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by Fred

I have another question related to where I can find the best nitrogen source for my garden.

I wrote earlier about my wish to be organic, and start using sustainable methods, but it’s been a hard slog to find a commercial product that will be high enough in Nitrogen for my really starved garden. I’m doing what I can to start adding organic matter, such as compost (what little I can produce with kitchen scraps) and other things like sawdust (in small amounts as I realize that this can tie up Nitrogen) and I’m starting to grow some cover crops (starting with Buckwheat). Is there anything else I can add to the soil for a quick boost?

Drought Smart Plants reply:

You are on the right track with your additives.

Compost by itself is a hard slog, you’re right. It seems that even a large compost pile in the fall will shrink down to less than half the amount, making it seem almost not worthwhile.

Don’t give up!

Try and find a source of raked fall leaves, old straw, horse manure (my favorite) and other animal wastes (except household pet feces) and compost, compost, compost.

Making friends with the owner of a grocery store, restaurant or coffee shop will give you a wide selection of kitchen scraps to get into the compost bin.

If you go this route, make sure you are picking up the waste reliably, as nothing will frustrate the owner more than having a bin of kitchen scraps festering and going moldy if you only pick it up once a week.

Get a pick up schedule, and be sure to maintain good communication with them, to either tell them that you’re discontinuing the pick up, changing the schedule, or best of all, your success with the growth of your vegetable garden.

For good nitrogen sources, these are the best:

Any kind of leguminous green manure cover crop. This will include: Alfalfa, clover, field peas and beans of any kind.

Liquid organic fertilizer – yes, you guessed it – human urine contains uric acid, which is a high source of nitrogen.

Learn how to use it here: Liquid Organic Fertilizer

You can also maybe find a horse stable where the animals are kept confined for the night in a stall, and get that valuable commodity, urine soaked bedding to compost.

Blood meal and cottonseed meal, bat guano, and other pre-packaged organic fertilizers are good sources of nitrogen – however, the potential for having the supply of these getting cut off is high.

It’s best to start finding other (free) ways of gleaning nitrogen from the air, such as in the roots of nitrogen fixing legumes that can be dug into the bed or pulled out and composted, animal or poultry manures that are composted to kill weed seeds and pathogens, and salvaging and composting sawdust, which although it does tie up nitrogen as the tiny micro organisms attempt to break it down, will again release those once the initial composting cycle is complete.

Once you have some compost, or if you need a really fast foliar application of micro nutrients as well as the basic N, then use compost tea. You can make this will commercially bagged manure, I prefer using this method with chicken manure as it’s not so strong smelling (after the initial brewing) as applying it directly to the soil. Keep in mind that foliar feeding with compost tea should only be done on non leaf crops, as there is the possibility of salmonella or E. coli contamination.

The mantra with organic gardening is ‘everything in moderation, and nothing goes to waste’ so start utilizing all the free stuff you can accumulate and put it in the compost – the very best of all slow release fertilizers.

Happy Organic Gardening!