Alfalfa is often associated with feed for cattle, small animals, and rodents. You may have encountered bags of it at a local pet store in the past if you happen to own a pet. I have experimented with using alfalfa pellets in my garden to great success. Alfalfa is sold in different forms, all of which have usage in your garden. Even I have been surprised by the large number of potential benefits as I conducted more research into this topic. Hopefully you will find some useful education information here that you can apply to your own gardening tool belt. Fortunately, there is an extremely low cost to utilize alfalfa in your own garden as you experiment, so it is not a financially risky experiment at all!
Before I jump into the 10 Benefits of Using Alfalfa in Your Garden, what is alfalfa?
In short, alfalfa is a perennial flowering legume. In comes in many forms such as alfalfa pellets, alfalfa meal, alfalfa hay, freshly chopped alfalfa, etc. It can be an invaluable tool for your backyard garden and help promote better plant growth and longevity during the growing season. When mixed with water and Epsom salt, you can create a simple alfalfa tea fertilizer to apply to your garden as well.
Benefits of Alfalfa Use in Your Garden
1). Alfalfa Builds Organic Matter
Alfalfa helps build organic matter in your soil by providing nutrients to the roots of your plants. Organic material decomposes other organic material due to its high nitrogen content. Organic matter helps to prevent compaction and helps retain moisture in your soil. Alfalfa created organic matter improves soil structure and can help prevent erosion.
2). Alfalfa Provides High Quality Minerals to Soil
As previously noted, alfalfa is a good source of nitrogen which is essential for certain gardening processes to occur. But did you know alfalfa also provides a ton of other valuable minerals to your soil? Some of these include:
3). Alfalfa Fixes Nitrogen
Alfalfa is powerful in how it makes changes in the natural world. Alfalfa can take nitrogen from the air and hold it as nodules on its roots, a process called “nitrogen fixing.” The nitrogen is then made available to positively benefit the soil when the alfalfa plant is cut down.
4). Alfalfa Stimulates Plant Growth
In addition to the essential minerals and nitrogen inputs into your garden bed, alfalfa also releases natural hormones such as triacontanol, which stimulates the growth of plant life by enhancing plant roots, enhancing the photosynthesis process, and increasing good micro-bacterias that help to reduce and suppress disease in your soil. When you view your garden as a living entity, it becomes easier to understand why we should do what we can to promote a healthy lifestyle from the start of the garden by using natural additives, like alfalfa, to inspire healthy growth in the garden. Treating a “sick” garden is far more difficult than being proactive and starting out healthy.
5). Alfalfa Feeds Microorganisms Alfalfa
provides protein, starches, amino acids, fiber and natural sugars to your soil, which is in turn used by microorganisms in your soil. Microorganisms are like the “invisible children” of your garden. As a gardener, you do a lot of work to get your garden started, but the microorganisms help regulate and maintain the growth of your garden. Without them being top notch and healthy, you may see your gardening outputs as not so impressive. Alfalfa function as a simple solution for promoting healthy growth. Interestingly enough, the nutritional properties microorganisms feed off of are some of the ones essential to our own health as well!
6). Alfalfa Reduces Nematode Infestations
Scientific research has shown that when alfalfa is used in a garden, it significantly reduces nematode infestations, which can completely destroy your crops. As a result of this nematode reduction, crop output was seen to increase compared to control groups that had no alfalfa used. This has a direct impact on the amount of food you are producing in your garden!
7). Alfalfa Provides Drought Resistance
Because of alfalfa’s absorbent quality, it is able to hold in moisture much like a sponge. As a result, it helps plant-life to be more resistant to periods of drought. In Pennsylvania where I live, this is not usually a large concern, though there have been instances in the past where drought has been a significant issue.
8). Alfalfa is an Organic Fertilizer
It goes without saying, alfalfa’s many benefits all come together to be viewed as a simple, healthy and organic fertilizer for your garden. Many gardeners use alfalfa hay and alfalfa meal as these are easy forms to crush up and mix with the soil bed. The protein and carbohydrates stimulate microbes and earthworms to break down nutrients in the soil and make them readily available for your plants to use.
9). Alfalfa is an Excellent Cover Crop
Cover crops, sometimes referred to as “green manure,” are essential to help protect your garden beds during the cold and harsh winter months. Alfalfa sprouts can be planted to help secure the soil, or it can be mulched in with other organic elements to be used as a coating for your garden.
10). Alfalfa is a Compost Stimulator
Alfalfa can be added to your compost pile to function as a stimulator. Alfalfa is great for this because it decomposes quickly, which in turn creates heat that is used by other organic elements in your compost pile so they can break down quicker as well. As noted throughout this article, the alfalfa will also be providing higher nutrient content as well, which is an overall positive for your compost. It is a simple way to increase the quality of your compost for just a couple of dollars.
Where to Buy Alfalfa
Alfalfa is readily available at some local garden centers and pet stores (both mom-and-pop stores and major corporations such as Petco or Petsmart). As noted before, it is often sold as feed, so you may need to look in those areas of the store. If you want to support Plant-Smart Living, feel free to buy through Amazon. There are many varieties available, but most are pretty similar in composition. Just be careful when buying alfalfa sold as a pet food as sometimes there are unneeded (and unwanted) additives.
Have you used alfalfa in your garden? Did you find it useful?