I wanted to take the time to illuminate an overlooked but valuable soil amendment. It has a strong dose of many important nutrients for plants but it is also jam-packed with beneficial microbes that enrich and enliven the soil, prolonging the health of your plants. I’m talking about the wondrous Fish Hydrolysate.
Fish Hydrolysate is basically ground fish carcasses, blended with water. It can be composed of either fish parts leftover from processing or it can be made of “bycatch”, the random fish that get caught in fishermen’s nets but aren’t desired as human food.
Fish Hydrolysate is very minimally-processed and that is why it is amazing for the soil. It usually goes through a cold- process of blending and hydrolysis (mixing with water) to make a powerful slurry that can be used in place of compost tea in the soil. Because it has the potential to spoil, enzymes and acids are added to neutralize the pH to prevent purification*. This is a powerful solution of beneficial nutrients and live bacteria that are ready to go into the soil where they immediately begin the work of improving plant health.
It contains a hefty dose of nitrogen, amino acids, enzymes and micronutrients that help plants to grow. These compounds also aid in microbial growth and help enrich the soil greatly. The natural oils in the fish are wonderful for encouraging beneficial fungal growth in the soil, building the fungal map as part of the healthy soil food web.
It is more common to use Fish Emulsion as a soil amendment but Fish Hydrolysate is better and I’ll tell you why. Fish Emulsion is made in similar way with one big difference: it is cooked. Why does that matter? It matters because the heating process kills the beneficial bacteria! So much of the benefit of this solution is lost in the heating process. Fish Emulsion may be able to travel farther or last longer on the shelf but one of the main benefits to the garden is completely lost.
So, now that you know how great Fish Hydrolysate is, go give it a try in your garden and report back to me with how it goes. It is available for sale online and in some nurseries. Have you used Fish Hydrolysate before? Leave a comment below (or on Facebook) with your experience.
* Be sure to buy certified organic Fish Hydrolysate because some acidic compounds in conventional solutions could be slightly toxic to plants.