded by use of potassium fertilizer than any other substance…by strengthening the natural resistance mechanisms of the plant.
Not all K is available for uptake by plants…it is important that it be in a water soluble, exchangeable form in organic soils to be readily available and important that an adequate level of K fertility be maintained in the soil. In this form it will provide a readily available yet gradual supply of potassium.
Heavy rainfall tends to make our soils more acidic and with a pH lower than that desired by many of the plants we might like to grow. While rhododendrons, buttercups, and moss are quite content with acidic soils, other landscape standards such as lawn grass likes sweeter or more neutral soil.
Acidification of soil happens naturally over time as nutrients such as calcium and magnesium get leached out of the soil, but it is also a typical response to chemical treatment, especially with ammonium based synthetic fertilizers.
Even the mere cultivation of plants and the harvest of vegetables, hay, or pasture grass can serve to acidify the soil. The more biomass that is removed at once (especially if no crop residues are left to compost in place), the more the chance of acidification of the soil. In order to neutralize soil pH and help to break up heavy clay soils, the addition of lime, dolomite, or gypsum can prove beneficial.
Though the terms lime and dolomite are often used interchangeably, lime generally refers to ground limestone which is predominantly calcium carbonate. It is cheap, abundant, easy to use (non-caustic), but very slow to break down and raise pH. Dolomitic lime, more commonly known as Dolomite, is comprised of about half magnesium carbonate and half calcium carbonate. While both lime and dolomite will help to increase the pH SLOWLY over time, dolomite is much more efficient at effecting this change. Our fertilizers contain both limestone and dolomitic lime for both long term sustained time release and quicker acting forms. Dolomite is preferred if magnesium levels are low which is typical in the Pacific Northwest, where rain leaches the magnesium out of the soil. While Gypsum provides an excellent means to help improve clay soils, it does not affect the pH of the soil. Known as a neutral salt, it instead works by binding to the calcium in the soil, thereby preventing it from being leached out.
Bringing life back into your soil.
Under natural conditions, a tablespoon of soil can contain over a billion micro-organisms, most of which are beneficial. However, the soil found in most American residential and commercial landscapes is completely devoid of any soil life. This is due to a combination of construction and cultural practices such as compaction; chemical treatment with pesticides and synthetic fertilizers; and the fanatical removal of any organic matter such as leaves and grass clippings.
Lifeless soil can not support healthy plants, at least not in any sustainable manner. Maintaining landscapes in soil devoid of micro-organisms requires submission to a vicious cycle of chemical dependency with increased predisposition to disease and pest attack.
Beneficial soil microbes are comprised of bacteria, protozoa, yeasts, beneficial nematodes, myccorhizae, and other fungi. They perform many vital functions that help nourish plants; fight disease and pests; resist environmental stress such as drought or heavy rainfall; and increase soil tilth.
Typical garden soil is full of nutrients and minerals, but most are in a form inaccessible to plants. It is only by the symbiotic relationship with the microbes that live near the roots that plants can get their required nutrition. In fact, many nutrients in the soil only become available through brokerage with the soil microbes.
Some bacteria known as nitrogen fixing bacteria, can actually pull N out of the air and convert it to a form where it can be taken up by the roots. The result is increased plant growth and vigor. Nitrogen is released to plant when it needs it, how it needs it, and in a completely non-polluting manner. Mycorrhizae, known as root fungus help to increase nutrient and water absorption through an extensive filament system that increases the surface area of the roots. It increases bioavailability of vital, yet normally hard to access minerals such as phosphorous and iron.
Mycorrhizae are essential to increasing root depth, vital to nutrition and water absorption. These microbes help to decrease transplant shock; they speed up development of established root system that can resist drought stress. Soil microbes can also help to break down pesticide residues. Microbes reduce soil compaction and increase soil tilth. As the critters move throughout the soil, they create tunnels and more pore spaces. This in turn improves drainage and air circulation, all necessary for healthy plants.
Fungi such as Trichoderma decrease the presence of soil pathogens, thereby decreasing the need for fungicides & pesticides. Soil micro-organisms help fight disease, not only in the soil, but on plant surfaces as well. They inhibit spore germination and aerobic bacteria eating anaerobes, and promote a higher plant energy which produces an increased natural resistance to disease and stress.
Humate is a formation of humic substances, organic residues of plants and animals that have come in contact with microbial life in the soil. The carbon compounds contained in the residues were synthesized by the plants and animals when they were alive millions of years ago, supplying protein and energy for the various bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms involved in the decaying process.
Plants create organic matter, which feeds soil organisms, which transform the nutrients from residues back into plant food and nutrients for other organisms. The undigested portion of the residue accumulates as humus. The properties of humus depend on the properties of the soil and weather conditions. At a certain level of humification, it contains colloidal properties, the most important of which is its ability to absorb many metal cations such as potassium, calcium and magnesium.
Humic substances are a mixture of complex organic compounds that can be isolated from soil: humic acids, fulvic acids and humins. The main fraction of humus are humic acids and their salts HUMATES.
Humate has many beneficial influences in the soil and therefore to plant materials. Humic and fulvic acids are soluble in water and make available to plants certain nutrients and trace elements that would be unavailable otherwise. Humate helps provide metabolic energy, increases the production and productivity of microorganisms, assists plant respiration, produces energy through photosynthesis, increases chlorophyll content in plant leaves, aids the transport of water and nutrients of the cell tissues, has a positive effect of the water holding capacity of the soil, assists in the development of better, stronger and larger root structures, and much more.