Grow Your Garden With 10 Best Organic Fertilizer for Vegetables and Plants

There is nothing better than growing your own vegetables. Fertilization can help you get the most out of your vegetable garden.

Still, you don’t want to put chemical fertilizers on what you and your family will be eating! Luckily, you can buy organic fertilizers that will boost your veggies and let you feel good about eating your homegrown produce.

The best organic fertilizer for your veggies depends on what precisely you are trying to grow. An all-purpose fertilizer is usually best for a mixed plot.

Still, you can also get fertilizers with different nutrients for specific needs. Great organic fertilizers also contain matter to break down nutrients, so plants can better absorb them. 

Picking the best organic fertilizer starts with being aware of some critical pieces of information. Then you can look at the top organic fertilizers available and decide which one matches your vegetables and needs best.

Keep reading, and this article will walk you through everything there is to you on choosing the best fertilizer for your needs!

How to Choose a Fertilizer for Your Garden Soil

There are many options out there, and while there are similarities, there are also many differences. There are different types of fertilizer, different nutrient compositions, and different specialties.

It can be hard to wrap your head around, but there are four crucial things to consider when picking a fertilizer.

Soil Type

The first thing that will affect your choice is soil type. We break the soil into three large types:

  • Sand: This soil structure is loose and drains incredibly fast. This means that both water and nutrients go through it quickly. If you have sandy soil, you do not want to pick a fertilizer that will wash away with water. Because it does not hold onto many nutrients itself, the fertilizer will need to do a lot of work. You may also want to pick one that improves moisture retention. 
  • Loam: This is the ideal soil. It drains well while still being able to retain nutrients. Plus, loamy soil is already packed full of most of what your plant needs. Minimal fertilizing is all that is necessary to create thriving gardens!
  • Clay: Clay soils hold onto everything, sometimes too well. With clay soil, you must be careful not to overwater and drown your flowering plants and not over-fertilize. Too much of it will burn and possibly kill your plant.

Where you live will significantly impact what types of soil you have, and many places have a mixture of these types rather than being strictly one thing. Still, you should be able to tell what type your soil most heavily leans toward and pick accordingly.

What About Bagged Soil?

If you are growing in containers or a raised bed, you are likely choosing to buy a potting mix or a bagged garden soil. In this case, you will most likely get a loamy mix which is excellent for drainage and nutrient retention.

However, you also need to realize that bagged soil only contains what is put in it. Planting beds and containers are closed systems. You will need to add all nutrients yourself, so fertilizing is especially important in these cases.

Many bagged soils come with an initial fertilizer already included. This is great, but it is not the only fertilizing you need to do!

A contained garden will still need you to add nutrients as the fertilization only lasts for a particular time. Check the bag to find out how long built-in fertilizers are estimated to last.

Soil Testing 

Once you know what type of soil you have, you will want to do a nutrient test to determine what nutrients your soil already has and what it is lacking. Soil testing can give you a wide variety of information depending on the test. Here are some things to look for when testing your soil.

  • pH level: pH levels have a significant impact on a plant. They can also determine how effective your fertilizer will be. Highly acidic PH soil makes it difficult for plants to absorb phosphorus, and basic PH soil makes it hard for them to get copper, iron, and zinc. Neutral or slightly acidic soil typically allows your plants to absorb the most from your fertilizer.
  • Macronutrients: There are six nutrients that plants need in large amounts: They are nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, magnesium, and calcium. If your soil is severely lacking any of these, you will need to supply it with your fertilizer.
  • Micronutrients: Micronutrients are nutrients that plants need in smaller amounts. These include boron, iron, manganese, copper, molybdenum, chlorine, nickel, sodium, cobalt, silicon, and zinc. Although these micronutrients are not as vital as the macronutrients, you still want your soil to have a balance. Your choice of fertilizer can help supply that.

NPK Ratio (The Numbers on the Bag)

Three of the macronutrients make up what is known as the N P K ratio. N stands for nitrogen, P is for phosphorus, and K is for potassium (also called potash).

The NPK ratio is the three numbers you see printed on the front of most fertilizers. They are always given in that order of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

The numbers indicate the concentration of each material. A 10-10-10 has an equal content of all three materials. 

In contrast, a 20-5-5 has four times more nitrogen than phosphorus and potassium.

The numbers also tell you how the ratio of materials to overall fertilizer. If you divide the numbers by 100, you get how many pounds of fertilizer per 1 pound of the nutrient.

A 10-10-10 will give one pound of each nutrient per 10 pounds of fertilizer because 100 divided by 10 is 10. A 20-20-20 gives 1 pound of each nutrient per 5 pounds of fertilizer. 

The NPK ratio is obviously important since it is put directly on the bag, but what exactly do these three materials do? How do you know which number your vegetables need?

