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How And Why To Create Homemade Organic Fertilizers

Organic fertilizers can save you money and boost your yields. Here’s an overview on how and why you should make your own homemade fertilizer. You won’t regret it!

It has never been easier to start growing cannabis. The sheer amount of products and options available can be overwhelming, but they are all intended to make your life easier. That does not mean new systems will be cheaper or more effective than traditional methods for tending to your plants. It really depends on the scale of your operation and your goals as a cultivator.

SYNTHETIC VS ORGANIC FERTILIZERS

There seem to be two distinct schools of thought; one involves modern, petrochemical-intensive monoculture production, where sterile conditions and precise metric manipulation of variables are intended to maximise production. Bottled nutrients with strict NPK values and a short pH-range are utilised to minimise deficiencies and support robust growth.

The other technique is the organic or “natural” way, in which plants are grown without petrochemical influence. In this scenario, what is really happening is you are feeding the soil microbiology, which in turn directly feeds the roots all of their favourite munchies in just the right proportions.

New, inexperienced growers need some time to delve into the intricacies of each method – organic vs synthetic. Analyse the pros and cons, then get going with growing! You will surely change your mind on numerous subjects as you develop your green thumb.

ARE BOTTLED PRODUCTS WORTH IT?

As time passes, you will soon start to notice that most of what you buy in a bottle is either exceedingly expensive, wasted, or easily substituted at a fraction of the price with your own concoctions.

Take into consideration that most bottled fertilizers, be they synthetic or organic, lose some of their price value due to the high water content contained within. It is also extremely complicated to mix everything a plant needs into a stabilised bottle. There are limits to chemistry and plant physiology. Nutritional performance is surely lost to bottled convenience.

MAKING YOUR OWN FERTILIZER

Making you own fertilizer can get quite addictive. Not only will you save a significant amount of money in the long-run, you will also begin to understand plant nutrition to a much greater extent, learn to dial-in exactly what your plants require, and ultimately, harvest bigger and better-tasting buds.

Are you throwing away your premium-price bagged soil after each crop or heavily dosing your plants with nutrients and additives without any significant increase in yield?

If so, simply read on.

HOMEMADE FERTILIZER: WHAT DO PLANTS EAT?

We will not go too deep into this subject, rather, we shall quickly provide some basic concepts. Surely you have seen “NPK” mentioned before. These are the macronutrients – the big players in a plant’s health and development.

  • N – nitrogen
  • P – phosphorus
  • K – potassium

Along with these macros, we also have micronutrients, referred to as trace elements. These are metals and minerals that the plant needs in very small quantities, yet are of equal importance as NPK for healthy plant growth. Examples include calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, zinc, manganese, cobalt, iodine, selenium, molybdenum.

We also include vitamins and acids here, along with other organic compounds.

Fertilizer manufacturers essentially mix these and attempt to chemically stabilise them for bottling, transportation, and shelf-life. Any given nutrient line is just that brand’s take on a full nutritional plan; all of them claim to be better than the rest.

The secret to a grade-A yield is the right proportion of these constituents at the right time. In this sense, these nutrient lines are quite convenient.

But there is simply no replacement for creating or supplementing with your own, homemade organic fertilizer. In fact, that is what the best of growers do on a regular basis. With some experimentation, you will soon understand how easy this is, and what a difference organic soil makes in your garden.

WHY ORGANIC?

The main reason for making organic nutrients is quite simple; they can be extremely cheap (or free), and you can make them in your backyard or kitchen with household appliances. They are often very easy to make, are not dangerous, and ultimately, are more environmentally friendly.

Composting, for instance, can save you a ton of hard-earned cash. After a harvest, the soil you used needs to be “recharged”. Most indoor tent growers simply throw away the depleted soil and buy a fresh new bag. That means lugging bags in and out and buying new soil each run. If you start composting all your organic food waste along with your used soil, magic happens. The soil is literally recycled and recharged with all the necessary microbiology and high-quality food your plants need. It will contain everything – NPK, trace elements, and an army of agro-bacteria and mycos to colonise your rhizosphere.

