Inside: Make cheap organic fertilizers from what you have around your house and yard and save money.
So maybe you’re new to gardening, and the whole prospect of “save money, grow your own food” lured you in to planting your own little plot on the good green Earth. Now those plants need to be fed, but a trip to the gardening center reveals lots of expensive ways to fertilize your garden, including the organic solutions. You scratch your head, thinking, I’m trying to save money.
What’s a gardener to do?
Enter cheap fertilizers. The kind of stuff you have around the house and your yard. Stuff you were going to throw out anyway. Let me demonstrate.
As I hinted at in the previous post, weeds can be useful to the home garden. You can add them to your compost, provided they haven’t gone to seed. (Note: Some gardeners say that if your compost gets hot enough the seeds will be destroyed. I’d rather err on the side of caution. Besides, my compost pile doesn’t get that hot. I know. Call me unconventional.)
But my new favorite way to handle the weeds is to make a tea. Now, let me be the first to tell you it will smell bad and attract flies after a while. And when I say after a while, I mean about a week or so into the process. Interestingly for me, I kept waiting for this horrendous odor, and it ended up smelling like the milk barn used to on very hot days. So it was oddly comforting, as I miss milking cows and miss my milking partner. You’d understand if you ever worked the underside of a Holstein.
Back to the weed tea. Here is what you’ll need:
- A standard 5-gallon bucket
- A stick for stirring if you’re in it for the long haul
Fill the 5-gallon bucket with weeds–nettles, horsetail, chickweed, to name a few–and cover with water. Stir once a week for three to five weeks. When the fertilizer has thickened into a gooey substance, you can use it by mixing the liquid at a 1:10 ratio. Or, more simply, add some of the liquid fertilizer to water in your watering can until it looks like a weak tea.
I found this on Pinterest a couple of months ago. The idea comes from Tiffany McCauley’s website The Flavor of Healthy Living, and I love the story of her grandmother’s egg pitcher. Worth visiting for that alone. The long and the short of it is to simply put your egg shells in a pitcher of water whenever you make eggs—crush them down to fit more inside. This, too, will smell after a while, though for some reason mine didn’t have a strong odor. It could be because I didn’t add enough eggshells. As you use it up, she says you can keep adding water to the same shells, but when the water fails to stink, you’ll need to dump the old shells out and start over.
Kitchen scraps (aka compost)
If you are new to composting, it’s probably quicker to mention what not to include in the compost bucket—meat, dairy products, eggs (the part inside the shells, obviously). All your other food scraps are welcome in the bucket, including coffee grounds and tea bags—minus any staples on the bags. The tea bags and coffee filters go right into the mix, so you don’t have to sort those out.
I have a pile where I dump such things, but I’m also fond of another simple method. Dig a hole between plants that’s big enough to accommodate your compost from the kitchen bucket—leave a little room so that it’s buried under a layer of some of the dirt you removed. I’ve also heard this called “trench composting.” Same idea, just dig a trench and fill in with your garbage gold.
There is actually a simpler method, and that is tucking bits of scraps underneath your mulch, but I’ve not tried this. You do run the risk of pets or varmints retrieving the compost, whether digging up the hole or tearing up the mulch to get to the food.
What are the results?
Whenever I’ve used any of these homemade fertilizers, I’ve noticed the boost a week or two later, so patience is needed. I happened to use the contents of the egg fertilizer on a large planter filled with squash, and the leaves perked up and turned a darker shade of green with some noticeable growth on the plants. The weed tea worked well on my strawberry bed. Right after renovating I applied my weed tea fertilizer and, again, I noticed the darker, more vibrant green leaves and healthy growth.
Try one of these fertilizers on your little piece of the good green Earth, and be patient. You’ll reap the rewards of healthy plants and not spend an arm and a leg to do it!
How do you fertilize your garden? Tell us in the comments.
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