  • Nitrogen: Nitrogen helps make your plant green. It is essential for leaf growth. If you are growing leafy vegetables such as beans and peas, you will need a fertilizer with higher nitrogen. 
  • Phosphorus: Phosphorus is vital for both root system and root development and helps vegetables make even more fruit. Roots like carrots and beets can benefit from it and support the root growth of plants that you want to make more fruit, such as tomatoes.
  • Potassium (Potash): it makes plants tough. This nutrient helps your plants resist disease and deal with drought. Without enough potassium, your plant will be extra sensitive. Still, potassium is often found in abundance in soil, so you usually do not need to add a ton with your fertilizer.

Fertilizer Type

Now that you know more about what is in your fertilizer for soil amendments purposes, you also need to consider what forms it can take. There are several common types of fertilizer, including

  • Granular: This fertilizer is in the form of solid round pellets. It is added to the soil directly, where it dissolves over time. Some granular fertilizer options are also slow release so that you do not have to fertilize as often. Granular fertilizers are some of the simplest to use, but they also tend to take up more storage space.
  • Dissolvable: You can also buy solid fertilizer that must first be dissolved in water. These fertilizers allow you to take a small amount of concentrate and turn it into gallons of plant food. These are great if you want to fertilize a large area with a sprayer or even if you simply want to add some nutrients to your watering can. 
  • Liquid: Liquid fertilizers are also a type of concentrate. Just like the dissolvable, they are added to regular water. Liquid fertilizers also have the benefit of being easy to use in hydroponics systems.

The type you choose depends primarily on personal preference. Still, some factors may affect your choice.

A fertilizer applied with water (liquid and dissolvable) may not be the best choice for sandy soils since it will wash through quickly.

Buying a large box of granular fertilizer may be impractical for someone with only a few container plants.

You may also choose to use different types at different times. Granular fertilizers are excellent for preparing the soil before planting. In contrast, liquid fertilizers work well as regular plant food because they are easy to apply directly to an adult plant.

How to Fertilize Garden Plants

With all that being said about what to consider when choosing a fertilizer, we also have to point out that getting the best organic fertilizer in the world will do your plants very little good if you do not use it correctly!

Follow the Instructions

We cannot emphasize this enough. The first and most important rule for fertilizing is to follow the instructions that came with your fertilizer! Always use the ratios that the manufacturer lists and apply them where and when the manufacturer suggests.

Why is this so crucial?

Fertilizers have strong nutrients in them, and for your plants, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. If you use too much fertilizer, you will burn and even kill your plants.

Save yourself some trouble and dead plants, and read and follow the instructions!

When to Fertilize

Most fertilizers are meant to be applied every two to four weeks. However, the instructions on the package can give you a far more specific direction. There are some particular times in a vegetable's life when you may want to be especially attentive with your fertilizing.

When you first plant something, whether by seed or transplant, you want to provide the best environment. Fertilizing early in a plant’s life gives them what they need to become fully established.

The other key time for fertilization is when plants are bearing. For an abundance of big tasty vegetables, you want your plants to have a lot of excess energy they can devote to their fruit.

Fertilizing your veggies during this time ensures that they do not have to spend as much energy looking for food and that they have plenty to pour into their lovely produce.

Things You Need to Know About Organic Fertilizer

Now you know everything you need to know about fertilizer options in general. However, you may wonder if there are any specifics you need to know about organic fertilizer?

Here are some things you may need to be prepared for when choosing to go organic.

  • Organic smells. Look through reviews from qualifying purchases of organic fertilizers, and it won’t be long before you find people complaining about the horrible smell of these fertilizers. This is especially true when using animal manures like fish meal, chicken manure, blood meal (which contains animal waste) or kelp meal made of dried seaweed. The fact is that this is totally normal. Organic matter does smell, but not feeding your food with man-made chemical fertilizers is worth a pinched nose.
  • Organic may not be as fast as synthetic. Synthetic fertilizers have the advantage of being made with the consumer in mind. Many chemical fertilizers are fast release to give your plant nutrients as fast as possible. Although some organic fertilizers work remarkably fast as a general rule, they are slower to affect synthetic offerings.
  • Organic can still burn. Organic fertilizers may be safer, but that does not mean you should eat the stuff or pour it on your plants recklessly. The nutrient availability in organic fertilizers can have negative side effects and hurt your plants if given in large doses.

What Makes Organic Fertilizer Different?

You may be wondering what exactly makes organic fertilizers different from the usual stuff. Besides not containing synthetic plant material for soil amendments, organic fertilizers seek to improve soil health on a larger scale.

Besides nutrients, organic fertilizers contain soil organisms and fungi to create a rich environment and improved soil aeration. Organic fertilizers can also have elements designed to improve soil structure for better airflow and water retention.

