Most gardeners are the do-it-yourself types. The very act of gardening is do-it-yourself in nature. So why are you still buying fertilizer? Sure it works wonders, but it’s expensive, the packaging is wasteful and the way it’s produced is often not sustainable. Also, you haven’t a clue what’s in it! Making your own fertilizer is one step closer to becoming a self-sufficient gardener.
The very first thing you should do before jumping on the DIY fertilizer train is do a comprehensive test on your soil. Soil samples can be sent to your local cooperative extension to be tested for nutrients at very little cost to you. It’s hard to know what to supplement with if you don’t know what’s already there, am I right?
Once you know what’s in your soil you can customize the fertilizer to make up for what’s missing.
Egg shells can provide much needed calcium to soil
There are a number of fertilizer ingredients that you likely already have in or around your home and several of them can be used as-is to enrich the soil.
- Coffee grounds: A great source of nitrogen, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of spent coffee grounds around every plant.
- Hair: Add a handful of pet or human hair to the planting hole to add nitrogen and keratin.
- Egg shells: Crush them in a blender and put them in the planting hole or sprinkle around plants to add calcium to the soil. Added bonus: the shells will keep away snails and slugs!
- Used water from a freshwater aquarium: Simply use it to water your plants to give a nitrogen boost.
- Wood ashes: Amend acidic soil by mixing in wood ash.
- Undesirable fish parts: See below to make a fertilizer.
- Rabbit poop: One of the only types of manure that doesn’t need to be aged, rabbit poop can be mixed right into the garden soil around plants.
- Human urine: Surprising but true, keep reading to learn how.
- Grass and weeds: Chop up to use as mulch around plants or see below for fertilizer.
- Banana peels: Chop them up and put them in the planting hole to add potassium.
Free fertilizer recipes…made from things you may already have in your home!
Note: Any of the following fertilizers should be made outdoors or in a shed or barn, where the overwhelming scent won’t be bothersome. Trust me on this one.
Put that compost to good use with compost tea!
If you compost your food scraps and yard trimmings, you may as well start putting it to its very best use and make some compost tea for your plants. Compost tea is a wonderful all-purpose fertilizer that can, and should, be applied to your plants all season long.
1. Get out a 5 gallon bucket.
2. Fill it 1/3 with finished compost — the really rich stuff, not partially decomposed or dried out.
3. Cover with water until a few inches from the top.
4. Stir it up and let it sit for 3-5 days, stirring it often.
5. Strain the compost tea through cheesecloth, the leftover compost can go back in the bin.
6. Dilute 10:1 water to tea.
7. Use the tea as a foliar spray or liquid fertilizer.
Fish parts fertilizer
Did you know you can make a basic fish emulsion with the fish parts you’d usually throw away? Think of it kind of like fish soup for your plants. Fish parts are chock full of nutrients that plants need to thrive, so start saving up fish heads, skin, tails and innards in a large bag in the freezer. When the bag is full, you’re ready to go.
1. Mix the fish parts with water in a ratio of 1 part fish to 2 parts water in a large bucket.
2. Let it sit for a few days, stirring it occasionally.
3. When it’s finished, strain it and use it as a foliar spray. Your plants will love it!
Weed and grass fertilizer
1. Fill a 5 gallon bucket with weeds and/or grass clippings that have not flowered or gone to seed. (If you use those weeds you’ll be introducing weed seeds to your garden, which is the opposite of what you want.)
2. Fill the bucket with water, leaving a few inches from the top.
3. Cover the bucket with a tight lid.
4. Stir the concoction whenever you think of it and let it sit for a few weeks.
5. Strain the weeds out, leaving only the liquid.
6. Dilute the liquid fertilizer 10:1 water to weed juice.
7. Use to water plants
Believe it or not, urine from a healthy human has many of the necessary nutrients for plants to thrive, nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Before you get all grossed out, take note that urine is sterile when it leaves the body, and poses no health risks to soil or plants.
Urine fertilizer can be applied directly, or collected in a container with sawdust and worked into the top soil of a garden bed before planting.
Now that you know how to make your own fertilizer, you may never go back to expensive commercial products again!