HUNGRY HUNGRY CANNABIS

But cannabis can be a very hungry plant, and if you want those highly desired, heavy, and dense nugs, you need to supplement the base soil conditions. Since you technically do not feed your plants directly when growing in soil, we highly recommend getting into the habit of brewing your own bacteria. The technical term is Actively Aerated Compost Tea (AACT), but the slang terms “bennies”, “beneficial bacterial tea”, worm casting tea, or just compost tea are frequently used.

Regardless of terminology, they are simple to make. Prepare to be amazed. Not only will you create millions of little minions that will protect and feed your roots, you will also extract the best mineral and fungal properties of these soils into a tea, which you can directly feed to your roots, or use as a foliar spray against most common diseases.

SOIL AMENDMENTS

If you are growing outdoors and/or your soil quality needs a serious boost, here are some common amendments.

MACRONUTRIENT SOURCES

If you need a nitrogen (N) boost, you can add worm castings, a chicken manure recipe, crustaceous meal, and/or bat guano. You can also use human urine, but be sure to dilute it at a ratio of 10:1 parts water to urine. Otherwise, the urine will turn to ammonia and harm your plants. Never pee directly on your plants, it will burn the roots!

If you need a phosphorous (P) boost, boil some banana peels and drench your soil. Let it ferment slightly for optimal onset. Bone and fish meals, chicken manure, and rock dust are also great sources of phosphorus. Rock dust, for instance, is a slow-release source, so it’s great to mix with your depleted soil for a crop-long source of P.

If you need a potassium (K) boost, banana peel, bat guano, fish meal, kelp, wood ash, compost, and siliceous rocks are all great sources.

The two micronutrients calcium and magnesium should be set aside, as these are particularly important, especially during bloom. Only after these reach optimum levels can the other trace elements function to their full potential.

MICRONUTRIENT SOURCES

Calcium – limestone, clay, chalk, gypsum
Magnesium – dolomite, magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts)
Other trace elements – azomite (trace nutrients and humic acid)

It is very rare to need to specifically boost other trace elements. They are present in the vast majority of soils and rocks. In fact, most of the amendments we suggested will excessively turbo-charge with trace elements, although this is not a bad thing.

MANURE RECIPES

Manure recipes are as old as agriculture itself. Man started to notice that where animals went to do their business, flora would flourish. Manure, to this day, continues to be one of the main agricultural inputs across the globe.

Manure recipes are a fantastic source of slow-release NPK, but they pose two medium-risk problems. If not properly composted or fermented, they can potentially present harmful pathogens to humans, animals, and plants. They can also be a bit tricky to balance with your base soil. So there is no right or wrong manure recipe choice, it depends on your region. Talk to local farmers to get a sense what works best.

  • Sheep – Balanced and rich, but requires fermentation
  • Goat – Similar to sheep, but stronger
  • Cow – Not so rich, but easy to source and to work with
  • Swine – Obsolete
  • Chicken – Very rich, but usually exceedingly strong in NPK – be sure to dilute
  • Rabbit – Best for composting and worm production, very rich
  • Equine – Easy to work with and exceptionally great for pot flowers

TAKE IT A STEP FURTHER – GO VEGANIC!

If you are environmentally conscious, here is a quick note about “organic” fertilizers. Petrochemical fertilizers are really bad for the environment, but so are animal-derived products like bone or fish meals, among others.

First of all, the organic label is not a synonym of good, better, or correct. If you really care about the environment, be on the lookout for the OMRI certificate on bottles.

These animal by-products are industrial leftovers that are chemically treated and dehydrated to squeeze every last inch of profit possible out of the industrial process. They are far from being “organic”; they simply contain unadulterated organic raw materials before they are treated with synthetic chemicals. Way better that petrochemicals, but still, our environmental conscience and global warming efforts must not stop there.

