Making Organic Fertilizers for the Veggie Garden
Gardeners fertilize their plants for one simple reason: to make them healthier. So, isn't it counterintuitive to fertilize your garden with harmful toxins that damage the environment? Non-organic fertilizers are also very dangerous for curious children and pets! Using homemade organic fertilizers not only protects the environment and your family, but protects your wallet too.
You might be surprised to learn how easy it is to whip up some of your own nutrient-packed fertilizers right in your kitchen. There are two types of organic fertilizers: dry and liquid. Dry fertilizer has more components and can be more expensive to make, but it remains in your soil all season, fertilizing slowly for months. Liquid fertilizer packs a nutrient-rich one time punch and can be easily made using only a few ingredients. So, I'll give you my three favorite recipes and you can try them all.
In a large 20-quart bucket combine:
- 2 quarts bone meal or rock phosphate
- 1 quart fish meal or blood meal
- 1 quart kelp meal or greensand
- 8 quarts organic seed meal
- 1 quart dolomitic lime
Mix well and voila! This combination covers all of your bases: blood and fish meal contain high levels of nitrogen, bone meal and rock phosphate contain phosphorus, cottonseed meal is high in nitrogen phosphoric acid nitrogen and potash, while kelp and greensand (harvested from the ocean floor) are high in calcium and potassium. The balance also encourages helpful micro-organisms to flourish in your soil. Combined, the recipe makes about 13 quarts of dry material. This fertilizer is ready to use immediately and should be tilled into garden soil during bed preparation. Use 4-6 quarts of fertilizer per 50 square feet of garden. If you are planting a tree or shrub, simply add 1-4 cups of the dry fertilizer to the bottom of your hole before planting for long-lasting slow release fertilization. It can also be sprinkled around the plants once every three weeks during the growing season for added effect. This all-purpose organic fertilizer is great for everything: veggies, trees and shrubs, annual flowers, perennials, and houseplants.
Organic liquid fertilizer is easy to make and does wonders for all plants, especially during the growing season. It is made by adding nutrient-rich organic matter to water and allowing it to soak for 24 hours. I use both worm castings (vermicompost) and bat or seabird guano interchangeably.
Guano Tea - For guano tea add 1 tablespoon of bat or seabird guano to 1 gallon of water (preferably distilled, rain, or well water). Remember to shake the guano vigorously before adding. Mix well and allow the mixture to soak for 24 hours. The bird or bat guano mixture will not smell pleasant so it's a good idea to conduct this experiment in the garage! I learned that the hard way. After 24 hours, use the mixture to water your plants thoroughly. This process should be repeated once every two weeks for best results.
Vermicompost Tea - For vermicompost tea add 2 cups of organic worm castings and 1/2 teaspoon of molasses to one gallon of water, again ideally distilled, rain, or well water. Stir well and allow to soak for 24 hours, stirring once every few hours. This fertilizer can be used to water your plants, but is also beneficial when sprayed onto the plant itself. Load up a clean mister bottle with vermi-tea and spray down the foliage and surrounding soil to prevent fungal infections and insect infestations. Unlike stinky bat guano fertilizer, this odorless liquid is great for houseplants. Repeat this process monthly, and notice all of your new healthy growth!
I know it seems easy to grab a bottle of commercial fertilizer while you're at the nursery, but for a little extra time and a lot less money you can make your own at home and know that your plants, your family, and the environment are all a lot better off.