Organic fertilizers seek to make the soil rich and healthy overall instead of just adding a couple of key nutrients.

10 Best Organic Fertilizers for Vegetables

With all of that information, you are now ready to pick an organic fertilizer! Unfortunately, there are still a ton of options. How do you pick? Our list of ten best organic fertilizers for vegetables will give you plenty from which to choose. Here they are!

1. Best for Indoor Plants: Joyful Dirt Premium Concentrated

Joyful Dirt Premium Concentrated All Purpose Organic Plant Food

Coming in a 3 oz bottle, this is probably not the organic fertilizer of choice for those with large backyard plots. However, suppose you need something simple and easy to use for your potted tomatoes and indoor herbs. In that case, Joyful Dirt Premium Concentrated is a practical choice.

This manure is an overall plant booster that revives struggling plants and brings forth new growth in others. Many customers were shocked and pleased by the abundant growth Joyful Dirt produced in their potted and indoor plants.

Like other organic fertilizers, Joyful Dirt will produce a rather unpleasant odor. Some complained about its fish emulsion smell. Also, as of today, this product contains a tiny amount of bone meal.

Joyful Dirt can be added either directly or via the watering can. If you add this to your watering, you can pour out any water remaining in the can after watering your plants! 

2. Best for Hydroponics: MARPHYL Organic Liquid Soil Enhancer with All Natural Marine Phytoplankton

MARPHYL Organic Liquid Soil Enhancer

This organic liquid soil organic seaweed fertilizer from Marphyl is a must for anyone trying hydroponic organic gardening. Since hydroponics does not involve soil, it can be tricky to apply fertilizer. Still, the liquid form of Marphyl’s option makes it simple to add to hydroponic systems. 

Of course, you can also use this product concentration on any other vegetables. As the name implies, this product is meant to enhance your soil and create an overall healthier growing environment.

3. Best Miracle Fertilizer: Plant Magic Premium All-Purpose Organic Fertilizer

Plant Magic Premium All Purpose

We cannot ignore the reviews on this one. Plant Magic Premium All-Purpose Organic Fertilizer may actually be magic. Several reviewers testified to this organic fertilizer’s ability to bring their plants back from the jaws of death. Sometimes you need an emergency fertilizer, and this choice is a great organic plant saver.

Of course, this excellent organic fertilizer is not just for emergencies! This all-purpose blend can be added directly to the soil, plant roots, or used to water plants. The only downside is that this option is a bit pricey compared to some of our other picks.

4. Best Liquid Fertilizer: Humboldts Secret Golden Tree: Best Plant Food for Plants & Trees

Humboldts Secret Golden Tree

If liquid manures are the way you want to go, you should look into Humboldts Secret Golden Tree. This concentrate comes in a variety of sizes and works on all types of plants, so you can get exactly how much you need for whatever veggies you are growing.

The great thing about liquid organic fertilizers is that they can be applied in any situation. You can even use this manure to an aeroponics garden as a mist!

If using in hydroponics, we recommend a little plant enzyme as well to keep root systems clean. Humboldts Secret Golden Tree is versatile, so if you have plants in multiple growing mediums or you like to experiment with different systems, this could be a simple all-in-one solution.

5. Best for Building Resistance: Jobe’s Organics 9026 Fertilizer

Jobe's Organics 9026

This is an organic fertilizer that has everything you can’t help but like about synthetic fertilizers in an organic option. Jobe’s Organics 9026 is a granular product you can easily add to the soil. Its NPK ratio is 2-5-3.

This organic fertilizer includes specific microorganisms to break down nutrients to feed your plants faster and increase root growth. It also has ingredients that work to make your garden hardy.

This product seeks to make your plants grow bigger and help them build resistance to pests, diseases, and even bad weather conditions.

6. Best for Tomatoes: Dr. Earth Organic 5 Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer

Dr. Earth Organic 5 Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer Poly Bag

Tomatoes are a classic choice of vegetable gardeners everywhere, but getting your tomato plants to produce sizeable juicy fruit can be tricky. Dr. Earth Organic 5 Tomato, Vegetable, and Herb manure can help you make the finest tomatoes your garden has ever produced.

This product has an NPK ratio of 4-6-3, which helps to explain why it is so great for tomatoes. The high phosphorous level encourages plants to increase blooms and fruit production.

Of course, this isn’t only good for tomatoes but also for other vegetables you want to produce.

This manure also has the advantage of lasting for a few months at a time. Suppose you are the type who forgets to fertilize. In that case, a long-lasting organic fertilizer like this might be the solution. 

