The Hidden Truth Behind Organic Fertilizers with Erin Reilly

The Hidden Truth Behind Organic Fertilizers with Erin Reilly

Welcome back to the Roots and All podcast! I’m your host, Sarah Wilson, and this week, we dive deep into the world of organic gardening with a special focus on fertilizers. Our guest is Erin Reilly, a Los Angeles-based landscaper and fertilizer guru who specializes in organic vegetable gardens and native drought-tolerant landscapes. Erin has spent years researching and developing animal-free fertilizers that are not only good for plants but also for people, animals, and the planet.

The Shocking Reality of Organic Fertilizers

Erin’s journey into the world of fertilizers began when she discovered the alarming amount of animal products used in organic fertilizers. Common ingredients include blood meal, bone meal, feather meal, and even something called “tankage,” which is a mix of leftover animal parts. This revelation led Erin to start her own animal-free fertilizer company.

“I thought I was quite a conscious vegan gardener, but I was shocked to learn about the scale of reliance on the animal industry behind fertilizers,” Erin shared. Even if you’re not vegan, the idea of using animal byproducts in your garden can be unsettling.

The Argument for Animal-Free Fertilizers

One might argue that using animal byproducts in fertilizers is a form of recycling, making use of the whole animal. However, Erin points out that this is far from the truth. The rendering industry, which processes these animal parts, is a massive, profit-driven sector. “This isn’t lower than meat; this could even be above meat,” Erin explained. The industry has quotas and specific types of animals bred for these byproducts, making it a primary industry rather than a byproduct of meat production.

Health Risks and Nutrient Content

Erin also raised concerns about the health risks associated with using animal-based fertilizers. “Mad cow disease was caused in part by feeding infected cows to cows,” she noted. While laws have been enacted to prevent such practices, the same stringent regulations do not necessarily apply to fertilizers. Studies have found harmful chemicals and pathogens in organic fertilizers, raising questions about their safety.

Moreover, the nutrient content of these fertilizers can be inconsistent. “Animals are nutritious, but how can that be regulated?” Erin questioned. She emphasized the need for independent lab testing to ensure the accuracy of nutrient claims.

Alternatives to Animal-Based Fertilizers

So, what are the alternatives? Erin advocates for plant-based compost and veganic gardening. “Compost is the best,” she said, highlighting the importance of using plant-based materials to create nutrient-rich soil. Cover crops like fava beans and mustard can also be grown to feed the soil naturally.

Erin’s own fertilizers are made from plants and minerals, such as soy, corn, kelp, neem seed, rock phosphorus, and potassium sulfate. These ingredients provide the necessary nutrients without the ethical and health concerns associated with animal-based products.

The Future of Plant-Based Fertilizers

Erin is optimistic about the future of plant-based fertilizers. “There hasn’t been research done into using plant nutrients as fertilizer like comfrey or nettles,” she said. She hopes that more research will lead to the development of new, effective plant-based ingredients.

Why This Matters

Erin believes that growing our own food is crucial for the planet, safety, and food justice. “It’s incredibly vital that we’re told the truth about what we’re growing our food in,” she emphasized. By choosing plant-based fertilizers, home gardeners can make a significant impact on the environment and animal welfare.

Listen to the episode with Erin here.


Thank you to Erin Reilly for shedding light on this important issue. If you enjoyed this interview, you might also like Episode 21 on Biochar with Craig Sams and Episode 117 on Probiotics for the Soil with Susan Allen.

If you love our podcast, please consider supporting us through Patreon or GoFundMe. Even a small donation can make a big difference. Thank you for your continued support!

Stay tuned for more insightful episodes, and happy gardening! 🌱

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