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Natural sources of nitrogen

Finding natural sources of nitrogen for your garden is an easy thing to do. After years of failed gardening attempts, I sent a soil test to my closest testing lab. It turned out that I was in need of nitrogen! Since I wanted to keep my gardens organic, I found 6 ways to add a natural source of nitrogen for plants.

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natural sources of nitrogen

How to add natural sources of nitrogen to your backyard garden in 6 easy ways.

The best decision I ever made for my garden was sending a soil test to the UF Extension Soil Testing Lab. Receiving a complete soil test to find the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in your growing soil is crucial in order to grow crops.

Once I learned that my gardens needed a nitrogen boost, my plant growth took off!

Whether you’re a beginning gardener or a seasoned gardener, your soil needs natural fertilizers.

Bone meal and blood meal

Bone meal and blood meal are really great, natural ways to add a nitrogen and phosphorus source to your planting soil. You can buy bags of organic bone and blood meal at any garden store.

You can also make your own meals, which I’m planning to try in the next couple of weeks! I’ve been saving up bones for a while now and plan to make bone broth and bone meal. I plan to use this recipe by Salt in My Coffee called “How to Make Bone Meal”. Pretty straightforward, I’ll let you know how it goes!

Planting beans

This is one example of how to add a natural nitrogen source to your soil. Did you know different crops give and take certain things to and from the soil it’s planted in?

By planting beans, you’re adding a natural source of nitrogen for plants and the soil with no extra work or supplements! Beans are one of the best organic fertilizers out there. This makes beans a great planting companion for strong nitrogen feeders such as broccoli or cabbage.

Once I started learning and reading about gardening I just thought that was the coolest thing! That’s why companion gardening is so important and can boost your gardening game BIG TIME. I, myself, am going to be practicing more companion planting this Spring Season.

Want to keep track of your harvest with my free homesteading PDFs and join the flock?

Coffee grounds

If your house is like my house then you also have an abundance of coffee grounds! Coffee grounds can be the best source of nitrogen for plants.

Coffee grounds don’t immediately add nitrogen to your soil, though. Instead, they slowly break down adding organic matter and nitrogen to your soil.

Although adding organic matter to your soil can help with drainage, aeration, and water retention sometimes composting coffee grounds can be a better use of the source.

You can mix coffee grounds directly into the soil when planting or compost them – gardener’s choice.

Leaves for mulch

Leaves also act as a good source of nitrogen for plants, provide aeration and can be used for mulch! Mulching is great because it helps with water retention, keeping your soil cool, prolonging the life of your soil and so much more.

It’s easy to deal with mulch when you’ve used leaves because at the end of the season you can just mix the leaves into the soil! Presto! Organic matter AND nitrogen, all at once.

We tried to mulch this Fall season 2018 with this stuff called “EZ Mulch”. I will NEVER do it again because I’m pretty sure there’s some type of chemical on that stuff. I’m upset I trusted it because it only seemed to cause me problems.

Next time I mulch, I’ll use a natural mulch for my plants.

Aged chicken manure

I know I already mentioned Salt in my Coffee but I’m going to do it again. Anna wrote a great article about the Deep Litter Composting Method called “Chicken Manure Compost in 18 days” and it’s really wonderful.

Chicken manure is very high in nitrogen and can be one of the best and most natural sources you can find. You do have to let it age because it can “burn” your plants if you don’t, and that’s when Anna’s method comes in handy.

After all, of all animal manures, chicken manure is highest in nitrogen!

Fish emulsion

Living in a fisherman’s county, I’m surprised this isn’t one of the most common sources for a nitrogen boost in backyard gardens.

You can buy liquid fish emulsion at your local Tractor Supply or garden stores. Due to its superior levels of nitrogen, you’ll want to dilute it so you avoid burning your crops. The Spruce has a great guide on making your own organic fish emulsion fertilizer and what to look for.

I use SUPERthrive in my gardens with great success. SUPERthrive is a very strong fish emulsion fertilizer, packed with amino acids, sure to boost your edibles. I’ve used this liquid fertilizer on my cut and come again vegetable gardens and it would be a great addition to any victory garden.