Legendary, award-winning cannabis editor, writer, breeder, and activist Kyle Kushman is at the forefront of veganic (plant-based) cultivation of cannabis. Results are clear. If you respect millions of years of natural selection, you will be able to reach maximum genetic potential. Stop trying to cheat Mother Nature. She’s got dibs on experimentation and time.

THAT WAS WAY TOO COMPLICATED

If you are new to this, you may be suffering from information overload. How on earth could you ditch your handy bottles and get your hands dirty in cow dung?

We’re not suggesting that. In fact, we have barely scraped the surface of this subject. Entire books are dedicated to this very issue. It is tremendously difficult to condense so much information into so few words and make it pragmatically useful. We hope this is like a little seed of information to get you going in the right direction.

Above all, please understand that after you manage to get over the learning curve, it all is very simple!

BASIC HOMEMADE FERTILIZERS

To give you some perspective, you only need a bag of premium worm humus (if you are not composting yourself), a bucket, a strong pump, and an airstone; in 48h, you could breed enough aerobic bacteria, fungi, and trace minerals to make your plants go into turbo production mode. Do this every odd week during a crop cycle to net yourself a 20-40% increase in yield. It really is as simple as that.

Indoors or outdoors, you can compost your kitchen rejects like onion skins and egg shells or leftover salads; better still, use the stems and leaves from your last crop! To that, add some worms to drive your composting, and soon you will save tons on soil, recycling it into a world-class grow medium!

Don’t want to pay for kelp extract? If you live near the sea, just go out hunting for seaweeds and make your own seaweed infusion. And if you manage to do it right, it may well be more effective than the bottled version.

WORK YOUR WAY TO ORGANIC

If you are new to this, please do not feel overwhelmed with all these new terms. They are very similar, yet all slightly different. The trick is to understand your base growing medium, and what inputs you need to produce great results. Even pure hydroponics can benefit from organic additives.

We are not suggesting you ditch all commercial-grade nutrients. Rather, start supplementing those with your organic, homemade fertilizers. Baby steps.

Take it one extra level at a time. Eventually, you will notice that not only are your plants growing better, your bank account will grow too.

Little changes like adding compost teas will have a compounding effect. Your plants will grow more vigorously, and your soil will not deplete so aggressively.

Just by reading this article, you are halfway to a fully sustainable model. Feel free to experiment and adapt your methodology for a greener tomorrow.

FERMENTED PLANT JUICE (FPJ)

Fermented plant juice is a cheap and easy way to provide nutrients to your cannabis plants. This completely natural and organic method harnesses beneficial bacteria to break down plants into easily absorbed nutrients. It’s a simple way of creating super soil in your garden. FPJ is a product used commonly in Korean Natural Farming — a holistic cultivation approach that seeks to improve soil health through the use of indigenous microorganisms and the avoiding of chemicals.

Gardeners create FPJ using nutrient-dense plants and herbs such as comfrey, yarrow, stinging nettle, mugwort, aloe vera, horsetail, lambsquartres, and thistle. Some of these plants are viewed as common weeds and grow in most gardens. They’re a superb free source of plant nutrition! It’s best to harvest the young portions of these plants, which are particularly nutritionally-dense.

Some growers choose to use fruit instead of plants to create fermented fruit juice (FFJ). The concept here is the same — these natural products contain a wealth of nutrients that can be liberated by beneficial bacteria. Popular fruits include cantaloupe melons, apricots, berries, tomatoes, and sweet peppers.

Regardless of the source used, plant or fruit, bacteria are the real heroes here. These tiny beings conduct the metabolic process of fermentation. They extract energy from molecules and break down larger molecules into smaller ones. Essentially, they free up all the nutrition stored in fruits and plants.

These microorganisms feed on sugar and convert the energy source into alcohol. During this process, they create a nutrient-dense soup, which will provide your plant with many of the minerals they need for healthy growth. Sugar is also added to help pull nutrients and juices out of the plant material. This happens through the process called osmosis — the movement of solvent molecules from an area of low concentration to an area of high concentration.

