How Much Nutrient is in Your Homemade Fertilizer?

hands-full-of-compostWe use several homemade fertilizers at my house.  One of my favorites is alfalfa tea – both because I love the effect I see in my green leaves, and because it is super cheap.  As I was applying a dose of alfalfa tea to my vegetable garden this week, I started to wonder just how much nitrogen I was making available to my plants.

So, I started digging and I came up with a few useful documents.  The first document I found is from the extension office at the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, titled Using Organic Nutrient Sources.  There is a lot of good information in here about soil testing, pH, and the balance of nutrients.  There is also a long list of different organic fertilizers, with approximate nutrient content for each.  I found the nitrogen value of growing alfalfa as a cover crop, but not the value of tea made from dried alfalfa.  So I kept looking.

The next document I came across is from the cooperative extension at Cornell, called Fertilizing Garden Soils.  This resource has more information about soil testing and pH.  There is a short list of organic fertilizers and their nutrient content.  There is also a nice recommendation at the end about side dressing various crops with additional nitrogen, along with guidelines about when side dressing should be done.  The recommendation is for ammonium nitrate – I personally will substitute an organic nitrogen source… like alfalfa tea.

I still haven’t found a good source for information about the nutrient content of my alfalfa tea, but I’m sure I’ll be able to find something.  In the meantime, these documents provide plenty of information about some other good nutrient sources that might come in handy in the garden.

I hope these provide some information to our readers about all of the different substances that can be used as organic fertilizer, and maybe some inspiration to be more varied and creative with the fertilizers you use.

Click here to read and/or download the original PDF – Using Organic Nutrient Sources
Click here to read and/or download the original PDF – Fertilizing Garden Soils


Many thanks to E. S. Sánchez, Associate Professor of Horticultural Systems Management, and
T. L. Richard, Associate Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences
Agricultural Research and Cooperative Extension



Many thanks to Eric de Long

Cornell University
Cooperative Extension, Chemung County

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  • Gudrun Bender says:

    I have a “nutrient question” I am trying to find some answers to 🙂
    I make a lot of mint tea over the summer – because it grows like weeds! When I strain my tea it just looks like tea, but if i squeeze the leaves out I get A LOT of white liquid; this will also settle at the bottom of my tea jars and behaves like calcium , is it calcium? Does mint contain a lot of calcium????? Never noticed it last year.
    If it is, would it make good compost tea? N from the greens and extra Ca leaching out?

    1. Michael Ford says:

      Hi Gudrun – Good questions – Have you found any answers about that white liquid? Mint doesn’t contain much calcium, so I doubt that’s it.

  • Gudrun Bender says:

    all my searching has come up with no result so far; though one place I found mint is containing quite a bit of minerals – I forgot to look what amounts they measured though 🙂
    My tea still has that white residue on the bottom and so far i have poured it into the compost; may be i need to taste it, or strain my tea sooner…..

  • Ed says:

    Click here to read and/or download the original PDF – Using Organic Nutrient Sources
    Click here to read and/or download the original PDF – Fertilizing Garden Soils

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