I’ve been trying to learn the ropes of vegetable gardening for about three years now. Before that I was more of a “plant a perennial that my mom gave me and then forget about it” kind of gal. Back then I used Miracle Grow, but when I decided to start growing my own food I got all crunchy and stopped using any commercially made fertilizers or pesticides.
I’ve dabbled in the realm of homemade bug deterrents. (I’m all for letting bugs be bugs, but when they start decimating my runner beans, well – they gotsta go.) However, I’ve yet to attempt making my own fertilizer. I know some people just say “dig a hole and throw some vegetable scraps in it,” but that just seems… too easy? For some reason, I’ve always been that person who likes doing things the hard way. Then I see homemade garden fertilizer recipes that call for fish heads and I’m like yeah… no…
This homemade garden fertilizer is somewhere between “throw a banana peel next to your rosebush” and “decapitate a fish.” But first, let us review the components of a good fertilizer by way of a fun little mnemonic phrase courtesy of Natural Living Ideas: “up, down and all around.” What this translates to in the world of fertilizer is your N-P-K balance. N (nitrogen) helps plants grow tall, P (phosphorus) develops a plant’s roots and K (potassium) contributes to a plant’s overall health. Aside from these three big ones, plants also need many other nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and sulfur.
The variety of nutrients plants require mean that homemade fertilizers often have a laundry list of ingredients. Yes, I like doing things the hard way. But some of these recipes call for things I don’t have access to (i.e.: worm castings, ground up bones). So, I’ve taken a recipe for “Quick Fix Fertilizer” from The Grow Network and modified it to my liking:
- an empty 4 litre milk jug
- 1 banana peel (again with the banana peels, but they’re high in potassium… and also damn tasty)
- 6 bags of black tea steeped in 1 cup of boiling water (tannic acid in tea helps plants better absorb nutrients)
- 2 teaspoons blackstrap molasses (has several nutrients such as carbon, potassium and magnesium)
- 1 crushed eggshell (contains nitrogen and phosphorus and is also high in calcium, which is especially important for preventing blossom end rot in tomatoes)
- enough water to fill the remainder of the jug (preferably rainwater)
(Note that the above recipe originally called for ammonia, baking powder and hydrogen peroxide. I’ve eliminated them all because they sound shady to me. Ammonia ions are effective as fertilizer, but the household variety is diluted and known as aqueous ammonia, which is toxic and can kill your plants. Baking powder and baking soda can mess with the soil’s pH balance, which you don’t want to do in a garden plot where you’ll be reusing the soil the next year. As for hydrogen peroxide, there’s a lack of agreement as to what percent is actually safe and whether it should or should not be food grade.)
Once mixed, sit the jug out in the sun for about an hour. Then, use it to water the garden right away. Repeat once a month. I’ve only done this once so far, so the jury is still out on how well it works. But I will keep you all posted. Fingers crossed for inappropriately large carrots and tomatoes of the Big Red from Turbo variety.
Do you have a garden? What do you use to fertilize it? Have you ever tried any of the homemade garden fertilizer options? Fish heads perhaps? Let me know in the comments fellow green thumbs!
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Posted on July 18, 2016 (Last Updated on July 7, 2018)