HOW TO MAKE FERMENTED PLANT/FRUIT JUICE

Making your own FPJ or FFJ at home is super easy. Choose from the list of plants or fruits above and let’s get started.

STEP 1

Peel and cube your chosen fruit. If you’re using plants, chop them up into smaller pieces. If you’re using plants or fruits from your garden, don’t wash them! They possess beneficial bacteria that will enhance the fermentation process.

STEP 2

Weigh your fruit or plants before placing them into a large glass jar or a container. Add in an equal amount of brown sugar and mash up the plant material with a large spoon. Mix everything up to distribute the sugar all over the plant material.

STEP 3

Cover the opening of your jar or container with a piece of cheesecloth. Use an elastic band to keep it tightly attached. The small holes in the material will allow carbon dioxide created through fermentation to escape. Store the mixture in a cool and dark place for 7–14 days.

STEP 4

Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and pour it into bottles for storage. Keep them in the fridge until you’re ready to use them.

STEP 5

Add four tablespoons of mixture to about 3.5 litres of water and apply as a foliar spray or use for watering.

Did you know you can save a ton on fertilizer? We show you how with an overview of homemade organic fertilizers.

Homemade weed nutrients

There was a time when people gardened because backyard produce was far better and cheaper than anything from the store. To tell the truth, it still is, or at least it still can be. The trick is knowing that back in the day, people used their own compost and homemade fertilizers.

Yet some are convinced that you have to spend a bundle of money to have a really nice, healthy garden. I think that this misconception grew out of the fact that most people have backyards that are filled with really poor/weak soil.

The reasons for this are complicated—a subject for another day. Suffice it to say that if the soil is weak, your plants will also be weak. And so it follows that weak plants have poor production, leading to more time and money spent on a low quantity of low-quality vegetables.

Healthy Soil Equals Healthy Plants

This means that you need to enrich your soil. Because most people are not making their own compost at home, they need to buy fertilizer. Plant fertilizers purchased from the local garden center often contain chemicals that may harm your plants, and are not environmentally friendly.

In addition, fertilizer can be a bit pricey, and this is most likely why the myth that home gardens are expensive continues. This is not necessarily true. You needn’t spend a bundle of money because, believe it or not, you are full of fertilizer!

Make Your Own Homemade Fertilizers

Making your own organic plant food is easy and fun. It should be noted that most people understand that the best way to get good garden soil is to use compost to amend the soil. Of course, that is true. Compost can be made at home out of leftover food scraps and lawn clippings, and so it is virtually cost-free.

Composting may be all one needs for a successful home vegetable crop. If, however, the soil is still lacking in nutrients or if you are planting a more demanding vegetable garden, augmenting with another type of fertilizer may be advisable. So why spend good money on store bought fertilizer when you can make it yourself with just a little information?

Nourishing Nutrients for Prolific Plants

The key to a good garden is good soil. Of the essential nutrients plants need to thrive, most of them are found in soil. Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and to a lesser extent calcium, magnesium, and sulfur are called macronutrients, and these are the nutrients that plants need most.

The remaining micronutrients can be supplied in smaller amounts even by some of the poorest soils out there.

While it may not be the most exciting of gardening topics, nothing is more important than having a basic understanding of fertilizer. Just like you and I need nourishment—so do plants. Understanding just a small bit of information about fertilizer can go a long way toward helping your garden to grow big, strong, healthy plants on a light budget. Before we look at some inexpensive homemade fertilizers, let’s look briefly at the subject in general. All fertilizers fall into one of two basic categories: chemical/synthetic or natural/organic.

Organic Fertilizers Versus Synthetic Fertilizers

Chemical/synthetic fertilizers are manufactured using synthetic substances that usually contain highly concentrated forms of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (these are the N-P-K values listed on the fertilizer packaging).

These fertilizers work quickly because they feed the plants directly. But they do come with a downside—they do not improve the soil itself and they can, over time, even destroy the beneficial organisms needed for healthy soil. When you use large quantities of this inorganic stuff over and over again, its byproducts will actually build up in the soil and in time they can hinder plant growth.

