Nitrogen is a key ingredient in successful plant growth and development. It’s largely responsible for processes like photosynthesis, something plant organisms cannot live without. Nitrogen deficiencies in your soil are usually easy to spot – leaves may begin to turn yellow or pale green, or you might notice stunted plant growth despite acceptable growing conditions.
Luckily, there are many viable ways to add nitrogen to your soil via natural processes, as they derive from animal by-products as well as plant and mineral sources. We’ll go over some of these below.
The first method requires a bit of forethought, so we’ll go over it first. Leguminous cover crops, which are things like alfalfa, hair vetch, or clover, team up with soil bacteria to pull nitrogen from the air and deposit it into the soil via a process called nitrogen fixation. A fall/early spring cover crop turned into the ground can provide the much needed nitrogen your garden craves, and will last for most of the spring/summer growing season.
If you’ve managed to miss the cover crop window, other plant, animal, and mineral by-products can fill that gap.
- Composted Manure – The manure from grass eating animals contains an abundant amount of nitrogen and organic matter, but it runs the risk of burning plants or giving weed seeds the opportunity to invade your garden. Instead, composting manure roughly 6 months prior to any planting removes these risks; mix it with the top 6 inches of soil a month before spring planting and you’ll have an organic soil rich with nitrogen.
- Fish Emulsion – Much faster acting than manure of any kind, fish emulsion can be sprayed onto the soil in heavy doses once every month or so. It can also be sprayed on the foliage of your crops, but make sure you dilute the solution with water first.
- Feather Meal – Chicken feathers are a surprising source of nitrogen – they contain keratin, a hard protein that takes time to break down, making for an excellent, long-term solution for nitrogen deficiency.
- Alfalfa Meal – A fantastic source of phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium, alfalfa meal also encourages positive microbial activity in the soil. It’s very quick to decompose, which is good if you want fast results, but rapid decomposition causes extreme heat in the soil. Make sure you avoid placing it directly into planting holes or near fragile root systems.
- Soybean Meal – Commonly used on lawns because it has a slow to medium nitrogen release.
- Chilean Nitrate is a soluble mineral salt mined from desert in northern Chile. It’s very high in nitrogen concentration, and unlike plant or animal sources, it doesn’t need to be biologically processed and broken down in the soil – this means it’s a valid source of nitrogen even in cold soils. The downside of such a soluble mineral is that it can leak into surrounding water tables if not monitored properly.
Novice gardeners will quickly learn what most long-time gardeners already know – there isn’t a “catch-all” solution to gardening problems. Instead, many different methods and resources are used in conjunction with each other to produce the best possible results. There isn’t one fertilizer, there isn’t one pesticide spray, and there isn’t one gardening method. That’s why we feel like it’s important to supplement your efforts with products like Dr. Willard’s PlantCatalyst®. PlantCatalyst® is not a fertilizer itself, but instead supplements other garden products by enhancing nutrient absorption and retention. It’ll help your crops pull nitrogen and other vital minerals from the soil, causing them to grow fuller faster, with bigger yields, all while using less fertilizer. It’s also a natural product, made without harmful chemicals present in other fertilizer supplements.
We stand behind our product, as it’s been tested in greenhouses and out in fields on over 100,000 plants across the nation – the results have been astounding. We encourage you to add PlantCatalyst® to your daily gardening routine.
For a more scientific, in-depth look at how nitrogen affects plant growth, check out this great article over on CropNutrition: http://www.cropnutrition.com/efu-nitrogen