The word NPK is typically associated with industrialized agriculture since it refers to a mix of fertilizers used to help plants thrive. However, organic gardeners must understand how to work with NPK ideas in order to grow better food without utilizing the harmful NPK fertilizers used in industrial agriculture.
With these NPK ideas, it’s easy to become mired down in chemistry and soil analysis. Nonetheless, I believe it is critical to rising beyond this so that you can use your talents of observation to work successfully with NPK, regardless of your skill level or resources.
Let’s begin with definitions of N-P-K:
N – Nitrogen is a nutrient that works primarily on the growth of the plant’s leaves and stems. Nitrogen is the essential nutrient for plants, and it’s best supplied in organic forms like manures (solid and liquid), composts, and green manure crops like legumes.
Before usage, ferment the liquid manure and treat it with nettles, old compost, or BD compost formulations. Plants that are tough and wiry suggest a shortage of nitrogen, and older leaves turn yellow early.
On the other hand, too much nitrogen causes rank and excessive leaf and stem growth and poor root and flower development — a typical example is a carrot, which produces a lot of leaves and bad seeds when it has too much nitrogen.
P – Phosphorus is required for the proper growth of flowers, seeds, and fruits. Powdered rock phosphate, chicken and other bird manures, and bone meal can all be used to make it.
Green manure crops like lupine and vetch are high in phosphorus. Plants that are deficient in phosphorus will not mature, have a reddish-purple coloring, and have poor seed formation. The undersides of tomatoes’ leaves become purple.
K — This stands for potassium or potash, and it is mainly required for proper root growth. Wood ash from hardwoods, seaweed, bracken fern tea, vetch as a green manure crop, and alfalfa as mulch or compost are all excellent sources of potash. Plants with low potash levels have dry edges and tips, and their growth is inhibited. Fruits ripen in different ways.
Manage NPK in your organic garden
In general, employing manures, compost, different green manure crops, and different liquid manures to achieve a balance of NPK in your food garden is an excellent idea.
However, you may want to focus on one, such as a field that requires a lot of leaf growth, such as cabbage, which involves a lot of nitrogen, so make sure you plant a legume green manure crop before cabbages and apply compost while the plant is developing.
If you’re using biodynamic gardening techniques, you may employ biodynamic preparations to boost nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium levels, for example:
- Compost preparation with BD503 (Chamomile) – nitrogen stabilization
- Compost preparation BD506 (Dandelion) – works with potassium
- BD507 (Valerian) compost preparation – phosphorus concentrations
- Too much nitrogen has a negative influence on BD501 (Silica).
On our Gardener subscriber site, you’ll discover a wealth of information about crop rotation, green manure crops, composting, and liquid manures. Furthermore, our biodynamic gardening seminars dive into these principles in order to assist you in incorporating them into the management of your food garden in a very active way.