Organic/natural fertilizers often use alfalfa meal, cottonseed meal, or fish emulsion to provide nitrogen; bone meal or rock phosphate to provide phosphorus; and kelp meal or granite meal to provide potassium.

The downside here is that they work much more slowly, first breaking down in the soil into forms that the plant roots can more easily absorb, then making their way up the plant roots to your hungry plants.

Organic/natural fertilizers, on the other hand, don’t feed the plants directly but rather add essential nutrients to the soil where they become available to the plants, more slowly, over time.

Understanding the Basics about N-P-K

While there are also many important micronutrients in good fertilizer, it is understanding the “big 3,” the N-P-K, that is the key to making your own effective fertilizer at home. The N is for nitrogen, the P for phosphorus, and the K for Potassium. Each has an important role to play in the health of your garden.

Nitrogen is the nutrient plants use most to grow large and lush—tall stems with lots of good leafy growth. If you examine the N-P-K content of commercial products that advertise “miracle growth” you will find there is no real miracle at all—the amazing growth is due to a balanced but high N-P-K ratio with a hefty amount of nitrogen in the mix.

Phosphorus is needed to grow strong healthy root systems, and to promote vigorous flowering. Commercial “blooming” mixes are usually high in phosphorus.

Potassium helps with plant growth, protein production, plant hardiness, disease resistance, insect resistance and efficient water use. Plants without enough potassium grow slowly and can have yellow leaves.

Less Is More

Always remember the one basic rule that applies to the use of all fertilizers—”less is more.” If you use too much fertilizer or too strong a concentration, you could do much more harm than good. Plant roots can be harmed and you will soon see the tell-tale symptoms of fertilizer burn—brown, curled leaf edges and leaves that wither and fall from the stem. Always err on the side of caution—”less is more!”

Now, with a simple understanding of the information above, you are ready to get out and make your own fertilizer. For my purposes I needed a good, effective, general use fertilizer. Here are a few of the solutions that have brought me success:

Easy Household Fertilizers

There are quite a few common items found in your kitchen, and elsewhere around the house, that can be used as plant fertilizer.

Aquarium Water

Water your plants with the aquarium water taken right out of the tank when cleaning it. Fresh water only please, do not use water from a salt water tank. The fish waste makes a great plant fertilizer.

Bananas

Bananas are not only tasty and healthy for humans, but they also benefit many different plants. When planting roses, bury a banana (or just the peel) in the hole alongside the rose. As the rose grows, bury bananas or banana peels into the top layer of the soil. Both of these approaches will provide the much-needed potassium that plants need for proper growth.

Blackstrap Molasses

Blackstrap molasses is an excellent source of many different nutrients that plants use. This includes carbon, iron, sulfur, potash, calcium, manganese, potassium, copper, and magnesium. What makes this an excellent type of fertilizer is that it feeds beneficial bacteria, which keep the soil and plants healthy. To use blackstrap molasses as a fertilizer, mix it with another all-purpose fertilizer. A good combination to use is 1 cup each of epsom salts and alfalfa meal. Dissolve this combination in 4 gallons of water and top it off with 1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses. Or simply mix blackstrap molasses in with compost tea. Do this only after the compost tea has steeped.

Coffee Grounds

Used coffee grounds contain about 2% nitrogen, about a third of a percent of phosphoric acid, and varying amounts of potash (generally less than 1%). Coffee grounds are particularly useful on those plants that like things a bit more acidic, such as blueberries, evergreens, azaleas, roses, camellias, avocados, and many fruit trees. I recommend that you allow the coffee grounds to dry and then scatter them lightly, as a mulch, around your plants. Avoid scattering them thickly when they are wet, because clumps of coffee grounds have a tendency to get moldy.

Cooking Water

Many different nutrients are released into the water that food is cooked in. Water that is used to boil potatoes, vegetables, eggs, and even pasta can be used as a fertilizer. Just remember to let the water cool before applying it to your soil.

