I’m a pretty low-budget gardener – frugal, thrifty, or maybe just plain cheap. I also avoid chemicals. Until the last couple years, my commitment to being cheap and organic meant that my attempts at container gardening were disappointing. I was not paying for quality organic fertilizers and plants were not thriving. I’m still not paying a lot for fertilizers but my potted plants have done much better the last two years. The main difference is that I’ve been mixing alfalfa pellets into the potting soil.
The alfalfa pellets I use are labelled for use as rabbit food. The dehydrated alfalfa that is labeled for fertilizer sells for 3 to 5 times as much per pound. I mix a little compost into the potting soil as well to provide microbes. If I had lots of compost to mix into potting soil it would probably produce better results. But I have lots of garden beds and they get most of my compost. Alfalfa also contains a plant growth stimulant called triaconatol that isn’t in compost.
Herbs, strawberries, marigolds, and geraniums are the plants that have done much better for me since I started using rabbit food as fertilizer in containers. This old cheapskate has found alfalfa pellets worthwhile.