Most gardens and lawns need fertilizer treatments to receive adequate nutrients and thrive. Some use compost or various artificial fertilizers to provide the basic nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium (NPK) combination — well known by green thumbs. Others prefer odorless organic alternatives like alfalfa meal, which is pressed into pellets that provide plants with the proper nutrition.
Alfalfa meal is made from the alfalfa plant, a member of the Fabaceae pea family called Medicago sativa, which originated in the Middle East and now grows throughout much of the world. Primarily used for grazing cattle, alfalfa also is a common constituent of hay, along with clover and Bermuda grass. Aside from these uses, this substance is manufactured into pellet size for use as an organic fertilizer.
After or while tilling a garden or field of crops, farmers will mix alfalfa meal into their soil to re-energize its potential. Since growing can strip the dirt of vital carbohydrates, proteins and minerals, alfalfa meal will replace levels of folic acid, niacin, thaimin, riboflavin and vitamin A as well as the needed combinations of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. A typical blend of the latter three elements is three parts-one part-two parts, respectively; however, some farmers and gardeners will change this combination to suit the specific plants they are growing. In the United States, many farmers and gardeners go with advice from their state's university-connected agricultural extension.
The amount of alfalfa meal that should be added to the soil also depends on various factors. The length of time the soil has been utilized for growing is one important consideration. Another is whether the climate is arid or fertile. In general, however, about 0.5 cup (about 113 g) of alfalfa meal should be used for each plant. For an entire garden or field, as much as 5 lbs (about 2.4 kg) of alfalfa meal can be used for every 100 square feet (about 9.3 square m).
Fertilizing with alfalfa is not the only plant-based way to replenish soil for successful gardening or thick, green grass. Composting is another popular method for adding a diverse array of recycled materials. Meal is also made from soybeans, cottonseed, corn gluten and even seaweed. Some specialized fertilizers combine several of these ingredients into a nutrient-laden mixture. Still, others prefer a combination of plant and animal fertilizers, along with various mineral-based substances like epsom salt, gypsum, phosphate and limestone to hit as many nutritional bases possible at an affordable cost.