Corn Gluten Meal

Corn gluten meal is a byproduct of the wet-milling process for corn. It is used not only as an organic pre-emergent herbicide, but also as a fertilizer that is 10% nitrogen. To use as a fertilizer, simply spread a thin layer of corn gluten meal and scratch it into the top inch of soil. Plant veggie starts inside the treated area for optimum nitrogen benefit, and do not worry about accidentally harming your plants. Corn gluten meal only works as an herbicide before seeds germinate, not after, so it won’t hurt plants that have already sprouted.

Egg Shells

Egg shells contain about 1% nitrogen, about a half-percent phosphoric acid, and other trace elements that make them a practical fertilizer. Calcium is an essential plant nutrient which plays a fundamental part in cell manufacture and growth. Most roots must have some calcium at the growing tips to grow effectively. Plant growth removes large quantities of calcium from the soil, and calcium must be replenished, so this is an ideal way to “recycle” your egg shells. Simply crush them, powder them in an old coffee grinder, and sprinkle them around your garden soil.

Epsom Salts

1 tablespoon of epsom salts can be combined with 1 gallon of water and put into a sprayer. Apply once a month, directly to the foliage, for a quick dose of magnesium and sulfur.

Wood Ash (From Your Fireplace or Fire Pit)

Ashes can be sprinkled onto your soil to supply potassium and calcium carbonate. Hardwood is best—and no charcoal or lighter fluid, please, as this can harm your plants. Don’t use ash in areas where you are trying to maintain acid-loving plants—the ashes are alkaline and can increase alkalinity in the soil.

Gelatin

Gelatin can be a great nitrogen source. Dissolve 1 package of gelatin in 1 cup of hot water and then add 3 cups of cold water. Pour directly on the soil around your plants once a month. This is great for houseplants!

Green Tea

A weak solution of green tea can be used to water plants every 4 weeks. Use 1 teabag to 2 gallons of water.

Hair

Hair is a good source of nitrogen, and it does double duty as a deer repellent. A good source for this hair is not only your hairbrush, but also the local barbershop or beauty salon. Many of these establishments will save hair for your garden, if you ask them for it. But do not limit yourself to only human hair. Dog hair, horse hair, and cat hair work just as well.

Horse Feed

What makes horse feed irresistible to horses is also what makes it an excellent fertilizer. The magic ingredient is molasses. To use horse feed as a fertilizer is simple and easy. It can be used as a soil amendment just by sprinkling it on top of the soil. Alternatively, it can be dissolved in water alone or combined with another organic fertilizer, and applied as a soil drench.

Matches

The old-fashioned easy-strike matches are a great source of magnesium. To use this as a fertilizer, simply place the whole match in the hole with the plant, or soak the matches in water. The magnesium will dissolve into the water and make application easier.

Powdered Milk

Powdered milk is not only good for human consumption but also for plants. This source of calcium needs to be mixed in to the soil prior to planting. Since the milk is in powder form, it is ready for use by your plants.

4 Easy Homemade Fertilizer Recipes

These are some slightly more complex fertilizer recipes that I like to use. My favorites are the Simple Tea and the Quick Fix, but each of these make regular appearances in our garden fertilizing schedule:

Recipe #1—Simple Tea Fertilizer

This simple recipe has been used for thousands of years. Give it a try in your garden for a quick and inexpensive dose of nutrients for your plants.

Instructions

• In a 5 gallon bucket, mix 1/4 cup of epsom salts, 2 cups of urine (yes, good old pee pee), and 2 cups of wood ash (again, no lighter fluid or charcoal, please).
• Fill the rest of the bucket about half way with grass clippings, pruned green leaves, or even green weeds pulled right out of the ground.
• Fill the bucket to the top with water and allow the mix to steep for three days.
• After steeping, strain the tea or decant into empty milk jugs or old 2 liter bottles.
• Before use, dilute by 50% by mixing half water and half tea into your favorite watering can.
• Apply this wonderful mix by pouring it directly onto the soil around your plants.

