Many of us are reaching that point in the gardening season — two weeks after plants emerge from the soil — when we’re ready to apply the first round of fertilizer. To a lot of us, that means applying organic seaweed and fish fertilizer.
Now a lot of our gardening friends don’t think we’re in our right mind when we let our enthusiasm for fish fertilizers show. They’ll ask, why would you want to mess with that smelly, liquid stuff when there’s a granular, organic, slow-release nutrient formula that will pretty much do the same thing for my plants and with half the effort?
The answer, of course, can be found in the results.
A low-odor formula for use indoors and out! Alaska® Fish Fertilizer has been around for years and is one of the best all-purpose nutrients for plants. Rich in organic matter, it breaks down slowly to feed plants — and soil microbes — over time. Great for lawns too!
Now we can’t claim that our good results come specifically from the fish emulsions. Rich, productive gardens result from a number of variables. But even when all those variables aren’t perfect or perfectly balanced, fish fertilizer plays an important role in covering for the elements your garden might lack.
The other good thing: not all fish fertilizers are smelly.
In addition to being thought smelly and messy to use, fish fertilizers are criticized for their low nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium (N-P-K) ratings when compared to chemical solutions or organic, dry fertilizers. They’re also considered expensive.
Let’s start with that last criticism. While a single bottle of fish or seaweed emulsion may seem expensive when compared to dry fertilizers, there’s really not much difference in the long run. In other words, fish fertilizer, properly diluted, goes a long, long way.
This is true even though it’s applied more frequently than dried fertilizers. While one or maybe two applications of a dry blend are recommended during the growing season, we like to apply diluted fish emulsion every couple of weeks along with a watering. This keeps nutrient levels constant and gives better dispersal.
Water first. Then apply the emulsion diluted to the manufacturer’s specifications. Watering first helps wick the fertilizer down into and through the soil.
We’ve been known to go a little light on the emulsion-to-water ratio when applying every two weeks. On the other hand, we’ve been known to add and extra tablespoon when applying to heavy nitrogen feeders like tomatoes.
Who knew that vegetables loved fish? Neptune’s Harvest is a top-selling Fish and Seaweed Fertilizer that uses North Atlantic ocean harvests and gets great results from gardeners. They’re reporting bigger crops, increased sugars and better blooms.
I like to mix the emulsion in a watering can so that I can direct the fertilizer exactly where I want it to go. Some fish emulsions come diluted in spray containers. That’s one potentially messy step avoided.
Pre-diluted fish emulsions tend to be less stinky. These days, you can get odor-free emulsions (smell is related to the freshness of the fish before processing and the type of processing used).
These odor-free emulsions are often made using a “hydrolyzed” process, one that involves natural enzymes breaking down the material, rather than heat. Hydrolyzed emulsions claim to retain more amino acids and deliver both macro and micronutrients in a form more usable to plants and soil microbes.
It’s this availability and the presence of micronutrients that make fish and seaweed emulsions so effective. While chemical concoctions tend to deplete or lockup the soil’s natural occurring micronutrients — copper, boron, iron, zinc and others — fish and seaweed emulsions restore them in form plants can utilize.
The availability of the nutrients in fish fertilizers make them as effective as chemical formulas with high N-P-K ratios. They may not be as saturated with nitrogen or phosphorous as chemical fertilizers, but more of those nutrients are made available to the plant.
Because of this availability, fish and seaweed emulsions are effectively used as foliar sprays. I like to think I accomplish some of this when I hand water.
Find more about liquid plant foods of all sorts at our Gardener’s Guide To Fertilizers.
Eric Vinje founded Planet Natural with his father Wayne in 1991, originally running it as a grasshopper bait mail-order business out of a garage.
Eric is now retired, but is still a renowned gardener known for his expertise in composting, organic gardening and pest control, utilizing pesticide-free options, such as beneficial insects.
Eric believes when you do something good for the environment, the effects will benefit generations to come.
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