By and large, a good gardener will strive to create and maintain dynamic, healthy soil, something produced by adding plenty of organic matter, using things like compost or green manure. However, sometimes giving the soil, thus plants, a little boost is a good idea, especially in the early days of a garden bed.
In the world of fertilizers, we are usually faced with two options: granular or liquid. (Obviously, we won’t even discuss chemical versus organic here. That isn’t an option.) While liquid fertilizer has the reputation of washing away, this isn’t entirely true. Chemical versions are generally water soluble, which does wash away, but natural versions are not water soluble and, as a result, remain in the soil after a rain.
In other words, whatever one’s opinion (or lack thereof) is regarding liquid fertilizer, it’s probably time to give it another look. Even better, there are plenty of natural liquid fertilizers that can be made easily at home, saving gardeners money while providing awesome results.
The Benefits of Liquid Fertilizers
Aside from debunking the big objection to liquid fertilizers (that it washes away), we should also take a minute to discover why they are possibly a good idea, and there are several reasons. The multitude of ways they can be applied is a huge plus. They can be sprayed onto leaves, run through drip irrigation systems, soaked into soils, or however else one can imagine using them. They don’t need to rest on or in the soil like granules.
The ability to apply fertilizer as a foliar spray makes a huge difference. For one, it takes away the need to balance the soil pH in order for the plants to absorb the nutrients because the leaves, not roots, are taking them in. Additionally, different sprays can be combined into one application, cutting down on labor and resources, and this, of course, makes using it more efficient.
Four Types of DIY Liquid Fertilizer
It’s important to realize that, in the garden, organic and sustainable are not the same thing. Sustainability comes from our ability to continually restock on the resources we are using, and for many of us, it also means that we can’t continually spend our wages on fertilizer. After all, home gardens are supposed to cut down on food costs while providing us with healthier produce. DIY liquid fertilizers can help to achieve all of these objectives, and there are plenty of of methods to go about making them.
Compost tea is yet another way to make the most of all that compost we are making from kitchen scraps and household waste. It’s a way of gleaning much of the nutritional goodness of compost into a ready-made spray. For those without enough compost on hand to cover the entire garden, this is a great option. Vermicompost also works great.
It begins with finished compost, i.e. the very old stuff that has completely broken down into beautiful richness. This ensures pathogens won’t be an issue. To make the tea, simply fill a five-gallon bucket a third of the way with the compost and then the remainder of the way with water (harvested rainwater is best.) This should steep for three days and be stirred at least a few times a day. Then, the compost can be strained out and the mixture diluted (10:1, water to tea) to be sprayed onto plants. It’s also very good for watering seedlings.
Believe it or not, old grass clippings and weeds make a wonderful fertilizer. The fresh (green) clippings are full of nitrogen and phosphorus, two mineral components used in the famous NPK blends of typical fertilizers (the other being potassium, which can come from organic banana peels.) Comfrey also makes fantastic green tea for the plants.
For this tea, we’ll need to fill that five-gallon bucket two-thirds of the way with fresh grass clippings, and maybe some organic banana peels, before adding the water. Then, again, let it steep for three days, stirring as often as possible. Strain the solid bits out of the tea, and mix it with equal parts of water to apply in the garden, especially leafy crops.
Fish Pond Water
Fish ponds, for those who have them, are a great source of nitrogen-rich water to go into the garden. Combine fertilizing with the regular cleaning cycle, and both the plants and animals will really benefit. Plus, it’ll be some efficient multi-tasking for the homeowner/gardener.
In this case, it is more important to be sure that the water isn’t treated, and obviously, it is important to look out for the little fishes and other aquatic life, as they might not like to be earthbound. Then, apply the water as is. The fish manure has already been diluted by the water in the tank or pond.
Seaweed is a highly respected terrestrial garden addition because it adds all of the valuable minerals of the sea, a whole host of trace elements that will keep our food rich in nutrients. Though seaweed is often applied to gardens as an amazing mulch, it can also be used to make liquid tea, what we are calling seaweed soup, as well.
Seaweed is available at garden centers, but it can also be harvested — responsibly, i.e. in moderation — from mid-beach spots, where it has washed ashore far enough to dry out a bit but not so far as to become infested with bugs. Rinse the seaweed to remove some of the salt before filling our five-gallon bucket with it. This time it should steep for at least a couple of weeks prior to straining out the seaweed, which can then be used as mulch.
These are all great ways to naturally increase the productivity in the garden, with three of them based solely on elements we’d normally consider waste. As for the seaweed, this is often cleared from the beach and treated like rubbish as well. For shrewd gardeners, though, we see opportunity.
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