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Category Archives for Soil Building

Homemade Fertilizer for your Garden- An Easy to Make Natural Fertilizer

Homemade Fertilizer for your Garden- An Easy to Make Natural Fertilizer

Homemade fertilizer … Is that really an option as a gardener?  Don’t I need that expensive store bought natural fertilizer?  You are one of those folks who likes to do it yourself while in your vegetable & flower gardens.  You feel that throwing away food scraps into the landfill is a waste.  Here are a couple easy ways to make your homemade fertilizers that you can either store for later usage or mix with water or compost tea to use as a liquid fertilizer.

Tell me more about homemade fertilizersHomemade Fertilizer for your Garden

Let’s preface this that you already have the knowledge about the basics of fertilizers.  Check out these posts in the links that delve deeper into topics such as slow release fertilizers and water soluble fertilizers.  Basically, your plants need some food in order to thrive and grow abundantly.  Why not be the garden hero and do your part to save the world & grow some kick @ss tomatoes at the same time? (Trying to keep these posts PG, so my girls can read this stuff)  There are a ton of benefits of making your own homemade fertilizer.  We will go over some of those plus give a few easy recipes

Why not be the garden hero and do your part to save the world and grow some kick ass tomatoes at the same time? Click to Tweet

Homemade Fertilizer Benefits

  • These fertilizers are also considered organic.  Yes, you can say you made homemade organic fertilizer to all your earth loving friends.
  • Adding these to your garden will build your garden soil structure thereby increasing water and air movement throughout the soil.  You know that soil is a living organism and building healthy soil should be the goal of every gardener. (More on that later)
  • These fertilizers tend NOT to acidify your soil which will support the earthworms & microorganisms in your soil.
  • Reusing these materials will keep them out of the ever growing landfills.  (Super hero garden power activated)

Natural Fertilizer Recipe Disclaimer

The recipes shared here are what we use in our own gardens.  One of the drawbacks of using homemade fertilizers is that the NPK ratios are not accurate.  You can use these for more of a long term way of building soil. They are safe to use in moderate amounts throughout the growing seasons.  You will still need to use other slow release fertilizers such as bone meal, blood meal, greensand, etc as they are much easier to dial in the correct amounts of NPK.  We also use other water soluble fertilizers such as fish fertilizer and other organic means.  Now that we got that out of the way, let’s see what recipes you garden superheroes can make.  We provided the average NPK ratios with each recipe as a guide.

Homemade Fertilizer Recipe #1Homemade Fertilizer

  • 1 Cup Coffee Grounds (2- 0.5- 0.5)-primary usage is for Nitrogen.
  • 20 Banana Peels (0-3-42)- 1 peel has a ton of Potassium
  • 20 Eggshells (1.2-0.4-.1) – Great source of calcium
  • 0.5 lbs Epsom Salts – Used as a balancer that has magnesium and sulfur

Sprinkle about 2-3 tablespoons around each plant every few weeks.

Instructions & Prep notes for this recipe

You can source coffee grounds from your own spent coffee grains or from Starbucks.  I would not recommend using unused coffee grounds as it can be acid forming.  We like to source our coffee grounds from star bucks in large amounts.  You can dump bags of it into your compost piles and also use some of the grounds to make our homemade fertilizer.  It is ideal to save about 20 banana peels to have enough.   You can store the peels in the freezer to keep them from spoiling until you are ready to process the. The eggshells are rinsed with water and also stored in a bag in the freezer.

You want to make sure that you dry the banana peels, coffee grounds, and eggshells in your oven at about 150 degrees.  You are not cooking them, but rather drying up the peels, grains and shells of the water content.  This dried natural fertilizer will keep much longer once the water content has been removed.  The banana peels will take the longest to dry such as 5-6 hours.  You want them to be almost brittle or leathery like so that they  can become a powder when you blend them.  The optimal way would be to use a food dehydrator as you may know some older ovens may not go as low as 140 degrees.

Next, you will need to use a coffee grinder or blender to pulverize all the ingredients to have a powder.  It is ideal to store this powder in a tupperware or some other airtight container.  You can sprinkle this homemade fertilizer directly around your plants in the garden.  Another option is to mix this up with compost tea to use as a water soluble fertilizer.

Homemade Fertilizer Recipe #2

  • 2 parts of Blood Meal
  • 3 parts of Bone Meal
  • 6 parts of greensand

Instructions for this Natural Fertilizer recipe

This homemade fertilizer recipe is a broad recipe that will give you a balanced NPK. We can’t give you a precise NPK ratio, but recommend to look on the packaging to get the manufacturers NPK amounts and adjust accordingly.  This is what we use about a week after we plant as it takes a little time to break down.  We sprinkle a couple of tablespoons around the base of the plant and scratch it in so it doesn’t wash away.

