Do Microgreens Need Fertilizer? Best Natural Fertilizer for Microgreens

Do Microgreens Need Fertilizer? Best Natural Fertilizer for Microgreens

As a microgreen farmer (aspiring or experienced), one of your concerns would be whether you are using the best natural fertilizer for your microgreens. Starting out in the microgreens business, you might even wonder if you need fertilizer at all. After all, it’s not like you are growing the plants to maturity. 

Do your microgreens need fertilizer to thrive? Well, it all depends on the medium used in growing them. If you are using soil that has high quality, you do not need fertilizer. An alternative to fertilizer is compost. However, if you are growing hydroponically or using a soilless medium, you might need to use fertilizer to add nutrients to the medium.

When growing microgreens, it is eminent that the medium has a degree of nutrients in it. So, yes you need to use fertilizer for your microgreens. Overall, the best natural fertilizer for your microgreens is manure.

When your microgreens start showing off their cotyledon leaves, it is a sign that the young plant has used up its reserves and its roots are now looking for new nutrients in the soil. Adding fertilizer does not just improve your microgreens, it also helps in their healthy growth. 

There are so many good quality natural fertilizers that are out there in the market. So, in the course of this article, we would be reviewing the best natural fertilizers you can find on Amazon and other stores around you. 

Fertilizer is a mineral that increases the level of nutrients that are available to help the plant grow. They are usually added to soilless, soil or hydroponic garden systems.  Fertilizers can come in both natural and artificial forms. 

Some of the most important trace elements that we can find in fertilizer include phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium. This is because these three elements are essential for the vitality of microgreens.

Manure: The Best Natural Fertilizer for Microgreens

So many natural fertilizers can help plants like microgreens to reach their NPK (Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) balance. After much research, the best natural fertilizer for microgreens is manure. There are other natural fertilizers that can be used out there like Eggshells, Banana peels, Aquarium water, Green tea, blood Meal, bone meal, bat guano, shellfish fertilizer, Rock phosphate, Greensand and fish emulsion. 

Manure is an inorganic material that is derived from solid animal wastes. It is used to improve the quality of soil used in growing microgreens. It is derived from dead plants and animals and is applied for microgreen growth medium, whether soil or hydroponic media to increase production yield. Here are some of the sources where manure can be obtained:

  • Manure can be obtained from cattle dung, urine and slurry derived from biogas plants.
  • They are also gotten from wastes that are obtained from human habitation like urine, night soil, sludge, sewage and domestic waste. 
  • Manure can also be obtained from the droppings of sheep and goat.
  • You could also produce manure from the slaughter houses such as meat, bones, horn and hoof meal, and fish waste.
  • Lastly, manure can be derived from the by-products of agro-based industries, crop waste, weeds and water hyacinth.

Different Types of Manure You Can Use for Microgreens (Whether Indoors or Outdoors) 

In the classification of manure, we have green manure, farmyard manure and compost manure. These are the three classes of manure mostly used by microgreen gardeners. 

Compost Manure

Compost manure is a natural fertilizer that helps to increase the nutrient holding capacity of the soil. It is also used to help the microgreen soil medium to improve its structure. The overall benefits of compost manure as a quality natural fertilizer for microgreens cannot be overstated. It is one of the best forms of manure that can help your greens to thrive. 

Farmyard Manure

With Farmyard manure, you can improve the structural density of the growth medium. It is one of the best natural fertilizers that you can use for growing microgreens. Farmyard manure increases the microbial activity of the soil to improve the mineral supply. 

Green Manure

With green manure, you can increase the percentage of organic matter in the growth medium of your microgreens. The roots of this manure also grow deep into the soil medium and can serve as a turnover natural fertilizer. Since most microgreens re-grow after they are harvested. Here is a video on how you can go about producing green manure by yourself:

Other Wonderful Natural Fertilizers You can Check out for your Greens

Blood Meal 

Blood meal natural fertilizer is a type of fertilizer that is made from blood. It is used mostly as a high nitrogen organic fertilizer for gardens. Therefore, if you have a microgreen garden, especially one that is hydroponic, the blood meal natural fertilizer is a good option.

Microgreens such as lettuce, squash, basil and celery are heavy nitrogen feeders. Blood meal is water-soluble and can be used as a liquid fertilizer for the soil or hydroponic system wherewith the aforementioned microgreens would grow. 

