Add nitrogen to soil so that your plants grow and flower in a healthy way. In this guide, we bring you some quick fixes as well as long-term methods to add nitrogen to your garden soil. If you think you will need to spend a fortune to add nitrogen to your soil, think again.

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Most of these methods include common household substances and are quite affordable as well.

How To Add Nitrogen to Soil: Some Instant Fixes

Using nitrogen-rich fertilizer, compost or even manure are some instant fixes to add good nitrogen to soil.

Aside from these, there are a lot of other instant quick fixes you can use to add nitrogen to your soil. Read below to find out what they are.

– Use a Nitrogen-Rich Fertilizer

If a soil nitrogen test reveals that you have a nitrogen deficiency at your hands, then a fertilizer is the best and the quickest option for you. Commercially available fertilizers will instantly raise the level of nitrogen in the soil after just one application.

We strongly recommend that you use organic all-purpose Nitrogen-rich fertilizer. It is available in granules, powder and liquid forms.

Always use fertilizer according to the instructions given in the manual and according to the needs of the plants that you are growing in the soil. This is because there is such a thing as fertilizer burn and it is equally harmful to the soil and plants as a lack of nutrients.

– Add Nitrogen Without Using Fertilizer

You don’t always have to use a chemical-laden fertilizer for adding nitrogen to soil. There are plenty of other options that work equally well and are quite affordable too. Continue reading to find out how to do this.

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  • Blood Meal

Blood meal is dried blood collected from butchered animals. It is usually cow blood but can belong to any common livestock animal that is usually butchered in food processing plants.

It is one of the richest sources of nitrogen out there, as blood meals typically have 13 percent nitrogen in their composition. It is also a rapid-release source of nitrogen for your soil. It is easily available in the market at various prices, just make sure to follow the instructions on the package very carefully.

Since this is a very concentrated form of nitrogen, it could also harm your plants if used excessively. It also serves the purpose of keeping rodents away, as these animals cannot tolerate the smell of blood meal.

  • Compost

Compost is another gardening staple that you can utilize in order to boost nitrogen in soil. Although it doesn’t contain a very large amount of nitrogen, it is quite effective as a slow-release formula. Take compost and mix it with the top three to five inches of the soil. After that, spread compost over the top layer of the soil.

Compost takes quite some time to decompose and release its nitrogen into the soil, so you will need to wait a while to see the results of composting appear.

  • Manure

Manure has been used as an effective way to raise nitrogen in soil since time immemorial. The manure we prefer using the most is cow or poultry manure, but you can also use manure from horses, sheeps and rabbits. You should mix manure with the soil prior to planting plants. Otherwise, you risk burning them.

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In soil with plants already planted in it, you should always compost manure for several months before using it. You can make manure tea by putting manure in a bucket and filling it with water, then pour this water on the soil.

  • Alfalfa Meal

Alfalfa meal is a great alternative to blood meal for those who are uncomfortable by the idea of using blood. It is made up of dried and ground up alfalfa plant and has 2.5 percent nitrogen and 2 percent potassium in it.

Alfalfa meal is also a very commonly used nitrogen-adding substance. It is slow-releasing and can be effective for up to months. Another good thing about using alfalfa meal is that it is practical and affordable.

They come in the shape of pellets, where the smaller-sized pellets can be used as it is. Simply bury them in the soil and they will break down over time, releasing their contents. For large-sized pellets, you will have to break them into smaller pieces before use.

  • Diluted Human Urine

Human urine is an excellent source of nutrients for your soil and plants, be it nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium or other trace elements. Human urine has very high levels of nitrogen-containing urea and must be diluted before applying it to the soil.

For young plants, mix one part of urine with twenty parts water. For well-established plants, mix one part of urine with ten parts of water.

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We usually apply diluted human urine as an additive to compost. It needs to be mixed with other carbon rich sources too. Mix it with dry leaves, straw or cardboard pieces and then add it to compost, then use this compost as a source of nitrogen for plants. Another option is to cover your soil with a thick layer of mulch and apply human urine directly over it.

  • Fish Emulsion

Fish emulsion is an organic fertilizer made from either fish parts or the entire fish as a whole. It acts as a fertilizer because it has an adequate NPK ratio of 4-1-1.

You can either make your own fish emulsion at home or buy commercially made ones for your soil. Homemade emulsions are better because commercial ones usually contain less fats, proteins and oil in them.

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  • Feather Meal

Feather meal is made up of the feathers of birds used for poultry. It is a very rich source of nitrogen for the soil, right up there with blood meal.

A typical feather meal constitutes 13 to 15 percent nitrogen in it. However, unlike blood meal, it tends to release this nitrogen slowly over several weeks.

Before potting new plants, take one or two spoonfuls of feather meal and mix it thoroughly with the soil. You can keep adding this substance into the topsoil as your plant continues to grow for added benefits.