7. Best for Easy Use: Miracle-Gro Performance Organics Edibles Plant Nutrition Granules

Miracle-Gro Performance Organics Edibles Plant Nutrition Granules

Sometimes we just want something straightforward and low effort. Even if you love your garden, you may not have all the time you want to devote to it. Miracle-Gro Performance Organics Edibles Plant Nutrition Granules may not be easy to say. Still, it is easy to find and use.

This is a simple shake slow release fertilizer, so you won’t need to add more for a month or so.  All you have to do is shake some on the dirt, and you are good to go.

Plus, as a Miracle-Gro product, this is by far the most accessible organic fertilizer to find at your local store. You can still be organic and pick up your products when shopping for other organic gardening supplies. Going organic should not be difficult, and Miracle-Gro is helping with that.

8. Best for Serious Gardeners: Down to Earth Organic Vegetable Garden Fertilizer

Down to Earth Organic Vegetable Garden Food

This 4-4-4 organic fertilizer from Down to Earth is an excellent product with excellent reviews. It will undoubtedly make your vegetables happy, but the Vegetable Garden Fertilizer is just the beginning.

Down to Earth has organic products with many other specialties such as an Acid Mix, Rose, Flower Mix, Citrus Mix, All-Purpose, and many more. If you are the type of gardener who wants to get detailed and specific with your gardening products while remaining organic, Down to Earth may be a good brand to get started on.

On an extra note, Down to Earth also comes in a compostable box for those who want to be as eco-friendly as possible.

9. Best for Beginners: Espoma Garden-Tone Plant Food, Natural & Organic for an Abundant Harvest

Espoma Garden-Tone Plant Food

We are all at different places in our organic gardening lives. Some have been growing a vegetable garden for decades, and others are planting their very first.

If you fall into the latter category, you may not be ready for all the numbers and specifications that exist down the rabbit hole of organic fertilizers. Luckily there is a simple solution for you: Espoma Garden-Tone.

It feeds your plants once a month and is suited for all sorts of vegetables and herbs. It provides long-lasting, slow-release feeding with exclusive Bio-tone Microbes.

Since this comes in a four-pound bag, it is also perfect for anyone with a mixed plot of several various vegetables. You can also buy several bags of this at once on Amazon.

10. Best for Soil Amendment: Dr. Verm's Premium Worm Castings - Organic Builder and Fertilizer

Dr. Verm's Premium Worm Castings

Maybe you can never remember to fertilize. Perhaps you know you will be gone, and your plants will need to fend for themselves, or maybe you just want to get things started right.

 While many gardening products are added and reapplied throughout the growing season, Dr. Verm’s is an excellent choice for people seeking to create richer soil before they start planting. 

It includes over 60 soil microbes and trace minerals rich in beneficial bacteria, fungi, and beneficial nematodes. The microbes and trace elements can remain viable for up to 12 months. If stored in a cool, dry place, the microbes can remain viable for up to 12 months.

However, extreme hot or cold temperatures can affect the lifespan of the microbes. As long as the content is kept dry, the nutrient and minerals should remain indefinitely, even if the microbes have long since died off.

You can mix these worm castings with potting soil to make act lie soil conditioner for your containers. You can also add it to the top of outdoor gardens or to planting holes.

You can even soak these to create a liquid fertilizer. If you need something to give you a better foundation soil and fertilize with, this is it. Who knew you could do so much with worm castings?

Particular Vegetables’ Fertilizer Needs

Getting a general vegetable plants fertilizer is the best option in most cases. However, different vegetables do have varying nutrient needs and preferences. If you are determined to grow a particular vegetable, you should look at the fertilizer recommendations. Our table also notes when the ideal time is to apply it.

Vegetable

Likes

When to Apply

Leafy Greens

Nitrogen

Throughout

Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage

Phosphorus

When head forms

Peas, Beans

Balanced

At start

Corn

Balanced

Throughout

Squash

Phosphorus

Throughout

Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant

Phosphorus

When blooms start


This is not an exhaustive or extremely detailed list. Still, it simply gives you a general idea of what different vegetables prefer. Phosphorus is a crucial element for vegetables because it contributes to bearing fruit and strengthen their roots.

Still, if you want to grow award-winning carrots and tomatoes, you will likely need to do more specific research. However, if your goal is just tasty and healthy food, then you definitely know enough to get growing.

Conclusion

Growing vegetables is fun, educational, productive, and tasty. With the right organic fertilizer, it can be even more effective! Fertilizing your vegetables is critical for a thriving and bountiful garden.

When selecting organic gardening products, remember to pick something that caters to your soil and the vegetables you wish to grow. Grab one of our all-purpose recommendations if you don’t know where to get started. Happy fertilizing!

About the author 

Pamela G. Martin

Passionate about urban gardening, indoor growing solutions, and sustainability. Believes in growing our own food and eat fresh and better food by getting back to basics, growing a fruit and vegetable garden, and cooking from scratch.