If your results are anything like mine, you will see a noticeable difference in just a few days.

Note: Only steep for 3 days. By the third day, most of the soluble nutrients will have seeped out into the water solution. Stopping now prevents fermentation, which you want to avoid. Fermented materials will smell bad, and their pH can change rapidly, so it’s important to stick with a 3-day steeping, and then use the concentrate within a day or 2.

Recipe #2—Homemade Fish Emulsion Fertilizer

Fish emulsion is a homemade fertilizer made using fish waste—such as fish parts and guts—and water. This organic all-purpose fertilizer has also been around for thousands of years and it works great, but it takes weeks to make, and the mixture must have time to rot before you can use it. Yes, there is some bad smell here—it is made from rotting fish, after all!

Instructions

• To begin the process, fill a 55-gallon drum about one-third full with a ratio of 2 parts water and 1 part fish waste.
• Allow this mixture to steep for 24 hours.
• After steeping, add more water to the drum until it is completely full.
• Cover loosely and let the drum ferment for several weeks—we usually allow about 3 weeks for fermentation.
• To use, apply the fish emulsion fertilizer to the soil around your plants at a rate of 3 gallons of liquid for every 100 square feet of yard or garden.

Recipe #3—Seaweed Fertilizer

Another fertilizer with a thousand-year pedigree. Not only is seaweed an all-purpose organic fertilizer, but it also contains mannitol. Mannitol is a compound that increases a plant’s ability to absorb nutrients in the soil. Either fresh or dried seaweed can be used to create the all-purpose fertilizer. However, if you use fresh seaweed or dry, salted seaweed, ensure it is thoroughly washed before using.

Instructions

• Add 8 cups of chopped seaweed to a 5 gallon bucket and fill halfway with water. (Rainwater is always best if it’s available.)
• Loosely cover the container, and let the seaweed steep for about 3 weeks.
• After steeping, strain the seaweed and transfer the liquid to a container to store it for up to 3 weeks.
• To use, mix half water and half seaweed tea into your favorite watering can and apply it to the soil around your plants. Your plants will thank you for it within just a few days.

Recipe #4—The Quick Fix Fertilizer

If you haven’t got time to wait 3 days to make the Simple Tea, you might want to try this idea. Most of the ingredients can be found around your home.

Instructions

• In an empty 1 gallon milk jug, mix 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon of ammonia (a very strong source of quick nitrogen), 3 teaspoons of instant iced tea (the tannic acid in this helps the plants to more quickly and easily absorb nutrients), 3 teaspoons blackstrap molasses (this helps feed soil bacteria), 3 tablespoons of 3% hydrogen peroxide (hydrogen peroxide is a powerful oxidizer, as it combines with the air and water as it decomposes, freeing the oxygen elements and thus providing a supplement of oxygen to the plants and aerating the soil), 1/4 cup crushed bone scraps (this adds phosphorus—any bones will do but I like to use fish bones myself as they also provide potassium), 1 crushed eggshell or 1/2 a dried banana peel for potassium (you can omit if using fish bones, but I would still add the eggshell for the calcium—especially for tomatoes, as it helps prevent blossom end rot)
• Fill the jug the rest of the way with water (again, rainwater is best). Replace cap and allow the jug to sit in the sun for about 1 hour to warm, then water your plants with this mixture at full strength.

Using What Your Animals Give You

There are many other ways to make your own fertilizer, and some are easier to make than others. It doesn’t get much easier than using manure from your animals. For eons, man used “free” fertilizer from manure to fertilize his crops. Manure can be used as is after drying, or in the form of manure tea.

Before manure is used in the garden, it should be aged and dried, and/or composted first. Age fresh manure for at least 6 months. Well-aged manure on its own makes a great fertilizer for garden plants. You can spread aged manure directly on top of your garden soil at a thickness of 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Another option is to till it, or mix it by hand, into the top layer of soil in the fall or winter, prior to spring planting.

