Gardening without fertilizer

Discussion in 'The Green Patch' started by pcc, Jul 26, 2010.

  1. pcc

    pcc Monkey+

    Anyone tried gardening without any type of fertilizer?? I figure in a survival situation commercial fertilizer will run out just like everything else. I tried it this year and the results were amazing.

    I could have cheated and used cow or horse manure, chicken litter or compost, I have a couple of horses that generate a lot of poop, my neighbor across the street raises feeders and there's a chicken house complex about 10 miles away, but I wanted to how different vegetables would grow without any help.

    The section of yard I selected has been nothing but grass for the horses so it has been fertilized in the past, I also did not go out of my way to remove any existing horse manure.

    I planted eighteen 20' rows. Some items were for food some were things the kids wanted to plant and some were just test. I've kept everything watered since there's plenty of water around me for irrigating.

    Here's what I planted and how it's doing so far

    • watermelons; growing well & producing melons but the melons aren't growing very fast
    • pumpkins; same as melons
    • cantaloupe; same as melons
    • red onions; all but a few died
    • white onions; growing but very slowly
    • bell peppers; nothing came up replanted in potatoes that are doing ok
    • okra; growing and producing more than we could ever hope to eat
    • broccoli; no go 1st planting 2nd planting growing slowly
    • pole beans; growing and producing well
    • radishes; good gosh those things grew like weeds, I couldn't give them all away
    • mustard; growing and producing well
    • lettuce; growing well but heads not setting
    • carrots; no go 1st planting, 2nd planting only had a few come up
    • corn, 4 rows; good stand, stalks didn't get too tall and produced small ears not as good a result as I was hoping for. At this rate of production you'd have to plant a ton of it to get enough for food and storage.
    • various tomatoes; all growing and producing great.

    I'm thinking for my fall garden I'll try some with compost and see what difference that makes.
  2. kckndrgn

    kckndrgn Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    I don't see how using manure or compost is "cheating". It's recycling at the simplest level.

    That being said, i don't use "commercial" fertilizer or weed killer in the garden. This year I used horse manure that was well "composted". It looked like black dirt, that being said, i've had more weeds this year than in years past - thanks to the manure. The plus side is my pepper plants (bell, jalapeno, banana) are all waist high and are putting out more than I can use. So, I'm actually "canning" the jalapeno & banana peppers, the bell peppers are getting cut up and either frozen or dehydrated.

    You may or may not see a difference with the compost. Have you had your soil tested? You should, that might explain why some of your crops didn't do as well. Skip the "DIY" test kits, find a county office or private company that will do the testing. Made a world of difference for me. Tested 3 areas of my garden, found that each was slightly different in the analysis, and allowed me to plant specific crops in certain areas so I could get better results (and my garden is MUCH smaller than yours).

    Don't forget crop rotation, that will help out as well.
  3. pcc

    pcc Monkey+

    I guess I wasn't completely clear with the purpose of my experiment. I wanted to see what would grow if I had to pick up and move somewhere with no resources besides a hoe and seeds.

    So for the purpose of my experiment using manure would be cheating, so would using extension agents (good luck finding one of them in a survival situation) or testing equipment (not even on my list of stuff to take if we have to leave) Although I have had multiple locations tested on my property.

    I'll keep running my experiment to find out what will grow without additional soil amendments to help determine what type of seeds will produce in my area. Those will be the seeds I stock up on just in case.
  4. SLugomist

    SLugomist Monkey++

    Good experiment pcc.
  5. fortunateson

    fortunateson I hate Illinois Nazis!

    Would have been interesting to have the soil tested first - then to see what grows.

    Or maybe just see what will grow in plain sand. If you can find a nutritious crop that will produce something in the most basic soil, you can develop a bugout kit for gardening on the run.

    I know that potatoes will grow in hay bales. I don't think they're getting much in the way of nutrients from the hay, so that may be an answer.
  6. Jennie_in_Iowa

    Jennie_in_Iowa Monkey+

    Hmm... Just because something will "grow" in poor soil doesn't mean I'd want to feed it to my family. 'You are what you eat' applies to plants too, and veggies grown in poor soil will have poor nutrient profiles I think. Especially when you're talking about annuals with small relatively wimpy root structures. I think you'd do better to look at perennials and native plants. Certainly not as easy to grow from seed kept in a bob, but if you were good at identifying them you could scout them out around your location and transplant them to your garden area. They have deeper root systems that can pull nutrients from further down and handle the local poor soil wiithout compromising nutrition.

    I'm not a nutritionist or anything, YMMV.
  7. -06

    -06 Monkey+++

    I realize what the test was but even in a make shift garden on newly cleared ground you would be well advised to use some kind of fertilizer(natural of course). Early indians taught pilgrims how to put fish under plants to make them grow better/produce more. One could always find a "bottom" area with dark deep soil for a garden spot. In Viet Nam it is not uncommon for moma and papa to go down to the patty and poopo--lol, how does your rice taste now???? Point is-plants need nutrients and without them they will not reward your efforts well. Barren soil may grow okra, pepper, and cotton but good soil will grow anything and produce abundantly. Kind of like our lives.
  8. hippiechick

    hippiechick Monkey+

    I have a huge garden and use nothing on it. No pesticides, no fertilizers, nothing. I don't even till the soil. I use leaves and natural compost from my yard and kitchen scraps. I lay down black plastic directly onto my non- tilled dirt and cut holes in the plastic as needed to put the plants into it. The plastic is expensive at first, but last for years.
    I have a beautiful garden and it produces very well. It is very easy and is chemical free.
  9. bnmb

    bnmb On Hiatus Banned

    I'm no gardener or anything, but that thing with those black bags is VERY widely used here as well!
  10. -06

    -06 Monkey+++

    Just bought a 100' roll of non permeable cloth to keep weeds/grass at bay for the raised beds next yr. We have nearly a foot of well rotted horse manure tilled in with about 4-5 inchs of topsoil. Added 2-3 inches of sand for the carrot/onion/beet section and tilled it in well. Crops start slowly but soon as they hit the "fertilizer" they shoot up like a rocket. Will have to put in 8' trellis for the tomatoes, climbing beans, and cukes.
  11. Wild Trapper

    Wild Trapper Pirate Biker

    You sound a lot like my wife! LOL! She uses what ever is available, leaves, straw, grass clippings, even old newspaper and of course I clean out my chicken coup in the fall and spring and it goes on the garden to get tilled in. I do use commercial fertilizer on my field corn patch, grows nice weeds, but that stuff don't get put on the gardens. We plant the same plots year after year, and get good yields of veggies. She does rotate stuff around in those plots, so the same thing isn't planted in the same location every year.

    What really helps more than using commercial fertilizer is getting the soil tilled really deep, like in deep beds. I found that the walk behind tillers do not get it deep enough if you want to really prep your soil right. Once you get it dug deep enough and don't walk on it, it will stay loose and productive for several years, if you use the right compost methods.
  12. bnmb

    bnmb On Hiatus Banned

    Very nice thread! Keep us posted!
  13. hippiechick

    hippiechick Monkey+

    One of my favorite natural composts is egg shells. I literally just toss them onto the garden. They are a great fertilizer plus the shells keep the slugs away.
  14. VoorTrekker

    VoorTrekker Monkey++

    I crush egg shells and then toss them into my compost pile. Since I add coffee grounds and tea bags I also grind or crush hardwood charcoal and add that to the compost. Add some earth worms and keep it moist.
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