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Your options for garden fertilizer are either Miracle Grow Plant Food (whose Amazon page includes a legal disclaimer that their phosphorus-containing fertilizer may cause harmful water runoff), or organic fertilizer. Easy choice.
If you’re reading this, then organic is probably very important to you. You aren’t okay with a little pesticide on your salad or using spinach picked from farms in China with questionable regulations. Instead, you want clean produce.
Organic fertilizers not only have the potential to boost the growth of your produce but also add in extra nutrients. Think of it as tailoring your garden. By taking everyday food items that you typically toss in the trash, you instead squeeze every last drop of nutrients out of them by adding them to your garden.
Today we are going to learn how to use everyday food items to fertilize your garden naturally and how they’ll benefit the fruits of your labor.
1. Used Coffee Grounds
Nutrients: Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium.
Benefits: Helps absorb and convert nutrients, boosts photosynthesis.
How to Store: Keep a tin in the fridge and add your used coffee grounds every day until it’s full or until you’re ready to garden.
How to Use: Apply your coffee grounds as mulch on top of or mixed into your soil when planting or replanting plants and veggies.
Good to Know: To take advantage of the nitrogen, however, it’s important to realize that this element is released over time as microbes and other soil components break it down in the coffee grounds. Therefore, if you’re seeking the nitrogen element, simply sprinkling these coffee grounds on top of the soil won’t do. Mix it in at least a few inches from the surface so that it’s covered by the soil.
2. Banana Peels
Nutrients: Potassium, calcium, magnesium.
Benefits: Boosts photosynthesis and helps with chloroform formation (food for your plants).
How to Store: Place one banana peel in a Mason jar, fill it with water and let it sit for a few days (between 2 and 7). Then pour the banana water into a big watering can, throwing the peels aside in your compost.
How to Use: Water your plants like normal–think of this as vitamin water for your garden!
Good to Know: Plants can absorb these nutrients right away!
Nutrients: Calcium, nitrogen, magnesium.
Benefits: Soil fertility, strength, and thickness of plant cell walls, prevents blossom end rot.
How to Store: After you crack your eggs, take the eggshells and give them a good rinse. Then microwave them for 2 minutes to kill any bacteria. If you don’t have a microwave, stick them in the freezer overnight. Afterward, store them in an airtight container or use them right away.
How to Use: Eggshells are not “plant available” meaning that they need time to break down and offer nutrients to your plants. Mix your eggshells into your soil or compost pile rather than just sprinkling them on top.
Pro Tip: If you have a Vitamix, coffee grinder, or high-powered blender, toss your eggshells in there to create a fine powder that is more easily absorbed into the soil.
4. Epsom Salt
Nutrients: Magnesium, sulfur.
Benefits: Boost in chlorophyll and photosynthesis, promotes root growth, better flavor in veggies.
How to Mix: Mix 1 tablespoon of Epsom salts with warm or room temperature water that can be used right away.
How to Use: There are two ways you can use Epsom salts in your garden. The first is a leaf-drench where you pour the salt water on top of your leaves to be absorbed. The other is when you are replanting; add a tablespoon of salt directly into the hole in the soil.
Good to Know: Epsom salt and table salt do not hold the same nutrient properties! Epsom salt is specifically what you’re looking for.
5. Wood Ash
Nutrients: Potassium, lime, calcium carbonate.
Benefits: Neutralizes acidic soil and provides vitamins.
How to Store: Collect the ashes from your wood-burning fireplace and store them in a tin to keep them dry.
How to Use: Sprinkle the wood ash over your garden like you would chicken feed for your chickens.
Good to Know: Use with plants that like an alkaline soil such as asparagus, parsley, okra, and mock oranges.
Bonus Tip: The Ultimate Banana Peel, Eggshell, & Coffee Ground Fertilizer
Nutrients: Potassium, calcium, nitrogen, magnesium.
Benefits: All of the above!
How to Make: In a blender, combine 1 liter of water, 3 banana peels, 5 eggshells, and 1 serving of coffee grounds. Blend.
How to Store: Pour the finished product into a plastic bottle and let the mixture sit at room temperature for 2 days to ferment.
How to Use: Pour the organic fertilizer for garden vegetables over the soil like you’re watering the plant.
Good to Know: Elements that are “plant available”, like potassium, will be soaked up right away, while elements that need a few days to breakdown, like nitrogen, are now able to seep deep into the soil to do so.
In addition to mixing these homemade garden fertilizers directly with your garden, you can also throw all of these DIY garden fertilizers onto and into your compost to create happy worms and ultra rich soil. This soil then offers a highly fertile environment for gardens to grow big and beautiful produce.
If you’re having a lot of fun with these homestead fertilizers and want to challenge yourself even further when it comes to being the best gardener around, check out how you can use tea bags, chicken feathers, citrus peels, grass clippings, and even lobster shells as organic garden fertilizers.
An added benefit here, of course, is that you are creating less waste and minimizing your carbon footprint on the earth by recycling your food scraps.