How to Find Truly Organic Fertilizers, Bags of Soil, and Amendments

USDA organic seal
The USDA organic seal on carrot seeds package.

When shopping for food I always look for the USDA organic seal, like the one on this package of carrot seeds. Food, and products like seeds used to grow food, will contain the green organic label, but the fertilizer used to grow them will not.

Apparently garden fertilizer and bags of soil require different symbols to identify which are truly organic. The word “organic” alone means nothing when it comes to buying products you need to grow your own food.

It seems odd to me that we can easily pick up USDA certified seeds to plant, but it is not nearly as simple to find certified organic soil and fertilizer used to grow them.

Why The Word “Organic” is Not Enough

As I was writing a previous post about building up the dirt in my raised bed, I went looking at my bags of fertilizer. Sometimes I link to products I have bought in case readers are looking for the same type of thing. The one I checked was my bag of Milorganite.

DO NOT BUY MILORGANITE, especially if you are an organic gardener! And personally I will never go near the stuff again.  Once you look closely at the bag you may feel the same way.

Although this bag (my photos) contains the wording “organic nitrogen” (at the top on the front) and “eco friendly” (little yellow sign), when you look at the bottom of the back there is a “warning” sign (that exclamation point). Most of the labeling on the back of the bag is a bit scary.   Such warnings are:  Do not breath it in, wash immediately after touching, and do not apply before a heavy rain or near water drains. Yikes… I didn’t want this stuff anywhere near my vegetable garden, or in my yard for that matter!

So why did I buy this stuff in the first place?  For one thing the word “organic” at the top fooled me.   Apparently only the nitrogen is organic.  I really have no idea what that means, but the product is only 5% nitrogen.  The packaging is enticing with all their good wording choices and big photos.  Someone knows how to market.

But, once I looked closer at the bag, I thought something was wrong. Organic is good and natural, so why a warning? Because companies can use good-looking wording like “organic” and “natural” and “eco friendly” which all may mean nothing.

This got me wondering (and worrying) about the other organic-labeled products I have been using in my yard.  Are they really organic?

Inspecting Labels on My Purchased “Organic” Products

Here’s what I found when I looked at the products I use in my garden. From the soil we choose, to the fertilizers and amendments, everything must be truly organic if we want our vegetables and fruits to be organic.

This post about Identifying Organic Fertilizers at the Organic Its Worth It site was an eye-opener for me.

organic fertilizer
Which organic fertilizer is really organic?

So I inspected my bags further, looking for the symbols telling me that my products were truly considered okay for organic gardening.

Dr. Earth and Miracle-Gro Pass the Organic Labeling Test

Fortunately the soil and fertilizer I have been using are real organic products.

YES!  The Dr. Earth fertilizer contains three seals. One is OMRI Listed, and the other two are CDFA and MycoApply. Those two are so tiny I could barely read them, but they mean good stuff. Unfortunately not enough people understand these terms. OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) is the big one to look for. OMRI is a place where products must be certified useable in organic gardening. Once a product is approved, they can use the OMRI seal. This is what we have to look for when choosing fertilizers, soil, and amendments for the yard and garden.


The Dr. Earth website explains what the CDFA and MycoApply labels mean on their products.   The company is working to create good fertilizers which help the earth.  I was impressed with the earth-friendly info at their site.  No phony advertising here.

YES!  Recently I bought eight bags of Nature’s Care (by Miracle Gro) garden soil ($7.97 a bag at Home Depot) and was pleased to see the OMRI label at the bottom of the bags. I also use their bone meal which has the same label.

Also the Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Blood Meal (shown in my photo, but used up before I checked the packaging) is listed as organic at the OMRI site.  Use the site to search for products you have or plan to buy.

The OMRI site explains (read the “what is organic?” section) that the word “organic” is not regulated for fertilizer and non-food items. This allows companies to use the word when it is not necessarily true.  As I mentioned above, why?  Does this make sense to anyone?

Although I will now read labels and look first for that OMRI seal, as the writer the Organic It’s Worth It site mentioned, other wording can take the place of that seal.  I suppose not every truly organic company contains the seal of approval – I don’t know.  Be sure to look for certain wording on the labels of products. If the company claims that the product “meets the requirements for organic production” the product should be fine.

For this reason, I suggest shopping local for such products.  Label reading is easier than buying online.  At Amazon, when I searched for OMRI certified fertilizer I only found a few with the label.  Even though I may link to products on the Amazon site, I would rather check locally for these types of products. Often local shops will sell for less. Also, you can more easily read labels and purchase exactly what you see.

If you choose to buy online, here are some OMRI listed organic fertilizers found at Amazon:

Nature’s Care Organic BONE Meal – Bone meal supplies phosphorus for strong roots.

Nature’s Care Organic BLOOD Meal – Blood meal supplies nitrogen for green foliage.

The Dr. Earth store at Amazon

Burpee Citrus Fruit Fertilizer

Bone Meal For The Spring Flower Garden

Get the ground ready for planting by adding bone meal to the soil.

It sounds a bit gross to use crushed bones when fertilizing, but the fine, powdery substance works wonders for the plants.

Bone meal is a great source of phosphorus which helps establish good roots, and without good roots, plants don’t grow as well. This is why I add it to the ground when planting and later when plants are growing. They are always making new roots.

tulips and daffodils
Bone meal helps grow strong roots

Bulbs, like the ones in my photo here, will appreciate some bone meal mixed into the planting soil.  Your tulips and daffodils will produce more blooms, as will any flowers planted in spring.

Organic Bone Meal is the perfect addition to an organic garden. I add it to the bare garden soil in spring before it’s time to plant. ┬áIt helps make the soil better for everything you plan to grow, as long as you don’t overdo it.

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Annuals and Perennials will grow better with bone meal.

Use it as a soil amendment around perennials too. I sprinkle it around the hydrangea shrub and other perennials in the yard once the snow is gone. Rake it into the soil and be careful around the shallow roots. Bone meal replaces depleted phosphorus and will get the plants off to a good start for summer growth.

I buy mine in 4.5 lb. bags and directions say to use 1 teaspoon mixed into the dirt for bulbs. For shrubs, such as the hydrangea, apply 1 to 2 pounds (2.25 cups of bone meal equals 1 pound). Directions are on the bag, or box and it can even be used in pots.

Blood meal is a different product and can be used to supply the nitrogen your garden needs. Nitrogen keeps plants looking green. Use it if the leaves on your plants begin to turn yellow.

Be careful when using fertilizer, even organic fertilizer (and make sure it is truly organic!) like bone meal and blood meal, because it is still possible to use too much and damage the plants.

Above you can see the lush growth of my nasturtiums (annuals), and hydrangea (leaves) and coneflower (echinacea) which are perennials.