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An Urban Gardener’s Guide to Finding the Best Organic Fertilizer

An Urban Gardener’s Guide to Finding the Best Organic Fertilizer

Finding the best organic fertilizer isn’t always easy. What ingredients constitute organic? Which ones should you avoid? What brands should you trust? Luckily, our IFA agronomists regularly chat with large-scale farmers and IFA Country Store associates with urban gardeners on the dos and don'ts of fertilizing. Here’s how they rate their favorite organic fertilizers for vegetables, lawns, fruit trees and roses. 

Solid vs. Liquid Organic Fertilizer

One of the first questions we hear is: What’s the difference between solid or dry or granular organic fertilizer and liquid organic fertilizer? 

Both solid and liquid organic fertilizers offer gardeners healthier soil, more resilient plants and less environmental impact over synthetic or chemical fertilizers. Organic fertilizers do not contain non-renewable additives that pollute water and soil or diminish nutritional value. Not to mention, organic fertilizers are safe to use around pets and kids.

Solid organic fertilizers include compost (decomposed organic waste including yard debris and kitchen scraps), manure and granule fertilizer often spotted in bags or jugs at your neighborhood garden center


Similar to granular pellets, organic liquid fertilizers contain customized nutrient, or N-P-K, ratios — utilizing nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) — and sometimes other natural micronutrients to help improve the health of the plant.

Both solid and liquid fertilizers provide quality nutrients but differ in application, absorption time, release rate, cost, and sometimes, nutrient amounts. Ultimately, it’s the personal preference of the gardener. 

  1. Nutrient absorption time: Plants may absorb liquid fertilizer quicker than a granular types that need more time to be dissolvesd by soil microorganisms and water application. 
  2. Nutrient release rate: Because pellets take longer to dissolve, dry fertilizer provides an extended-release of nutrients throughout the planting season.
  3. Salt content: If dry pellets land too close to each other during application, a plant’s roots may shy away from the high levels of nitrogen and potassium. 
  4. Application: Liquid fertilizer can be easier to distribute in a uniform fashion, whereas dry fertilizers could be susceptible to water runoff. 
  5. Cost: Granular fertilizers tend to be less expensive and have a longer shelf life. 


Tomatoes and Vegetables: True Organic Tomato and Vegetable Food

Bite into any ripe, organic tomato and taste that rush of flavor. Compared to conventional ones, organically-grown fruits and vegetables pack more juicy, sweet, sour and savory bites. But don’t just listen to your taste buds. Studies show time and time again that organically-grown produce — grown with organic tomato and vegetable fertilizer — contains more nutrition than those treated with chemical treatments. 

Organic Tomato and Vegetable Fertilizer Options

  • True Organic Tomato and Vegetable Food: True Organic tomato and vegetable food contains 6% calcium and is blended from natural and organic farm-grade ingredients used to make fertilizers for America's organic produce growers.
  • Down To Earth Fertilizers: Premium natural organic fertilizers that improve soil quality and stimulate growth.
  • True Organic Bone Meal (NPK 7-7-0): This bone meal provides beneficial mix of nitrogen, phosphorus and calcium to support flowering, fruiting and overall growth. 
  • True Organic Blood Meal (NPK 12-0-0): Provides an energy boost of nitrogen to stimulate green growth. Blood meal encourages vegetative growth to give your plants a kick-start, and is especially great for corn, spinach, broccoli and all varieties of lettuce. 
  • True Organic Raised Bed Plant Food (NPK 6-3-6): Stimulate growth in raised beds or containers with this great all-around mix. Great for organic fruits, flowers, vegetables, herbs and foliage. 

Produce the best tomatoes this year with these tips >>


Lawns: True Organic Lawn Food 

A lush, green lawn is what many urban gardeners strive for, right? But with the extreme fluctuations in the Intermountain West seasons and climate, lawns struggle due to drought, disease and freezing temperatures. Watering alone doesn’t work. Like all plants throughout the garden, those blades of grass deserve a kick of micronutrients to boost their health. Even though humans don’t ingest lawns like vegetables and fruits, organic fertilizers for lawns – such as True Organic Lawn Food (NPK 10-1-1) – benefit soil nutrition, minimize environmental pollution and are safe for kids and pets. 

Organic Lawn Fertilizer Options

  • True Organic Lawn Food (NPK 10-1-1): Yields instant results in various applications. Provide nutrients with the ease of liquid application thanks to triple filtered nutrients that are easy to apply through all irrigation systems.
  • Revive (NPK 5-1-1): The granular formula provides an extra lawn feeding boost over its liquid options. Granular Revive is made with dehydrated poultry waste giving it more nutrients and it contains 2% iron for additional greening power.  
  • Milorganite (NPK 6-4-0 +2% Fe): Lawn fertilizer formulated with slow-release nutrients so they’re available as plants need them. This helps provide uniform growth and a healthy, deep root system.  

