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Top 11 Homemade Fertilizers

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How you feed your plants makes a tremendous difference to the quality and quantity of your harvest. Organic fertilizer can provide your plants with the nutrition that they need to grow and thrive, defend pests, and resist disease.

Nutritional deficiencies are to blame

Nutritional deficiencies in the soil may be the root cause of poor quality produce. One hard truth about gardening is that plants do need to be fed well to produce a good crop. Synthetic chemical fertilizers give quick and handsome results, but they do not enrich the soil. In fact, they precipitate so much salt that the land becomes unusable after a few years. On the other hand, organic fertilizers feed not only the plants but the millions of microbes that make nutrients available to plant roots.  

If you purchase organic fertilizers, including compost and manure, the cost will definitely add up. On the other hand, growing your own vegetables can be cost-effective if your mainstay is good quality homemade organic fertilizers. Here are some great ones to consider.

Weed tea

Weeds have evolved over thousands of years, mastering the art of extracting nutrients from the most impossible situations in the wild wastelands. They go into overdrive in cultivated gardens, stealing all the extra nutrients you are providing for your plants. You can take revenge on them, however, by feeding the weeds to your plants.

You will need two stackable plastic buckets (old paint bins are ideal) for a permanent weed tea brewing set up. Drill holes into one and keep it inside the other. Fill the top one with all the weeds you pull up. Add enough water to submerge the weeds and weigh them down with a rock or cement block. After a week you can access the green goo by lifting the top bucket. Use the weed tea to fertilize the plants after diluting it with 10 times water.

Peel meal

Have you heard about the Costa Rican jungle that is being brought back to life using orange peels?. It just goes to show that we may be throwing away a valuable resource every time fruit and vegetable peels are tossed in the garbage.

 To get the most out of your peels make this nutritious organic fertilizer.

  • Fill two barrels one-third full of soil.
  • Throw the peels in one of the barrels and cover with more soil.
  • Use a net cover to keep flies off.
  • By the time the second barrel is full, the enriched soil in the first one will be ready for top dressing in the garden.
  • Repeat the process.

Pulses and grains

Pulses and grains are nutrient saturated. They contain all the essential elements plants need for growing because they are plants’ seeds, and that’s where plants store food for their next generation. Check the pantry for old or spoiled corn meal, rice, rolled oats, dried beans and lentils, wheat flour etc. If you have access to local grocery shops, they might let you have old stock for free.

Ferment a batch at a time by mixing 1 pound in 5 gallons of water, adding a teaspoon of yeast and some molasses. Stir well every other day until everything has disintegrated (2-4 weeks depending on temperature). Use it 10 times diluted with water.

Pond/Aquarium run-off

Taking a cue from aquaponics, pond/aquarium water can be directly used in the garden as an excellent, nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer. Every garden deserves to have a fish pond if only to take advantage of this renewable source of natural fertilizer.

Animal feed

If you keep any kind of pet or farm animals such as a dog, cat, chicken, goat or horse, you might occasionally have some of their feed lying around that’s past its use-by date. You wouldn’t want to feed it to your animals and put their health at risk, but your plants will be happy to have some.

Soak feed with enough water and a spoonful of Greek yogurt to get a mushy texture. Keep it overnight and then mix in enough garden soil to dry it up. Loosen the soil around plants and sprinkle the mixture and water well.

Banana tea

Collect banana skins in plastic bags and freeze until you have a good amount. Cut them up and boil them in water. Strain, and use as a foliar spray after diluting with 3 times water.

Cooking water

Cooking water used for boiling eggs, pasta, rice, potatoes, and other vegetables contains plenty of nutrients that plants can use. Be sure to cool to room temperature and dilute before using directly on plants or add to your compost pile.

Tea and coffee

Plants can also enjoy these beverages after you’ve had your turn. The best way to use coffee grounds and used tea leaves is to add them to the compost pile. The second best is to dry them well and sprinkle them around the plants after loosening the soil. They tend to clump up and go moldy when applied wet.

Egg shells

Egg shells are rich in nitrogen and phosphorous, two of the constituents of NPK fertilizers. They contain lots of calcium also. Crush the shells fine and sprinkle around your plants.

Worm tea

Worm tea is the concentrated nutrient-rich liquid produced during vermicomposting. Every serious gardener should have a composting arrangement using worms to collect this highly potent fertilizer. Put it in a burlap bag and soak in a large bucket of water. After 3 days or a week, use the tea further diluted for feeding hungry plants.

Manure-wood ash mixture

Manure from grass eating animals is excellent for the garden. It contains high levels of NPK and almost all trace elements. Aged manure is generally recommended for use in a garden, but fresh manure may be freely available from farms. For immediate use, mix fresh manure with wood ash and spread it on the ground. The alkaline ash will balance out the acidity of fresh dung. When almost dry, rake it up to break larger pieces. Top dress either in the dry form or mixed with water.

Ready to feed your hungry plants?

-Susan Patterson

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