Bone Meal

The bone meal that is used as a natural fertilizer for microgreens is a mixture of finely ground animal bones and slaughterhouse waste products. It is mostly used as a natural fertilizer for microgreens. This kind of natural fertilizer is a slow-release fertilizer that is used to source phosphorus and protein for the microgreen growth medium. 

Bat Guano 

If you want a healthy and green microgreen garden, bat guano is another suitable option for a microgreen garden. Did you know that bat guano fertilizer is a natural fungicide and pesticide? With this low budget natural fertilizer, you can save the cost of getting a pesticide or fungicide that might not be friendly with the health of your greens.

Rock Phosphate

This naturally occurring fertilizer has to react with sulfuric acid before it can be used. So it is only natural on an interim basis. It has to be converted to phosphoric acid and then processed further to form synthetic fertilizers that your microgreen garden would use.  The nutrients they add to your microgreen gardens are calcium and phosphorus. This would help your microgreens in the long run, especially those that re-grow after been harvested. 

Fish Emulsion

This is yet another interesting natural fertilizer that is used for microgreen or generic gardening. Fish emulsion is a better alternative to the dangerous chemical fertilizers out there. 

It is made out of the parts of the fish, or the entire fish. With the fish natural fertilizer, you can get an NPK ratio of 4-1-1.  Fish fertilizer, just like the blood meal and bat guano, is an incredible source for a wonderful nitrogen boost for your microgreens. 

Other Types and Classes of Fertilizers

There are two classes of fertilizers and six different types of fertilizers. For the classes, we have organic (natural) and inorganic fertilizers. And for the types of fertilizers, we have nitrogen fertilizers, phosphorus fertilizers, agricultural waste, livestock manure, industrial waste, and municipal sludge. 

Inorganic Fertilizers

These are chemical fertilizers that contain nutrients made by chemical means for the purpose of supporting the vitality of the plant. As stated earlier, inorganic fertilizers are of the following types:

Nitrogen Fertilizers

Nitrogen is so important because it is a major constituent of the chlorophyll found in microgreens. Plants use this substance in producing sugars, water and carbon dioxide from sunlight energy. Here is a list of common products that are classified as nitrogen fertilizers:

  • Ammonia nitrate
  • Ammonia liquor
  • Ammonium sulfate
  • Aqua ammonia 
  • Anhydrous ammonia
  • Nitric acid
  • Urea 

With the aid of nitrogen fertilizers, you can improve the yield of your hydroponically-grown microgreens.

Phosphorus Fertilizer

The function of phosphorus in microgreens cannot be overstated. With the aid of phosphorus, microgreens can convert other nutrients into useable building blocks with which they grow. They help in maintaining the NPK balance of the soil. 

It is manufactured from rock phosphate that is treated with sulphuric acid.  Phosphorus found in the protoplasm of the cell plays an important role in cell growth and proliferation. It helps in the growth and development of plant roots. 

Organic (Natural) Fertilizers

These are natural fertilizers that are derived from animals and plants. It is used to enrich soils that are nutrient deficient with carbonic compounds that are necessary for plant growth. With the aid of organic fertilizers, you can increase the organic matter content of the soil, change the chemical and physical properties of the soil, and promote the microgreens’ development and growth.

Advantages of Natural/Organic Fertilizers

A natural fertilizer as stated earlier on is a substance that is made from animal waste-think compost or manure. They also are very highly processed agro products with a manure or compost base. 

Improving soil structure. Because of the organic matter that is present in the natural fertilizer, the soil structure is immensely improved as a result the soils ability to hold on to nutrients and water increases. 

Reduce the pesticides. Though natural fertilizers are costlier than synthetic fertilizers, they help to reduce the need for pesticides and the general Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus requirements. 

Helps to reduce plant damage threat. Some synthetic fertilizers can cause serious damage to plants. This happens mostly in the roots and leaves of the plant. 

Regulating soil fertility. Since organic fertilizers are slow-release fertilizers, it is impossible for them to over-fertilize the soil.

Disadvantages of Natural Fertilizers

There is a general notion that if the fertilizer is organic, then it is generally safe. Here are some of the cons of using natural fertilizers.

