Best Fertilizers for Home Gardening (chosen by professional growers)


I’m fairly opinionated on fertilizers, but I asked a group of producers what they recommend. 148 people responded and after some light arguments, here are the top 10 we decided upon.

TRIFETA+

TRIFECTA+ is perhaps the best general-use fertilizer ever designed. It’s balanced and amended with natural-form macro and micronutrients, as well as valuable trace minerals. It’s derived from organic and all-natural ingredients, and it contains inoculants of mycorrhizal fungi and beneficial soil bacteria. It is the highest-recommended fertilizer by professional gardeners.

TRIFECTA+ is made and sold by a local fella around here, MIgardener. Besides being an internet gardening guru sensation, he’s a genuine expert in garden fertilizers. This product is the safest, most balanced, and most overall applicable fertilizer I’ve ever seen. If I had to buy only one fertilizer, it would be this. I recommend it above all else. It’s NPK is 5-10-4, plus micronutrients and trace elements.

I have seen it boost the health of my plants over any synthetic blend I could come up with, and it even increased the earthworm activity in my soil. Every other fertilizer I’ve used has decreased the worm population. I’m literally going to give a big bag of it to my mother for Mother’s Day this year. I got it for my daughters’ flower garden business too.

TRIFECTA+ from MIgardener, I can’t recommend it enough, and it’s the only fertilizer I actively recommend.

My entire potato crop was fertilized with only chicken manure last season. We yielded over 3,000 pounds of spuds.

Pelleted Chicken Manure

The most popular and highest-recommended fertilizer is pelleted chicken manure. It’s a high-organic matter option with a surprisingly good selection of minerals for plant and soil nutrition. There are a lot of brands, but no major differences between brand. Some have a little more nitrogen, but all are fairly equal.

Usually, the NPK will be something like 5-4-3 or 4-3-2. It has both fast-acting and slow-acting nitrogen. Pelleted chicken manure has no off-smell, and it doesn’t cause any foul odor after you put it in the garden. There are a lot of certified organic options available, but not every grower feels it’s needed.

Probably the best two things about this fertilizer for home gardening is that it’s hard to overdose, and it’s so very full of micronutrients and trace elements. It’s going to boost up all the minerals that are often lacking, including the ones most people don’t think about. For example, selenium and boron are quotes often low or devoid in many garden soils. Poultry manure contains these in proper amounts to remineralize your topsoil with continued use.

It’s usually sold in 50# bags and one bag should be expected to fertilize about 500 square feet of garden for the year. It’s usually used at around 1/3 cup per plant, or half that for lighter-feeding plants.

Personally, I would never buy this product, but that’s because I have chickens. My twenty-one hens produce about 50 bags worth of manure each year. I do use it as my primary soil input. If I were to need to buy it. I’d prefer to go with a different option. You c an find it on Amazon or in some garden centers.

Espoma Organic Plant-Tone

Espoma Organic Plant Tone fertilizer is a top choice for both home and professional gardeners. It’s well-balanced and has beneficial soil bacteria added. It’s certified for organic production, and it has been used for around 100 years in the growing community. It’s highly recommended and trusted in the industry.

I have not used this particular blend from Espoma. I’ve used others and it worked fine. I have to say, this is the second-best fertilizer blend I’ve seen. Its only true rival is TRIFECTA +, which still takes the trophy in my opinion. But, Espoma is sold in more stores and it’s much more common.

It is a very good blend for general-use gardening and improving both plant health and soil quality at the same time. It has an NPK of 5-5-3 and has an assortment of other minerals. I do like that it adds calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. All three are often lacking a bit in garden soils. Even if one of them is not lacking in your garden, it’s safe to use because extra of those three isn’t likely to cause an issue.

If you want to do a true certified-organic production like this produce, you’re limited to OMRI-listed fertilizers.

ReVita Pro

Revita Pro is OMRI-listed for organic production and is a perfect fertilizer for most home gardeners. It’s made from a poultry manure base. It has bone meal and feather meal added to balance out the fertility profile. It also contains leonardite and kelp meal, which are it’s most valuable ingredients for garden soil.

ReVita Pro is extremely commonplace in organic flower and produce production. From a grower’s perspective, it’s easy to see why. Leonardite is a naturally mined near-surface material that’s high in humic acid. Humic acid is the single best ingredient to increase the presence of mycorrhizal fungi in the soil.

This often-forgotten part of soil microbiology is perhaps the single biggest and most delicate part of a healthy soil ecosystem. If it wasn’t for its humic acid content, I wouldn’t have added ReVita Pro to my list.

Fish Emulsion

Fish emulsion is a popular, potent, and fast-acting fertilizer for organic gardening and plant production. Many growers and gardeners use it as their main fertility additive. It is high in organic protein compounds that allow beneficial soil bacteria to thrive and convert solid-state minerals into plant-useable forms. It is known to improve the health, vitality, and vigor of common plants and flowers.

Fish emulsion does have an odor associated with it. It stinks when you open up the bottle. That smell seems to dissipate very quickly and it doesn’t make your soil stink. My mother used it for years for her indoor flowering plants and you’d never have smelled anything off about those flower pots.

A similar product is fish hydrolysate. Both are made from fish leftovers, and both are close in terms of NPK. A fish hydrolysate has a bit more nutrition for the soil microbes in the form of some fatty acid oils that aren’t very common in a fish emulsion. That’s not always a big deal, but it would mean that technically a fish hydrolysate is better than a fish emulsion. It’s also less common and more expensive.

They both have a good assortment of minerals for plant and soil health and I wouldn’t fret about using either. But, they do get expensive when using them across an entire garden.

