Every green-fingered connoisseur knows that healthy soil equals healthy plants. Ensuring your soil is enriched is therefore a must!
However, fertilizer can be extremely expensive and store-bought products can contain a number of chemicals, some of which are harmful to the environment. This is one of the reasons many believe home gardens to be an extremely expensive hobby. Fortunately, if you learn how to make your own fertilizer, this is far from the case.
Making your own homemade fertilizers
If the soil you are using is nutrient-deficient, or you have decided to plant something that is a little more demanding, using a fertilizer is advisable. But why spend a great deal of money on store-bought fertilizer when you can make it at home using just a few ingredients?
Easy and chemical-free alternatives are readily available and can be used as plant food and flower food; while making your own organic plant food can also be hassle-free and fun. The first step requires good soil. In order to achieve this, you will need good compost. Compost is extremely simple to make and can be created at home using lawn clippings and leftover food scraps. In fact, it’s almost cost-free.
Asides from good soil, the key to a successful garden is essential nutrients. Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulfur and calcium are just a few of the macronutrients plants need to survive.
Additionally, having a basic knowledge of fertilizer is a must if you strive for productive plants. All fertilizers fall into one of two classes: natural/organic or chemical/synthetic.
Organic Fertilizers or Synthetic Fertilizers – which to choose?
Chemical or synthetic fertilizers are created using synthetic substances. These substances often contain highly concentrated forms of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N-P-K).
Although these fertilizers are quick acting, they do have their disadvantages – they’re unable to enhance the soil and, over time, they can devastate the positive organisms required for healthy soil. In the long run, these chemical-laden fertilizes can hinder plant growth.
Organic and natural fertilizers on the other hand contain ingredients such as cottonseed meal, alfalfa meal or fish emulsion, all of which provide nitrogen; granite meal or kelp meal to provide potassium and rock phosphate; or bone meal to provide phosphorus. One disadvantage of organic and natural fertilizers is that they get to work much slower.
Understanding the Fundamentals
The three main ingredients in fertilizer are the three most beneficial ingredients for your plants. N-P-K each play a very important part in the growth and health of your garden.
Nitrogen: This nutrient is responsible for leafy growth and tall stems.
Phosphorus: Helps to promote energetic flowering and a strong and healthy root system.
Potassium: Aids with protein production, plant growth, disease resistance, plant durability, insect resistance and effective water use. If your plant is showing yellow leaves, it’s likely it’s lacking in potassium.
One simple rule that applies to the use of all fertilizers is ‘less is more’. Too strong a concentration or too much product can be extremely harmful to your plants. If you over-feed your plants, they may suffer from fertilizer burn – look out for withering leaves with brown, curled edges as this is the common sign that a plant is over-fed.
DIY Plant Fertilizers: The ingredients
To create easy household fertilizers, there are a number of ingredients to choose from, many of which you will already have in your possession.
Aquarium Water: Fish waste, although it sounds unpleasant, is highly beneficial to your plants. One point to remember? Only use water from a fresh water tank.
Blackstrap molasses: This particular ingredient contains an abundance of plant-beneficial nutrients, including iron, carbon, sulfur, calcium, potash, manganese, copper, potassium and magnesium. Using these nutrients, it’s able to feed beneficial bacteria, which in turn keeps the soil healthy.
Wood Ash: Taken directly from a fire pit or fireplace and sprinkled over soil provides plants with both calcium carbonate and potassium. Remember to avoid charcoal and lighter fluid as this can harm your plants.
Bananas: Something else we are familiar with and often have in the kitchen – bananas are beneficial to a variety of plants, particularly roses. When planting a rose for the first time, submerge a banana into the soil to give it a good dose of much-needed potassium.
Coffee Grounds: Instead of throwing away used coffee grounds, allow them to dry and use them as mulch for your plants. They contain a good dosage of nitrogen, potash and phosphoric acid. They are particularly beneficial to azaleas, roses, blueberries, evergreens, avocados, camellias and other fruit trees.
Egg Shells: These contain both nitrogen and phosphoric acid, which means they’re ideal for homemade fertilizer. Calcium is a vital plant nutrient that promotes cell production and growth. Plants take huge quantities of calcium from the soil, and in order to survive, this must be replenished. Recycle your eggshells by crushing them into a powder and sprinkling them onto soil.
Epsom Salts: Combine one gallon of water with one tablespoon of Epsom salts to give your plants an instant dose of sulfur and magnesium.
Green Tea: A weak solution of antioxidant green tea can be used instead of water to hydrate your plants. Use two gallons of water with one teabag and allow it to cool down before adding to soil.
By enhancing the soil that your flowers and others plants grow in, you should find that they live for longer and are more visually appealing, enhancing whatever indoor or outdoor space you choose to put them in.
DIY Plant Fertilisers: The recipes
1. The Fish Emulsion Fertilizer
This fertilizer is made from fish parts and guts, mixed with water. It has been used for hundreds of years, but you should be aware that it takes few weeks to make and you’ll be noticing some unpleasant smell – remember, its made from fish in the end!
• You will need a standard size barrel (able to fit 200 l). Fill one third of it with 2 parts water and 1 part fish waste
• Let this mixture to steep for 24 hours
• After 24 hours top up the water until the barrel is full
• Cover loosely and let the drum ferment for several weeks. 3 weeks would be the optimal time
• Once ready, use it around your plants – you should use roughly 11 liters of the fertilizer on an area of 10 square meters
2. The Seaweed fertilizer
Seaweed makes a wonderful ingredient as organic fertilizer. It contains mannitol, which is a compound that increases a plant’s ability to absorb nutrients in the soil. You can use fresh seaweed (wash and dry it first) or dry one.
- Add 680 grams of chopped seaweed to a 12 liter size bucket
- Fill halfway with water
- Let it steep for around 3 weeks, with loosely covered lid
- Strain the seaweed and transfer it to a container to store it for up to 3 weeks
- When ready to use, mix water and the seaweed mixture in ration 1:1 and pour in your watering can. Apply to the soil around plants
Making your own homemade flower food
Flowers love fresh water. What they love even more is a little flower food. Sure, you can get it at all florists shops and most likely if someone sent you flowers, they would come with a small packet of flower food.
This homemade flower food recipe is remarkably simple and effective. You will need:
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon bleach
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice or lime juice
- 950 ml lukewarm water
PIN for later =)
In addition to making your own flower food, there are also certain simple tricks that can help keep your flowers blooming for longer. Check out this handy infographic that shows you just a few tricks the florists have up their sleeve.