Home gardeners spend over $2 million a year on different fertilizers for their gardens and houseplants. Unfortunately, we now know that some chemical fertilizers are harmful to the environment, as well as being expensive. The good news, though, is that you can easily make your own fertilizers out of materials you already have in your home.
How Do Fertilizers Work?
All fertilizers add different nutrients to the soil. In nature, the soil gets these nutrients from decaying plant or animal matter. When organic material such as dead leaves or animal droppings decomposes, it releases these nutrients into the soil – and those nutrients in turn feed other plants.
What Can I Use For Homemade Fertilizers?
Most of the organic waste material you would ordinarily throw away, such as kitchen scraps, is exactly the kind of organic material which would feed plants in nature. Not all kitchen scraps are good for plants – meat scraps or dairy products are harmful to plants – but most plant scraps work well.
Banana peels, for instance, are rich in potassium, which promote strong root growth. Flowering bushes like roses and root vegetables like carrots or beets need potassium. To use banana peels as a fertilizer, you can bury the peel near the roots of the plant you wish to fertilize, or just throw the peel directly onto the ground under your plants. If you’re concerned about animals digging up the peel, puree the peel in a blender with about a quart of water – then, simply water your plants with this “banana peel smoothie.”
Used coffee grounds are also a great fertilizer for plants, providing them with nitrogen for strong green growth. Coffee grounds also provide other trace nutrients plants need, like calcium and copper. Let them cool and dry out slightly first and then simply sprinkle them on top of the soil. Coffee grounds are ideal for indoor plants; use about a tablespoon per pot. Crushed eggshells also contain nitrogen, and are also good for balancing the acidity of your soil.
If you or someone you know has a pet rabbit, you have a ready source of fertilizer. Like all other animal droppings, rabbit droppings are rich in nitrogen; they also contain phosphorus, which helps promote flower and fruit growth. Rabbit droppings are also compact and odorless, which makes handling them far more pleasant for the gardener! To use rabbit droppings, simply sprinkle a little on the soil around your plants.
Even ashes can be a fertilizer. Ashes from real wood provide a boost of potassium to the soil. Be sure you are using ashes from real wood, and not from the commercial “fireplace logs” which are often treated with chemicals that could harm your plants. To use, simply sprinkle a handful around the roots of your plants. If you’re preparing a new garden, use about five pounds per 100 square feet of soil; sprinkle the ashes over the soil, and then rake the soil to mix it in.
How Often Can I Use My Homemade Fertilizers?
Like with other fertilizers, you should limit your homemade fertilizer use to only once every other week. Wood ashes have a stronger impact on the acidity of your soil, however, so only use them once a year.