Rabbit manure

Getting access to rabbit manure might be a little tricky if you don’t have rabbits. If you know someone who does have rabbits, though, it could be easy and free!

Unlike chicken manure, rabbit manure can be added it right to the gardens since it isn’t hot. If you add the manure directly to your gardens, it will act as a slow release organic fertilizer and assist in growing your crops all season.

Adding nitrogen to your backyard gardens in 6 natural ways

Well, there ya have it! These natural sources of nitrogen are easily accessible and won’t waste loads of fossil fuels getting to your backyard.

No matter what method of gardening you’re using to grow crops, these nitrogen sources can be used to boost plant growth all season. Let me know if you have any questions, comments, concerns, tips, tricks or what have you. I’d love to hear it!


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  1. Sarah Antonelli says:

    You forgot urine. It is a great source of free nitrogen, but must be diluted.

  2. The leaves on my tomato sprouts looked like they were fading and being new to gardening I looked you up and now I will try a mixture of crushed/torn up leaves and coffee grounds in hopes of them turning out as vibrant and healthy looking as you do.

  3. Hi Chelsea.
    Thanks for this article on natrual nitrogen. Thanks for sharing.
    I read somewhere that snow has Nitrogen in it. Have you heard about this? Living in Greenland its an obvious choice for us. No chickens! No leaves! so looking for natural alternatives. THX

    1. Hi Kris,
      From a little Google searching, yes, snow contains nitrogen just as rain does. I’ve never had to garden in the snow so I can’t provide much information outside of doing some research. I would imagine you could save the snow somehow, melt it and water your gardens with it as long as it isn’t too hot/cold that it harms your crops. Bone meal is a great way to get nitrogen if you eat meat. I’d also recommend focusing on practicing companion planting. I assume you’re utilizing a greenhouse if you’re gardening during the winter, so focus on planting crops that will provide nitrogen in your soil. I hope these tips help! Good luck to you and thank you for sharing and stopping by Grow Where You Sow!

  4. John Coles says:

    We have a method for later in the year which gives nitrogen and beautifull conditioned soil for the spring. We save all of our packaging cardboard through the year and in September/October cover the cleared planting areas with at least one layer. On top of that at least 6″ of grass or leaves or a mixture of both.
    The cardboard supresses any weeds and with the grass clippings makes a wonderfull environment for wood lice and worms and all the micro organisms that produce nitrogen. It needs to be kept wet so if no rain water soak the cardboard but otherwise it can be left to do its thing. You will be amazed with the results in lovely black soil, weed free, perfect for planting.

    1. Hi John!
      This method sounds wonderful. We use cardboard in our yard, also, to suppress weeds and I love the way it works. I’ve been wanting to try in-ground gardening again in our yard and will try your method for conditioning our sandy soil here in Florida. Thank you so much for sharing with me and educating me on your method. Feel free to share any more tips! I’m all ears!
      With appreciation,


    1. I would say just to start slowly! The best way to always add levels of anything is to start small and build up. You can also use a natural source of manure such as age chicken manure or rabbit manure! Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

    2. Manure tea. Make the tea by soaking a shovel of manure in a porous bag in a 5 gallon bucket of water for a day or two. It’s a good idea to put a cover on the bucket. When you are ready to use the ‘tea’ put some of the dark liquid into a container and fill with fresh water till the ‘tea’ I light colored. Pour it around the roots of your plants. I always saw an improvement within a day or two. At this point I miss having chickens, calves, and sheep for ‘manure tea. This Is the price one can pay for living the city.

      1. Hi Em! You are absolutely right – compost/manure tea is so great. I can’t believe I forgot to add it to the post! Maybe I’ll go back in and add it (and credit you, of course!). What a great suggestion! I’m so sorry you had to move away from what sounds like a more rural life. I hope that, for whatever reasons, there is happiness and bliss in your new journey. Maybe one day you’ll find your way back to the country. Please don’t hesitate to come back to my page with more tips! If you ever want to email me to chat “Farming”, I’d be thrilled to exchange emails! I’m always looking to learn something new. Thank you so much for sharing with me and stopping by my page. I hope to hear from you again!

    3. corn thrives on nitrogen, if you plant any kind of beans till in the old plants in the fall which provide quite a bit of nitrogen and then the next growing season plant corn