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Testing organic foods for plants

Moo Poo Tea is one of my favorites for safe, healthy plant foods
Photo by Jane Gates

There are a lot of commercial plant foods on the market, many produced by large companies with big advertising budgets. So it’s easy to forget there are many other alternatives when it comes to choice of ways to feed your plants.

I have had the opportunity this year to test out several different types of plant foods. All of them offer healthy, earth-friendly alternatives that will boost the growth, flavor and productivity of your fruits and vegetables and decorative plants. All of them are produced by smaller companies that are dedicated to encouraging growers and gardeners to choose products that are focused more on quality than purely on profitability.

These small companies look to the natural balances in nature and wisdom that has been proven over centuries rather than cobbling together chemicals to offer ease of use, questionable success and dubious side effects. What they don’t have working for them are huge, expensive marketing campaigns. This is why I want to let you know about some of these plant foods.

I have tried sampling these products because I am not comfortable recommending anything I have not tried myself. In some cases the companies did send me test products at my request.

One of the most basic fertilizers is manure tea. Haven Brand sells neatly packaged cotton bags of dried horse and cow manure as well as dried alfalfa. These rather attractively packaged products are easy to use – just let them soak in water for a day or two – and you will be feeding perfectly safe plant food that has nourished plant growth for centuries. The one variable that needs to be noted is that many stock animals are fed with food that is already tainted at its source and, as owner Annie Haven says, “What goes in is what comes out!” So unless you use manure collected by organically fed animals (like the Haven Brand products I tested) you could be introducing toxins or unwanted metals and concentrated minerals that would be harmful into your soil. Moo Poo Tea not only comes in convenient little bags, there is no smell or mess involved in using it.

Another food I’ve been testing is the Foli brand of organic nutrients. These liquid feeds encourage root formation, flowering and fruiting. Based on deep ocean water extracts and organic, fermented carbohydrates, the products are organic, sustainable and can be used as soil amendments. They boost nutrient content and productivity by adding minerals, enzymes, antioxidants and the vitamins necessary for garden plants, edibles, potted plants and commercial use. They also are ideal for general landscape use or agricultural and hydroponic use. I have mostly been testing the Foli products for seed starting and for vegetable growing in the ground and in containers and have seen a lot of happy, healthy plants.

One of my old favorite standbys is fish emulsion. Easily found at most garden centers and home stores, this basic food has sustained my gardens for years. Buy a good quality fish emulsion and read the label to find pure products. Like manure, fish have been used as a sustainable, non-toxic and effective food source historically. It is reliable and completely safe. The down side with fish emulsion is that it does have a pungent smell that disappears in a few hours.

With sustainability becoming so popular in recent years, more of the old, effective plant foods have become available. It isn’t surprising that products that have been valued for centuries – kelp, fish, manure and ocean minerals – are once again becoming available alongside so many chemicals that leave residual toxins or simply have no proven record of safety.

Each gardener can decide what products he or she wants to use in the garden. These are three I have found to be highly effective, easy to use, safe and environmentally friendly.

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