Learn how each NPK macronutrient–nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium–helps lawn and garden plants grow


Fruit Trees and Plants: True Organic Fruit and Nut Tree Food

Organically grown apples, peaches, apricots, pears and plums enhance the fall harvest of any urban garden in the Intermountain West. Organic fruit tree fertilizer boosts apple and stone fruit production, retains taste and nutrient value, and enhances soil fertility for future production. 

Organic Fruit and Nut Tree Option

  • True Organic Fruit and Nut Plant Food (NPK 5-4-6): All the nutrition needed for juicy, flavor-packed fruit. Keep trees growing healthy and producing backyard fruit.
  • Jobes Organic Fruit & Citrus Tree Spikes (NPK 4-6-6): A convenient organic fertilizer spike that nourishes fruit trees and promotes beneficial microbial growth in the soil.
  • True Organic Berry Food (NPK 5-4-4): Give your strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries a boost for more nutritious and tasty fruit. The granular blend also contains sulfur ti help improve the availability of micronutrients. 

Want to start growing fruit trees? See these planting and care tips. >>


Roses and Flowers: True Organic Rose and Flower Food

The benefits of organic fertilizers extend from the veggie garden and lawn into the rose and flower beds. To keep those roses, geraniums, daylilies, pansies and petunias showing off their colorful blooms all season long, apply rose and flower organic fertilizer monthly. Container flower gardens may need more applications due to water frequency.

Arrange the most beautiful potted flowers and flower baskets


All-Purpose: True Organic All-Purpose Plant Food

True to the name, “all-purpose” fertilizers have many uses and provide nutrients needed by all plants. All-purpose fertilizers can be applied to plants that need a balanced feeding of key macronutrients (NPK) and that don't require a higher amount of any one nutrient. One of our favorites – True Organic All-Purpose Plant Food – helps produce an abundance of fruits, veggies and flowers, and the granular blend (NPK 5-4-5) also contains bonus 4% calcium. 

All-Purpose Organic Fertilizer Options

  • True Organic All-Purpose Plant Food (NPK 5-4-5): True Organic all-purpose plant food is blended from natural and organic farm-grade ingredients used to make fertilizers for America's organic produce growers.
  • Natural Guard All-Purpose Plant Food (NPK 4-4-4): An evenly balanced, OMRI-listed plant food with a unique blend of beneficial microorganisms. 
  • IFA Bountiful Earth Humate: A soil conditioner that helps support and promote strong, healthy growth in lawns, gardens, trees and shrubs for the greenest grass, most nutritious veggies and biggest harvest yields. 
  • Composts: Gardening starts with high quality soil. Provide a nutrient-rich soil bed with DIY homemade compost, Oakdell Organic Compost (OMRI-listed) or Nutri-Mulch.

Need more fertilizer help for your urban garden? Visit or call your local IFA Country Store to consult with them on your specific needs. 

What Organic Fertilizer Brands are Best?

Day in and day out, we suggest these brands to all Intermountain West gardeners, big and small.

1. True Organics 

True Organics is OMRI-certified, meaning that it’s approved by the Organic Material Review Institute (OMRI). For two decades, True Organic Products has been supplying organic fertilizer to some of America’s biggest organic farms. IFA offers True Organics in both liquid and granular options.  

2. Down to Earth

Also OMRI-certified, Down To Earth features a complete line of natural and organic fertilizers, soil amendments, composts and potting media. They work with the microorganisms, fungi and organic matter in the soil to feed plants and stimulate growth.

3. Oakdell Compost

Oakdell Compost is OMRI-listed, registered for use in organic agriculture by the Washington State Department of Agriculture and tested and certified each year by Woods End Laboratories. Oakdell Organic Compost is rich in nutrients and improves soil quality to help your vegetables, flowers and trees grow. It’s chemical-free and safe to use around kids and pets. Fun fact: Utah’s Thanksgiving Point uses Oakdell Compost in its garden.

4. Revive 

Granular Revive is another lawn fertilizer. It’s an organic-based soil treatment made from a combination of dehydrated poultry waste, soil-wetting agents, natural organic lignosulfonates and iron. 

5. Milorganite 

How do golf course landscapers get green, lush, healthy lawns? For over ninety-five years, Milorganite has been trusted by many golf course professionals and homeowners. Milorganite’s all-purpose slow-release nitrogen fertilizer is safe on lawns; each application feeds for up to 8 to 10 weeks. 

Where to Buy Organic Fertilizer?

Urban gardeners can purchase the above brands (and more) at their local IFA Country Store or ifa.coop’s organic fertilizer online shop. Talk to an IFA associate if you have any lawn or garden questions. We’re always happy to help.  

Next read: An Urban Gardener's Guide to Finding the Best Organic Insecticides


Information for this article was provided by Brenda Christophersen, Garden Center Manager, Ogden IFA Country Store; Brinn Hutcheon, Garden Center Asst. Manager, Riverton IFA Country Store; and Ken Holt, IFA Lawn & Garden Category Manager

IFA Vegetable Planting Guide:

Vegetable planting and care guide infographic