Free Fertilizers Within Reach

comments (14) April 22nd, 2011

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WesternGardener Jodi Torpey, contributor
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Its easy to convert kitchen waste into fertilizers that feed the soil naturally.Click To Enlarge

It's easy to convert kitchen waste into fertilizers that feed the soil naturally.

Photo: Jodi Torpey

Every year at this time I divert some of the kitchen waste headed for the compost bin to use as fertilizer for my garden. Banana peels, coffee grounds, and eggshells make free fertilizers to give my vegetables and flowers a taste of something homemade instead of artificial.

Using kitchen cast-offs like these help build the soil naturally and work equally well in small container gardens or large vegetable beds. They’re also easy to use—whether you compost or not.

Instead of chopping up banana peels and tossing them in the composter, I cut them into long strips and bury them about 1” under the soil around my roses. The peels make for the perfect slow-release fertilizer and earthworms seem to like them, too.

Used coffee grounds also make a fine free fertilizer. I add the grounds to the garden soil in the vegetable beds and large containers planted with tomatoes and peppers. Coffee grounds can be used to feed flowers, too.

Eggshells make a nice liquid fertilizer tea. Steep the shells in a container of water for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Additional shells can be added during the steeping period. To use, dilute 1 cup of eggshell tea to 1 gallon of water to give plants a boost through the growing season.

Eggshells can also be turned into a powder to sprinkle on the soil around plants. Just let the shells dry thoroughly, crush, and then run them through a food processor or blender until they’re small flakes.

Another free fertilizer comes in the form of the compost that’s been aging over the winter. I hold some of this back each spring to make a compost tea that seems to make stronger seedlings that are more resistant to the fungi that cause damping-off. I take 1 cup well-aged compost and steep it in a bucket with 5 or 6 cups water for several days. When the tea is ready, strain and water seeds right after sowing.

Do you have other suggestions for free (or low-cost) homemade fertilizers? Please share them here.


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posted in: compost, fertilizer, kitchen waste

Comments (14)

matthewtweedie writes: Pretty
Posted: 10:59 pm on December 12th
ajayind writes: Cool
Posted: 2:37 am on December 1st
mickysingh writes: Its awesome
Posted: 2:14 am on November 23rd
kevinalexis8 writes: I appreciate your work
Posted: 1:14 am on July 21st
DianaRey writes: Good collection

Posted: 6:54 am on June 23rd
Rander12 writes: I like this was a good way to
Posted: 2:24 am on February 18th
EMDotCom writes: It's not necessarily "Free," but more "recycled" is when I use the pulp from my juicer after I juice carrots. Carrot pulp is one of the most amazing fertilizers I've ever worked with. It's a great vegetative fertilizer, it doesn't do too much to set in blooms, but it's a great trick, especially if you want to start some plants late in the season.
Posted: 12:06 am on July 20th
randallee writes: I raised my rabbit hutch up 2 ft. put straw and yard scraps under it's always being enriched with bunny goodies, turn it like your compost pile

Posted: 12:50 pm on March 21st
jeannieg1968 writes: Weeds and plant residue make great liquid organic fertilizers. Plants and weeds harvest nutrients from the soil to grow new cell tissues. You can brew weeds and plant tea, those same nutients will again become available to feed your garden. Different plants harvest different minerals, make sure you get a good mix ( green and brown). Green plants and grass clippings will dissolve quickly in water, makin the tea potent. Now for the recipe. This is a very smelly job! Fill a container that has a lid and make sure it's away from the house and neighbors! Fill that container with all kinds of plants and weeds ( grass clippingd, brow leaves, weeds (nettles,dandelions, comfrey,clover,dollar weed)then top it with water stir a couple of times each week and let it ferment with the lid on for 3 weeks dilute it the black liquid. 10 parts water one part black plant liquid. Warning the liquid is smelly during the process. Cost: weeds (free from you garden) water (depends how much you water)free if you collect rain water.
Posted: 12:29 am on March 3rd
missque writes: I've tried burying banana peels under and around my rose bushes, but the critters (squirrels, raccoons, etc) always dig up the peels. Perhaps I should add hot pepper flakes.
Posted: 5:03 pm on September 27th
WesternGardener writes: Thanks for sharing these ideas for other ways to find--and use--free fertilizers.
Posted: 2:30 pm on April 28th
gstilwell writes: Banana peels work great for fertilizing ferns-such as Staghorns/Elkhorns---any Platycerium species
Posted: 10:43 pm on April 26th
Ruth writes: Unbelievable as it may sound, Connecticut has a cavalry, and the 2nd Company Governor's Horse Guard is quartered about a mile from our office. A co-worker mentioned that one can pick up free manure a couple of times a year, and Saturday was the day. In a driving rain, I filled my compact car with three garbage bins, and with the very kind help of the National Guard members on duty managed to load up and drive home with three wheelbarrow loads of well-aged horse manure.
Posted: 3:12 pm on April 25th
Luvs2Garden2 writes: I have used coffee grounds and eggshells as compost, and they are both wonderful! I had a local coffee shop save their used coffee grounds and eggshells (both separately) for me. They were more than happy to let me have them, as they felt that they were doing something good for the earth. I stopped by and picked them up every couple of days.
I used alot of the grounds around my rhododendrons, and last spring I had the most beautiful blooms!
Posted: 8:02 pm on April 24th
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