Don’t let your plants “just be” in the winters. Make sure you stockpile their larder with the best organic fertilizers for winter.
The plants that grow inches and feet in summer usually turn into stragglers in winters—the cold having slowed their growth as well as metabolism. That doesn’t mean they do not need food, or rather fertilizer. What plants do need to weather Father Frost are slow-release fertilizers and as always, going natural is great for the produce as well as the environment.
The main difference between summer and winter application of fertilizers is that in summers, the fertilizer needs to be quick acting. In winters, it’s a slow-release fertilizer you want—the kind that gently keeps feeding the plant and the soil over an extended period of time. This way, the plant braves through the cold with enough reserve to bloom once spring arrives and the thaw melts.
Organic vs. Synthetic Fertilizers
Organic fertilizers are by nature slow-release food; they take time to break down and enrich the soil with macronutrients. This is also the reason why most produce farmers tend to go synthetic with fertilizers since they work faster to let the plants grow and become more “saleable.”
However, overuse of synthetic fertilizers is actually bad for the soil since these chemicals destroy the soil’s natural microbe population and upset the organic balance of the soil. Organic fertilizers use naturally available nutrient-rich alternatives: alfalfa or cottonseed meal, or fish emulsion for nitrogen; bone meal or rock phosphate for phosphorus; and kelp or granite meal for potassium.
Basically, organic fertilizers feed the soil and make it healthy, while synthetic fertilizers simply feed the plant and slowly degrade the soil.
The Macro-Nutrients In The Soil
While the soil does need a bit of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous to truly support a vivid biodiversity in it, the main nutrients that all plants thrive on remain the same NPK you get stockpiled in synthetic formulations.
- If you want large, lush, and leafy plants, nitrogen is what you are looking for. This is what most synthetic “growth” formulations have in large quantities, no magic there.
- If you want your blooms to bloom, and the roots to develop extensively, go for phosphorus.
- For hardier and disease or pest-resistant plants, as well as plants that grow even and absorb just the right amount of water, the magic ingredient is potassium.
Before you start applying fertilizer to the soil, do a cleanup. And by a cleanup, we mean just that. Remove any diseased, insect-ridden, and dead parts of the plants. Clear any junk around the topsoil as well. Remove all weeds around your plants as well lest they eat up the fertilizer, and do so by tilling the topsoil to get to the roots of the weed as well.
Organic Winter Fertilizers
So what makes a good, slow-release fertilizer, which is also organic, non-polluting, and economical? Surprisingly, lots of things…Here’s a handy list of stuff you can use from your home and kitchen to restore the NPK (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) balance of the soil to make sure your beloved green beauties survive the winter frost. Just everyday things that can fertilize those blooms...
- Bananas Or Peels: Plants need potassium? Leaves going yellow? Just bury a banana or a banana peel in a hole near the roots, and see the magic bloom.
- Dirty Fish Water: Wondering what to do with that freshwater aquarium water (not saltwater please!)? Don’t throw it out…pour it out on your blooms instead. Fish poop has just the right formulation of NPK, as well as magnesium and calcium to support your plants.
- Eggs-Actly: Need a calcium boost? Collect a week’s worth of eggshells (I have two egg-hungry boys so a week means almost 2-3 dozen for me!). Dry them out in the sun. Put them in a sturdy cloth bag and basically give them a walloping till crushed. You can also choose to crush them in a grinder. Just sprinkle over the soil and till away.
- Powdered Milk: Not an egg person? Sprinkle powdered milk on soil lightly and till.
- Playing A Match: If the plants look a tad lame and droopy, magnesium is the call of the day. And all you need is a box of strike matches! Just soak a box full in a gallon of water, strain and spray as needed.
- What’s Food For The Horses: Is also food for the plants—so horse feed can simply be sprinkled on soil and tilled a bit and finally watered down. The key ingredient is molasses, something that really spurs microbial growth in soil.
- Epsom Salts: One tablespoon Epsom salts dissolved in a gallon of water make for an excellent monthly spray for plants and give a quick dose of magnesium and sulfur.
- For Alkaline Plants: Coffee grounds are excellent plant food but they work better for plants that love a slightly acidic soil (think fruiting trees, azaleas, and evergreens). Store your coffee grounds in one big container. Once full, dry them to avoid clumping and spread over the soil.
- Wood Ash: As long as your wood fires burn bright minus any synthetic accelerants, the ash left is great for your alkaline-soil loving plants. Think vines, floral blooms, and ornamental plants.
- Cooking Water: Finally, retain the water you use to boil potatoes, pasta or just about any other veggies. Let it cool and randomly water the plants with it...
Finally, once all is well and done, don’t leave the topsoil to the mercy of the freeze. Easily removable mulch is a good idea for winters, and one of the best mulches is snow. However, if it’s not snowing, just cover the ground with easily removable mulch like leaves or even trimmed plant boughs. And that’s it, the soil and the plants are armed and ready to tough out the winter with their larder of food, or the best organic fertilizers for winter.