Fertilizers, when used appropriately, are enormously beneficial in the growth of healthy plants. What gets us into trouble is over-fertilization, improper fertilization (picking the wrong kind), and chemical runoff into our waterways which causes algae blooms and harms fish and aquatic wildlife. Chemical runoff also negatively affects the quality of our drinking water and makes it more expensive to properly treat it for safe consumption. Reducing dependence on synthetic chemical fertilizers is one way to make a big impact on your own garden as well as the health of your local watershed.
When purchasing fertilizer for your garden there are a few things to keep in mind. First, make sure you are buying the right type of fertilizer for your needs and, whenever possible, opt for organic. Next, look for slow-release formulas. The primary benefit of slow-release fertilizer is that the soil has time to fully absorb the nutrients at this gradual pace. That translates to a reduction of excess nutrients that would have otherwise turned into toxic runoff. From there, turn to the many natural fertilizers available to us in the forms of manure, compost, bone meal, liquid seaweed, and alfalfa meal. These will contain valuable trace minerals you’re unlikely to find in an all-purpose commercial fertilizer, and compositions such as fish hydroslate offer vital amino acids, enzymes, and vitamins.
Once you have a climate-conscious plan in place to fertilize your garden, work to keep that fertile topsoil intact. The Rainforest Alliance explains that the simple act of planting ground covers prevents the harmful topsoil erosion that comes from heavy rainfall. Mulch and natural weave erosion control blankets can also help in this way; as can digging trenches and planting along layered terraces.