Ocean Friendly Gardens, Basic Class
May 18 2012

Give A Hoot: Replace NPK With OWL

by John Weber and Paul Herzog

There is more than NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium) in a bag of fertilizer Just look at the bag shown at right.

There are pallets upon pallets of fertilizer “plus” at every home goods store in the country this time of year.  And while most consumers think they are just buying some food for their lawn (which is bad enough) they are actually getting a load of toxic pesticides as well. 

The fine print on every bag of such fertilizer says something like this: “Environmental Hazard: This pesticide is toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates.  Do not apply directly to water, to areas where surface water is present, or to intertidal areas…” The bags are so big and the print is so small.

In OFG Watershed Basics Classes, we teach a soil life-building practice that our partners at G3/The Green Gardens Group call OWL: Oxygen, Water and Life. G3 Associates have studied with and read the work of  Soil Food WebDr. Elaine Ingham, and Teaming With Microbes. They have learned that:

  • typical soil at your home is compacted and dry, devoid of the oxygen and water needed to sustain life;
  • plant "food" (chemistry) like good quality compost, compost tea and worm castings can help kick-start and feed soil life:
  • plants know what they need, sending out message to the soil life (biology) for small amounts of what they need.
  • good qualify mulch - leaves from plants (hence, why they call them "leaves") and fresh tree trimmings - break down to form soil.

Learn more about living soil at G3's website.