  •  They are slow to break down into nutrients that the plant requires.
  • Most of the natural fertilizers such as seaweed or fish oil are quite smelly and are too offensive to be used for indoor gardening. 
  • It is quite labour intensive for you to gather grass clippings, leaves, and seaweed to add to the compost pile. It is also, super-time consuming.
  • Since natural materials break down at different rates, the nutrients that are given off by the fertilizer are never consistent. 

An alternative or look-alike to natural fertilizers worth considering is Compost. Compost contains a reasonable amount of nitrogen (20%), and other micronutrients. Therefore, since plants need micronutrients to grow, compost is a good alternative. Recently, there has been a lot of debate as to whether compost is a natural fertilizer or an artificial plant/microgreen booster. 

Is Compost Natural Fertilizer?

From a legal point of view, compost is not a fertilizer since you produce it from your backyard. But from the point of view of a gardener, compost is a fertilizer. 

On the first thought, compost is 100% natural and most importantly is a slow-release fertilizer.  It adds its nutrients very slowly to the soil as compared with most of the commercial fertilizers out there. In summary, compost is a natural fertilizer; the only difference with industrial fertilizers is in the time it takes to give its nutrients to the microgreen. 

Here’s a video on how you can make compost at home:

Advantages of Using Compost

Compost is easy to produce

Producing compost from natural materials is quite very simple. You do not need any mental or physical abilities in order to do such. Even if you have any challenges with the production procedure, you can easily hook up to any videos or forums to get some tips.

It is Eco-Friendly

With compost production, the amount of household waste can be reduced significantly and there is also less need for the use of chemical fertilizers. With composting, the ecological footprint of many people in the world would be improved. 

Lessens Garbage Pickups

Through composting, you can reuse part of your food waste, that is, the overall amount of waste that you produce would be reduced. There are also lower costs involved since there are fewer garbage pickups. 

Better Cheap Soil Conditioner

Compost is a good option for a soil conditioner. In fact, if you indulge in composting and use only organic food waste for it, the cost would be cheaper. The only costs that are related are costs pertaining to the acquisition of a compost bin. 

Asides from this, composting is very cheap and in the long run, can save you a lot of money since there is no need to use conventional synthetic fertilizers anymore.

Helps to Enhance the Soil Structure

Compost will not only improve the nutrient mix of the soil but also aid in enhancing the structure of the soil. With the use of compost, the mix of the soil would be better able to retain water. This is because, in the hot summers, plants can survive much longer without the need for irrigation.

Disadvantages of Compost

It Requires Initial Investment

Although composting has a lot of advantages, it also has a lot of disadvantages accrued to it. One major disadvantage is that it requires initial capital when you are starting out. For example, you might need a composting bin to get started in the production of your compost. Helpfully, this kind of investment is not too expensive and will amortize soon with the cost of using synthetic fertilizers. 

The Efficiency of Your Compost is Dependent on Your Organic Waste

Compost can only turn out to be efficient if your household utilizes a certain amount of organic waste. For example, if you only produce a low quantity of organic waste, the effort that is made to produce your compost will often not be worth the rewards. For this reason, composting may be suitable for big families rather than for households that are single. 

Unpleasant Smell That is Involved in Dealing with Compost 

Composting can lead to the production of unpleasant smells, and this depends on the type of organic food waste. In the process of producing compost, a lot of unpleasant smells can emerge. This is always a bad scenario if you are growing your microgreens indoors.

On this note, endeavour not to use foods that emit large amounts of unpleasant gases when decomposing. It would be better to focus more on plant food sources that are rather harmless in terms of food production. 

Another major problem with composting is that it can attract a lot of animals that can disturb human health. While compost can attract snakes and rats, which are harmful, it can also attract bugs that are harmless. In other to avoid animal infiltration, you have to be careful when setting up your compost bin. After all, you wouldn’t want to get bitten by some venomous snakes would you? 

Bottom Line 

When you have very high-quality soil in your indoor or outdoor microgreen garden, a fertilizer is not necessary. If your hydroponic medium or soil needs more nutrients, then manure is the best option for a natural fertilizer that can boost your microgreen garden. 

In hydroponic systems especially, your manure/natural fertilizer would be important because there is no soil for the greens to absorb nutrients, and they need some help along the way.

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