Ready to go

There you have it.  You are now armed with some homemade fertilizer recipes that can incorporated into your garden.  Maybe you have done your part of saving the world one banana peel and eggshell at a time.  Spending the time to make these natural fertilizers will also give you a sense of accomplishment in knowing your plants will get copious amounts of the right nutrition.  Thereby, you will also benefit from what your plants eat as you are what you eat.

Water Soluble Fertilizer – NPK Fertilizers Series Part 2

Water Soluble Fertilizer – NPK Fertilizers Series Part 2

water soluble fertilizerSo wait are you telling me that there are different types of fertilizers.  There’s slow release fertilizers and now you add water soluble fertilizer to the mix.  You have to understand that feeding your plants is just like feeding yourself.  Think of it this way in terms of nutrition & health.  You can either take a mega load of vitamins & minerals, eat raw foods with the same vitamins & minerals or you can get an IV solution intravenously.  All of these ways will ultimately get you the nutrients that your body needs.

Your body will process & absorb the IV solution much faster since it is in a liquid form & already broken down.  Of course, there’s more to it, but you get the idea of how simple the differences are.  In terms of fertilizers, just think of fertilizers as how quickly your plant can absorb their food.  It is important to know this distinction as a gardener.  Deliver the right food at the right time.

Types of Water Soluble Fertilizer

Water soluble fertilizers are basically any type of fertilizer that mixes with water.  It is a liquid form of NPK fertilizers that is readily available for your plant.  These fertilizers can be applied by watering the base of your plants and is absorbed through the roots of the plant.  The fertilizers can also be applied by watering the leaves and absorbed as a foliar feed as well.  Basically, there are many different types, but let’s break down the 2 main groups of water soluble fertilizers: Organic & Inorganic Fertilizers.Water Soluble Fertilizer NPK Fertilizers Series Part 2

Organic Fertilizer – Mother Nature’s food for plants

A water soluble fertilizer that falls into this category will be liquid organic fertilizers such as fish fertilizer, seaweed (kelp) fertilizer, compost tea or some combination of other naturally occurring organic matters.  The organic fertilizer products should have a label on them that highlight how much NPK fertilizer they contain.  This is true for either organic fertilizers or inorganic fertilizers, so go back to the basics when you need to select how much NPK fertilizer you need for each plant.

Some of the benefits of using Organic fertilizers:

  • Organic fertilizers supply the plants with naturally occurring nutrients.  There is an old adage that says you are what you eat.
  • Safe way to build your soil.  There are tiny microbes in your soil that are part of your garden.  It is vital that you have as many of these microbes available.  Generally speaking most organic fertilizers are safe for these microbes and they tend to thrive in environments with organic materials.
  • You plant roots will not burn from applying too much.  This does not mean go out and dump a whole bottle of fish fertilizer on your tomatoes to get bigger.  It is just a distinction between some inorganic fertilizers.
  • Organic fertilizers are biodegradable, sustainable, replenishable, and safe for the environment.

Some disadvantages of Organic fertilizers:

  • The nutrients may not break down as fast as soon as you need them.  There is slight advantage of chemical fertilizers that it is absorbed much faster by the plants.  Most gardeners would not notice the difference, but experiment with your plants if you want to see the differences for yourself.  Its all part of being a gardener to get out there and get dirty & not just take my word.
  • Nutrient ratios are often skewed for commercially available products.  It is safe to assume that you will get the correct ratios in these products, but it is often higher in certain nutrients since organic matters have a range of nutrition.  Really this is an advantage, but still want to give you the full picture.
  • Organic fertilizers tend to be more costly than inorganic fertilizers.

Inorganic Fertilizer – Are they really as evil as most think?

Water soluble fertilizers that fall into this category would be flagstaff products from Miracle-Gro or Scotts brands.  Both have inorganic too, so not knocking either of them.  The biggest distinction is in how it is made and what it is made from.  They are derived from synthetic compounds such as ammonium phosphate.  Usually the sources of some the compounds are found in rocks & petroleum products.  MMMkay..so is this really bad for my plants?  The answer is yes and no (sorry to bust everyone who is all organic).  There are some benefits to using them, but it is a short list.

Good things about Inorganic Fertilizers like Miracle-Gro

  • Nutrients are readily available to the plants much quicker.  (You really need to test this to see)what is miracle grow fertilizer
  • The NPK ratios are exact.  They have sliced and diced these chemicals to be spot on.
  • They cost much less than organic fertilizers.