Generally, fall is the best time to use manure in the garden. This allows plenty of time for the manure to break down, eliminating the threat of burning plants in the garden come springtime. As the soil absorbs manure, nutrients are released. This enriches the soil, which in turn helps the plants. One of the most important benefits of using manure in the garden is its ability to condition the soil.

Composting manure is one of the best and safest ways to use this free fertilizer, as it eliminates the possibility of burning your plants and controls potentially harmful bacteria.

Nearly any kind of manure can be used. Generally horse, cow, and chicken manures are the most commonly used for manure fertilizer. Some people also use sheep, rabbit, turkey, and more. It is not recommended that you use manure from your cats, dogs, other household pets – or any other meat-eating animals. These manures are unsuitable for the garden or the compost pile, as they are likely to carry parasites.

Making Manure Tea Fertilizer

I will leave you with one last recipe. I use this tea regularly and it works great—just make sure that your manure is well-aged and comes from animals that have not been grazing on fields treated with broad-leaf herbicides, such as Grazon.

Bonus Recipe: Manure Tea Fertilizer

Manure tea enriches the soil and adds much-needed nutrients for healthy plant growth. The nutrients found in manure tea make it an ideal fertilizer for garden plants. The nutrients from manure dissolve easily in water so that they can then be added to a sprayer or simply used in a watering can. The leftover manure can be thrown in the garden or reused in the compost pile.

Manure tea can be used each time you water plants, or periodically. It can also be used to water lawns. However, it is important to dilute the tea prior to use so as to avoid burning the roots or foliage of plants. I fill my watering can halfway with the tea and then fill it to the top with rainwater. I use this every 3 weeks or so during the growing season.

Instructions

• Place a shovelful of well-aged manure in a large burlap sack or pillowcase.
• Make certain that the manure has been well aged or “cured” beforehand. Fresh manure is much too strong for plants, and it can contain harmful bacteria.
• Suspend the manure-filled “tea bag” in a 5 gallon bucket, and add water to create a mix of 5 parts water to 1 part manure.
• Allow this mixture to steep for up to 2 weeks.
• After steeping, remove the bag, allowing it to hang above the container until the dripping has stopped.
• Skipping the tea bag and adding the manure directly to the water usually speeds up the brewing process. Without a bag, the tea is usually ready within only a few days if you stir it thoroughly during this period. Once it has fully brewed, you will have to strain it to separate the solids from the liquid. The remaining manure can then be added to the compost pile.
• To use, dilute the tea by half, as mentioned above, prior to use.

Add to This List of Homemade Fertilizers

This list of homemade fertilizers is by no means exhaustive. If I’ve missed any of your favorites, be sure to let me know in the comments below! Keep in mind that the most important thing you really need to understand about making your own fertilizer is that you control what goes into the fertilizer, so you know exactly what goes into your garden and therefore what goes into your body. Making your fertilizer is also a great way to “reduce, reuse, and recycle.”

Lately, before I toss anything into my trash, I stop and ask myself, “How else can I use this?” As often as not, the things I would have otherwise thrown away can help out in my garden. And, best of all, I’ve come to realize that my home, my animals, and even my own body are all full of fertilizer!

The Grow Network is a global network of people who produce their own food and medicine. We’re the coolest bunch of backyard researchers on Earth! We’re constantly sharing, discovering, and working together to test new paths for sustainable living—while reconnecting with the “old ways” that are slipping away in our modern world. We value soil, water, sunlight, simplicity, sustainability, usefulness, and freedom. We strive to produce, prepare, and preserve our own food and medicine, and we hope you do, too!

The Grow Network is a global network of people who produce their own food and medicine. We’re the coolest bunch of backyard researchers on Earth! We’re constantly sharing, discovering, and working together to test new paths for sustainable living—while reconnecting with the “old ways” that are slipping away in our modern world. We value soil, water, sunlight, simplicity, sustainability, usefulness, and freedom. We strive to produce, prepare, and preserve our own food and medicine, and we hope you do, too!