"Natural," "organic," "environmentally safe" -- those are the terms used to describe some of the new organic fertilizers
displayed at a trade show Meyer Seed Co. put on for its dealers recently at La Fontaine Bleu in Glen Burnie.
Organic materials such as blood meal, bone meal, fish emulsion and dehydrated animal manures have been packaged individually by commercial sources for as long as most gardeners can remember. What's changed is that now companies are blending certain of these natural substances into mixes that can replace traditional general chemical fertilizers of the likes of 5-10-5 or 10-10-10. And because organic fertilizers are more gentle-acting, their makers say, they're unlikely to harm the plant with casual application.
Especially welcomed is Wholly Cow, an odorless, clear, liquid concentrate form of the smelly old standby, cow manure. It comes conveniently packaged in jugs. According to John Malcho, the company's senior vice president, the product is a combination of straight liquid and solid waste passed directly from cows at a dairy site through a gravity collection system. A natural process removes the odor -- and methane gas that would blow off the bottle caps.
Free of chemicals, the solution retains 50 percent of the original nutrients, Mr. Malcho says, and keeps them active longer than is normally the case with regular cow manure. Wholly Cow, he adds, has an indefinite shelf life.
The contents of a half-gallon jug, which increases to twice the amount when diluted, as directions advise, with an equal amount of water, will feed a medium-to-large size house plant, Mr. Malcho says, for "better" than a year. Apply 2 ounces a week (3-4 ounce to a shrub or rosebush) after wetting the soil thoroughly with plain water to enable the nutrients to reach the plant's roots.
Mr. Malcho's remark that the gentle nature of Wholly Cow "takes the fear out of fertilizing in the sense that if won't burn roots or otherwise harm a plant if over-used," was echoed by other
organic fertilizer company representatives in regard to their products.
Baccto's Natural and Organic Foods -- variously formulated by the Michigan Peat Co. for roses and flowers, tomatoes and vegetables, lawns and house plants -- is based on composted poultry manure. What's unique about the product, says Ron Hurt, the firm's national marketing manager, is that it's taken exclusively from selected suppliers to ensure that the manure remains as pure as possible.
Baccto's manure is produced by laying hens in egg-production houses, where they are fed nothing but natural feed such as corn and receive no injections of hormones or antibiotics of any kind. Nor are the droppings sprayed with insecticides as is normal to control flies flocking to such an area.
To compost it, the material is moved to another location. Through air-drying, 97 percent of the ammonia content is removed. The manureis also treated with a special gel form of beneficial activated bacteria. Added to supply essential nitrogen, phosphorus and potash are urea, bone meal, or feather meal (the feathers aged, burned and ground), blood meal and cottonseed meal, all organic materials.
Earthgro's Best, in its line of natural fertilizers, offers separate mixes for acid-loving plants, trees, shrubs and lawns; flowers and vegetables and specialized situations.
(Note: Most of the products named can be found at Meyer Seed, 300 S. Caroline St., or 8633 Belair Road, if not in garden centers, hardware stores and nurseries.)