Inorganic Fertilizer’s Ugly Side

  • Long term usage of them can change your pH of your soil.  This is not good for your beneficial microbes in your soil.  The goal of any gardener is to build your soil over time.
  • You can easily over fertilize your plants and harm the roots or what is know as root burn
  • Chemical fertilizers do nothing to help improve your soil structure and potentially damage it in the long term as the chemicals can build over extended time.
  • The inorganic fertilizers tend to made from nonrenewable sources such as fossil fuels

What is the best liquid fertilizer?

Ok, at this point you now know that water soluble fertilizers will help me grown squash like a boss.  You know the differences between organic and inorganic fertilizers.  Remember, that water soluble fertilizers are best for plants that need the nutrients much faster.  So maybe this may be good for your container plants, or when you just plant your seedlings, or maybe for your supplemental feedings throughout the season.  So what do you do next when deciding.

  1.  Go back to the basics and figure out what ratio of NPK you need for each plant.  Write that down.
  2.  Now decide if you want to go the organic or inorganic route
  3. Choose between the actual liquid form or the powder that your mix with water.

There you have it! You know have a better understanding of what a water soluble fertilizer is.  Now get out there and get dirty.

Slow Release Fertilizers – NPK Fertilizers Series Part 1

Slow Release Fertilizers – NPK Fertilizers Series Part 1

Have you ever stood in the home & garden aisle only to be faced with a mega load of fertilizers?  Did you think NPK was some hot tech stock? Do I really need this stuff to get big tomatoes or survive on a homestead?  Let’s sort through the different choices to help you use slow release fertilizer like a boss and just get back to the basics in your garden (or “gaarrden” if you could imagine a Boston accent). We are going to discuss all about NPK Fertilizers and dig deeper into the slow release fertilizers or in soluble fertilizers.

Slow Release Fertilizer – What’s the deal yo!!

Slow release fertilizer is simply another way of describing food for plants that takes a much longer time to break down in the soil.  This is in essence what you want for the long term goal of building healthy soil for your garden, or allotment (for all those on the other side of the pond).  This fertilizer or food is not readily available for your plant, but is slowly released in the soil over an extended period of time.  The best sources of slow release fertilizers tend to be organic fertilizers such as compost that is rich & dense in hummus. How does one go about knowing where to get them? Let’s first explore what NPK fertilizers means.NPK Fertilizer Series Slow Release Fertilizer

NPK Fertilizer- What does NPK mean?

NPK Fertilizers is the term that is used to describe the different components in fertilizers.  You will see the numbers displayed is a set of 3s such 11-10-5.  The first number is N, the second number is P, and the third number represents K.  Stick with me here, this will all make sense as you read on.

A Fertilizer example would be NPK of 13-10-5

  • N -stands for nitrogen and is represented by the number of 13 in the fertilizer example above
  • P -stands for phosphate and is represented by the number 10 in the fertilizer example above
  • K- stands for potassium and is represented by the number 5 in the fertilizer example above

Kudos to you for following all this. You’ll be the expert when you see a clueless person standing next to you in the garden aisle next time.

Slow Release Fertilizer Examples

You can simply break down the different sources of slow release or insoluble fertilizers into 2 main groups.  The first group is the more natural materials that are derived from organic materials without refinement.  The second group can also be those made from a refinement process.  This groups can be inorganic or organic.  Let’s see how you can distinguish them.

Nature’s materials- Nature’s way of slow release fertilizersslow release fertilisers

  • Some of examples of this would be cow manure (which is rich in N or nitrogen), leaves & other plant materials.
  • Egg shells, fruit peels, vegetable scraps are all other good examples.  These materials will take some time to break down in the soil.
  • A simple way to get use these materials is to start a compost pile.  You can also start a worm compost bin.  There is a video that we put together to show you a simple way to build worm compost bin. You can click here if you want to see it.  You may also want to check out a previous post here that shows you a live look in on the bin here.

Refined Materials

  • Some of the examples can be organic or inorganic.  These slow release fertilisers are refined in some way outside of their natural decomposition.
  • Some organic examples would be fertilizers that contain blood meal , bone meal, or greensand
  • Probably one of the more prominent examples of inorganic fertilizers would be most of the Miracle Grow products

Which slow fertilizer do I need to choose?

I really can’t make that choice for you.  You really need to decide what your plant needs.  Just keep in mind that the main point is that any of these fertilizers choices will break down slowly, so you really need to set your vegetable plants up ahead of time to get the results of big tomatoes or rocking squash.  You could also supplement your plants with more soluble fertilizers which are more readily available for use by the plant.  Use the knowledge of NPK to help make your choice depending on the actual varieties of the plants.

Check out this video below if you really want to use nature to the core to help build your soil.  It is called back to eden garden method.

Let us know in the comments on this post, what plant you need help with and we can point you in the right direction.  Now get out and get in your garden and get dirty.