  • Crab Meal

Did you know that you can use crab meal to increase nitrogen in soil as well?

Although it is called crab meal, this fertilizer is made from the shells of all crustaceans like shellfish, lobsters or shrimps. Mix this feed with carbon-rich materials like cardboard, old leaves and wood chips and then mix it with the soil.

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  • Ground Coffee Beans

Yes, you can recycle ground coffee beans as a DIY nitrogen fertilizer for your soil.

Used coffee has five percent nitrogen per kilogram on average. You can either simply dig them into the soil or mix them with compost and then add both to the soil together.

Coffee beans definitely take a bit longer to increase the soil’s nitrogen content, but they provide you with the added benefit of increasing the soil’s aeration and drainage as well.

  • Tea Bags and Eggshells

Other common household items you can recycle for your soil is used tea bags and crushed eggshells. In fact, crushed eggshells are found to be a very effective source of adding nitrogen to your soil.

– How To Add Nitrogen Gradually Over Time

Organic mulching and planting leguminous, nitrogen-fixing greens will help add nitrogen to the soil over time.

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Maybe instead of a quick fix, you want some long-term solutions for the nitrogen deficiency of your soil. In that case, here are some of our favorite methods.

  • Plant More Nitrogen-fixing Plants

A good way to add nitrogen to soil naturally is by planting nitrogen-fixing plants in it. Leguminous plants such as beans and pea plants are prime examples of such nitrogen fixers.

Nitrogen fixation is the name of the process through which some plants naturally contribute to the addition of nitrogen to the soil. These plants form a symbiotic relationship with certain bacteria present in the soil.

These bacteria form nodules in the roots of the nitrogen-fixing plants and convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form usable by the plant. This nitrogen is then not only used by the plant but also released into the soil once the plant dies.

However, if you want to use these plants in order to add nitrogen to the soil naturally, you will need to kill them before they produce flowers and seeds. Otherwise, most of the nitrogen produced by the symbiotic bacteria will be used up in the flowering process.

  • How to Successfully Use Nitrogen-fixing Plants

If you want to use nitrogen-fixing plants solely for the purpose of adding nitrogen to the soil, you will need to follow the instructions given below.

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Plan your harvest years in advance. After each nitrogen-eating crop, you should plant a nitrogen-fixing one for the next season. Plant beans, peas and other legumes but keep in mind that you must not let them flower or produce any yield if you want to use them for producing nitrogen and adding it to the soil. Such plants are called crop plants.

Either plant them at such a time that they die before flowering due to frost, or cut them up yourself right before they start to flower. Only then will these plants release all the stored nitrogen into the soil. Remove them and plant your new crop in the nitrogen-rich soil!

  • Add Organic Mulching

Make a habit of collecting old leftover vegetables, dropped leaves and any other plant matter and spreading it over your soil. These things act as a layer of mulch that breaks down slowly over time, releasing their nitrogen content into the soil. Doing this will eventually increase the nitrogen levels of your soil.

How To Tell if Your Soil Needs More Nitrogen

Observing stunted plant growth and soil testing are some methods used to determine if the soil needs more nitrogen.

Sometimes, nitrogen deficiency manifests by producing certain signs and symptoms in the plants, other times it is not so apparent. Here are a number of ways you can find out if your soil needs more nitrogen.

– Check Your Plants

A major sign of nitrogen deficiency in the soil is stunted plant growth, which means your plant will not grow to its full potential. The leaves of the plants grown in deficient soil will be very small in size compared to those of healthy plants.

Another symptom would be the yellowing of the leaves of the plant. This phenomenon is called chlorosis. It happens because the leaves use nitrogen to synthesize chlorophyll, the substance that imparts a fresh green color to your leaves. In the case of nitrogen-deficient soil, the leaves will not produce enough chlorophyll and will appear dull and yellow.

In severe cases, your plant might also start exhibiting rapid leaf drop. During bloom time, small-sized flowers will grow and die sooner than average. You will notice that the fruit yield will also be low and of poor quality.

– Perform Soil Testing

Soil testing really comes in handy when it comes to growing plants like a pro. Always check your soil’s nitrogen levels prior to planting new crops. Continue reading to find some common ways of testing soil for nitrogen.

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  • Lab Test

Send a sample of the soil to a nearby laboratory. They will carry out various tests on your soil and determine its nitrogen levels. Search around your area to determine which laboratories offer this service, but take note that these labs might take weeks before they present you with a detailed report.

Another important thing to keep in mind with nitrogen testing is that it is extremely volatile. You will need to freeze your sample and then send it to the lab to get an accurate result. Otherwise, the sample would have lost most of its nitrogen by the time it makes it to the lab.

  • Home Test Kits

Many home test kits are available in the market these days. They claim to provide you with an instant result regarding the nutrient content of your soil. Make sure you invest in a home test kit from a reliable source. Even then, keep in mind that you cannot be 100 percent sure that it is completely accurate.

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