The main benefits of using alfalfa meal are the N-P-K value, the micro-nutrients, and the growth hormone within. The N-P-K of alfalfa meal can vary, but it will be around 3-1-2. It may be a little more or a little less depending on brand you buy, but it shouldn't vary to much. The biggest number is the nitrogen. Alfalfa meal is a wonderful organic soil amendment to use to replace lost nitrogen in your soil. It also contains lesser needed nutrients, but not lesser important things like calcium, magnesium, sulfur, Manganese, iron, copper, boron, and zinc. This is part of what makes alfalfa a powerhouse in the garden.
Alfalfa also contains a growth hormone called Triacontanol. This is a natural growth hormone that may aid your plants to grow larger and thicker. Using alfalfa as a tea, or amendment will introduce triacontanol to your plant, and the results can be a healthier more robust crop.
Using Alfalfa Meal As a Soil Amendment
The most basic way people use alfalfa meal in their gardens is by using it as a dry soil amendment. You can simply hand broadcast it around your garden, and either let the worms and microbes take care of it (no-till style), or you can till or mix it into the soil.
Using alfalfa meal as a general soil amendment is a good way to increase organic matter, and also add nitrogen to your soil. It will be fast acting, and break down rather quickly compared to things like rock dusts. The Nitrogen content of alfalfa sits somewhere in the 3% range, and most of that will be available pretty quickly.
Even though the N-P-K range will vary from brand to brand, it will not only contain nitrogen, but decent amounts of phosphorous and potassium. This makes it a good all around soil amendment to use in vegetable gardens. It's not a fully balanced fertilizer by itself, but coupled with things like fish bone meal, gypsum, and oyster shell flour, and you can easily make your own all purpose home made organic fertilizer.
Mixing alfalfa with compost and adding that to your garden can be an easy way to increase the organic matter in your soil. With the addition of a few wood chips, this blend can help to turn around even the most clay like soils. It may take you a few years, but with steady applications, you can have dark healthy earth in most any location.
Making Alfalfa Tea
Other ways organic gardeners like to use alfalfa meal is by making alfalfa tea. You can do this many ways, but it can be as simple as soaking the meal in water for a day or two. You will want to make sure you stir it a few times, but you don't have to go crazy.
Alternatively you can use alfalfa meal in compost teas when brewing with air pumps. It will be a microbial food, and can help to provide a feed source to the microbes in the compost you are trying to replicate. A little goes a long way in a compost tea, and an average amount for a 5 gallon tea would only be 1/8 to ¼ cup.
Alfalfa Fermented Plant Extracts
Fermented plant extracts are used in Korean Natural Farming. They are fermented liquids that are made of different plants. They can be made from fruits, veggies, comfrey, hemp, peach, and pretty much anything you want to ferment. Alfalfa can be one of these plants you ferment. Using fresh alfalfa is always better, but dried meal will work just as well. When using the dried meal, you will want to rehydrate it before you ferment it. Some studies have shown that the micro-nutrients and growth hormones may be preserved by making this concentrate. The best part of it is, unlike teas that will spoil, once fermented this will be shelf stable for a year or more. Adding things like kelp meal, comfrey, nettles, and yarrow, can make a plant growth tonic that will make most any plant explode with growth. Fermented plant extracts can be applied via soil drench at a rate of ½ ounce to 1 ounce per gallon of water. Less is always more, and always test before using a full application on your garden.
Using Alfalfa Meal As a Compost Activator
When added to compost piles, alfalfa provides a source of nitrogen and protein that will help to speed up the composting process. You will notice within a day or two, that after adding alfalfa to your compost pile, the pile heats up rather fast. Using alfalfa meal in your compost is a good way to restart a stalled compost pile. Even in older compost that is more finished, you can reactivate the pile with the addition of small amounts of alfalfa. Ironically there are companies that market compost activators that cost way to much, and mother nature has already provided you with the best option in alfalfa meal.
Using Alfalfa In Veganic Gardening
Veganic gardening is catching on more and more. It is a practice of using no animal based products in your garden. A traditional gardener may use blood meal for their nitrogen source, but a veganic gardener will substitute alfalfa meal thus cutting out an animal product. For a more complete veganic all purpose fertilizer, you can blend alfalfa meal, gypsum, basalt, azomite, lime, rock phosphate, and kelp meal, and broadcast, or till into your garden. It's always a good idea to get a soil test before applying any soil amendments to make sure you don't throw off the nutrient balances in your soil.
Alfalfa meal is a versatile product that can be used numerous ways in your organic garden. With so many micro and macro-nutrients, along with growth hormones, it's a welcome addition in most any fertilizer regime. Make sure to experiment with different types of application. Whether used as a soil amendment, a ferment, tea, or a combination of them all, you are sure to see the benefits when alfalfa is added to your garden.