Aged Herbivore Manures

Aged manures from animals like rabbits, horses, and cows are considered to be a high-quality fertilizer and soil conditioners. They are high in organic matter which helps to increase drainage and soil tilth in all soil types. Aged manure has no off smell and it is very beneficial as an organic fertility booster. It’s also useful in remineralizing depleted soils and in increasing soil humic acid.

I have used somewhere between five and ten tons of horse manure in my garden in the last five years. We don’t have horses, but my neighbors do. Most horse owners are more than willing to part with it without a fuss. I’ve used a lot of dairy cattle manure and rabbit manure as well. I have found it to be the best soil conditioner for larger gardens.

Because it’s usually cheap or free as long as you can haul it, it’s great for bigger areas. I used manure to start my garden back when it was hard, compacted, barren soil. I used manure to make a garden out of an old, gravel driveway too. We just dug out some gravel, filed the hole with 50:50 horse manure/topsoil, and planted our perennials there. That rhubarb is still some of the best I’ve seen five years later.

The NPK varies from just above moderate to very low, and the methods of aging/applying can also vary. Manure can be used well, but sometimes it can be used wrong. Read my article on using manures for more information.

Fox Farm Fertilizers

Fox Farm fertilizers are incredibly good for soil fertility and have a very easy application, but they are expensive. They are often used on more valuable crops and on seedlings. While I wouldn’t recomend using this on a large garden, it may be perfect for potted plants or a single raised bed. These are fertilizers you can trust and depend on to be clean from toxins, easy on soil life, and good for your plants.

I know several people who use fertilizers from Fox Farm. The only professional I know who uses it applies it exclusively to his seedlings. If it were cheaper, he’d use various Fox Farm blends across the board. He’s content to use it on his seedlings because he says it gives them a nice boost and sets them up for future success. I have heard that they can have a significant effect on stimulating plant immunity.

If you want to know more about seedlings and starting seeds, check out this article:

Alfalfa Meal

Alfalfa meal is both a fertilizer and a soil conditioner. It contains few fast-acting fertility compounds, but it will begin to break down quickly through soil biology to feed your plants. Alfalfa has a stimulating effect on plant germination and plant immune function. It also increases earthworm function in your soil.

Alfalfa meal is almost more of a soil conditioner than a fertilizer. Its NPK is low at around 2-0.5-1, but it does have a lot of other beneficial minerals and compounds. Alfalfa meal is my favorite general-use additive for garden soils. I have used a lot of alfalfa hay, but that can contain a ton of viable seeds that increase weed pressure. Alfalfa meal contains no viable seeds, just powdered alfalfa.

Blood Meal

Blood meal is useful for amending the nitrogen, sulfur, and iron in garden soil. It has a dramatic increase in beneficial bacterial function due to its organic protein compounds not found in most other fertilizers. Blood meal contains little to no phosphorus and potassium, but is high in organic-form nitrogen in the form of proteins. It is not a broad-spectrum fertilizer but it’s still very useful for gardening.

Blood meal is very common for organic gardening in my area. I’ve never really bought any because it’s quite expensive and it isn’t as wide a spectrum fertilizer as others I like. I would call it more of a fertilizer ingredient that should probably be blended with other fertility-bosting ingredients to be more well-rounded.

Blood meal may work pretty well if you have a very compost-rich soil as is common in raised beds these days. Most soils that are over 20 percent compost are high in Phosphorus and potassium, but low in nitrogen so it’s likely to be a fit. Just remember, adding only one thing is a sure way to throw things off balance in sheer order. Soil needs a diet full of variety.

Worm Castings

Worm castings act as a fertilizer, soil conditioner, and a biological inoculant for garden soil. The NPK can vary from low to moderate, but even the lower NPK worm castings cause a significant increase in available nitrogen by increasing microbiological activity in the soil, thereby pulling nitrogen from the atmosphere and converting it into a plant-useable form.

Worm castings are considered unbeatable for general boosting of soil health and function, as long as they are fresh. Most store-bought worm castings are sterilized per state regulations. Although it’s still beneficial, it’s much less so than fresh castings. I know of several composting companies and homesteaders who raise worms and sell castings as a by-product. Worm castings are literally worm manure.

Two other things that deserve honorable mention, but may not be considered a fertilizer, are compost and kelp meal. We create a lot of compost, mostly from manure. It tends to have the same NPK variability as manure. Ic could be as high as 5-5-4, or as low as 0.5-1-0.5. It really depends on how it’s made and what it’s made from. Either way, it’s going to be beneficial to almost every situation.

I use worm castings and biochar in my seed-starting soils and potting soil mixes. That’s my secret sauce for extreme function and longevity of fertility both before and after planting and transplanting.

Compost is considered by many to be the powerhouse of creating good soil. It’s easy to make and easy to buy. Most garden centers and farm stores sell bagged compost, often composted manure. Sometimes it’s mixed with some topsoil, which I don’t like but it’s certainly not harmfull. Most compost is on the lower-side of fertility but it still adds to the aeration, moisture retention, and beneficial biology in the soil.

Kelp meal is the most expensive dry ingredient I’ve ever experimented with. It’s unbeatable for three things. It remineralizes soils with an incredible assortment of micro and trace minerals. It increases plant root growth and vigor, in my own experience. That in turn benefits the entire plant. It also stimulates both seed germination and plant immune system function. I know several professional flower and produce growers who will use it every year as an additive, despite its cost.

By far my favorite prepared fertilizer is TRICECTA+ by MIgardener. In my opinion, it can’t be beat. And, compared to the other high-function fertilizers, it’s the best priced.

Check it out with this AMAZON link

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Jordan

I practice what I preach. Here in rural west Michigan, me, my wife, and 5 young kids work together to grow food, raise animals, and grow aninmal feed on just 1 acre. I teach homesteading classes locally, and help people where I can.

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