Nitrogen is one of the three macro-nutrients your garden requires to flourish. Thankfully, you have a plethora of source options.
Plants require three macro-nutrients to grow. These nutrients are phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen. If you’ve ever picked up a bag of plant fertilizer and seen three numbers written on the front, those numbers are the NPK ratio (the letters come from the atomic symbols.)
Nitrogen’s largest purpose is to grow green matter. Without enough nitrogen, plants would struggle to grow stems and leaves. That’s why when plants begin to become depleted in nitrogen their leaves turn yellow and wilt! As soon as you begin to see your plants’ leaves start to fade to a light yellowish green you need to apply more nitrogen.
Thankfully for you, there is a very wide variety of sources of nitrogen. Almost everything living has nitrogen in it, but plants have higher levels than most other living organisms. As nitrogen grows green material, it probably comes as no surprise that the leaves and stems of plants have the highest concentration of nitrogen!
While you can buy your high nitrogen fertilizer from reputable online retailers or even in your local garden or seed store, my go to is something that almost all of us have readily at our disposal. That’s right, I use weeds!
Specifically, I typically use either clover or dandelions that aren’t flowering or at the seed stage. These weeds are readily available to me on my parents’ property, and as a free source of nitrogen I jump at the opportunity to use them. By using them I’m not only cleaning up in and around our garden beds, but I’m also giving my plants a good source of a very vital nutrient!
Now, I don’t just pick these plants and sprinkle them on my garden in the hopes that their nitrogen will permeate into my soil. I prepare them in a fertilizer tea, which, is also how you’d prepare your fertilizer if you purchase alfalfa or a similar plant source of nitrogen. This method is super simple and can be done in a kitchen stock pot.
Once you’ve either collected your weeds for fertilizer or you have your alfalfa or similar grass crop, you’ll want to boil some water in a small pot. You’ll pour this water over your plant material in a large stock pot. Once the plant material has been soaked and begun to break down, you’ll want to fill the pot at least halfway with warm water from your tap.
After a day of sitting on a kitchen counter, it’s ready to use! (Be sure to dilute it though when you go to apply it. I usually do one part fertilizer tea and one part water.)
If you do choose to go the route of conventional fertilizer be sure to check that it is organic and non-synthetic. Synthetic fertilizers are not only bad for your plants and soil long-term, but they can be bad for you as well. Miracle-Gro may grow your plants fast, but it is not a safe source of nutrients.
Natural sources of nitrogen besides weeds and alfalfa meal include: manure, coffee grounds, blood meal, and feather meal. I would recommend manure and coffee grounds first, as blood meal is a byproduct of slaughter houses, and slaughter houses are known vectors for disease. (I also don’t use animal based fertilizers because I’m vegan)
A good retailer for compost and seeds is Sow True Seed. That’s where I sourced some of my seeds for this growing season as well as the fertilizers my mom and I use. They have a wide variety of soil amendments, including ones not commonly found in typical brick and mortar stores! I highly recommend them.
There are many options when it comes to sourcing nitrogen for your garden, and that’s definitely a very good thing! Nitrogen is so vital for plant growth so be sure to not skimp on it. If you see your plants start to lose their green pigment, don’t hesitate to apply a high nitrogen fertilizer. Better yet, regularly apply it every three to four weeks. Nitrogen decays in the soil very fast and plants often lack the levels they need to flourish.
I wish you all the best and good luck with your garden!
Thank you for taking the time to check out my blog. Whether you stay for a day, a month, or a year, I appreciate you. -Kate