Fertiliser is a key element in your gardening strategy, with the right one improving the quality and the quantity of whatever it is you’re trying to grow. That’s why most professional and good home gardeners have their own secret mix for what works best for them. But can you make fertilisers yourself at home? It’d be a lot cheaper, and could cut out the long (and not so great for the environment) manufacturing process.
In short, yes, you can!
Read on as we introduce you to some great home D.I.Y sources of nutrients for your plants.
Manure is one of the most popular products for making your soil more fertile, but you need to be careful of what animal it comes from. Any animal that has a diet of grass, grain, or plant matter is a good bet to use. Due to its organic nature, it’s generally safe to work into your soil, and is unlikely to taint any produce you might eat.
The reason it is so good is because of the organic matter in it; loads of nitrogen, and carbon.
Unfortunately though, you can’t go throwing just any manure in your garden. Cat, dog, and human (gross!) are definite no goes, and can make you incredibly sick.
How to DIY? – Take a drive to a local farm (or make a day trip if you’re in the city) and pick up some raw animal manure. Some places you can get it for free, others sell it for cheap as chips ($1-2/ big bag). Bring it home and stick it in a pot, and run it under some water for a couple of minutes; this will help wash out any weed seeds, and can reduce the salt levels. You can either go and dig it through your soil straight away, or mix it through a compost heap to help boost that along too.
Another popular fertiliser is compost. It enriches your soil with the essential nutrients (N,P,K) and is another natural organic matter option. As the organic matter breaks down in your soil by microbial nutrient by-products are released into the soil, and this is how you fertilise your plants! The down side though, compost may increase the pH of your soil, making it more acidic.
How to DIY? – All those food scrap from your fruit and veggies can usually go straight into a compost bin at home. Let it sit and turn it over regularly, and you’ll be getting the process going. Once it’s broken down, mix it through your soil!
This can be another great fertiliser for your garden, and is a little bit more of an evolution from your compost heap. It contains all your nutrients, plus some trace element nutrients that are important for your plants. It can also contain beneficial microorganisms, which when introduced to your plants root zone, can promote good soil health leading to better plant growth.
How to DIY? – You’ll need a worm farm for this, which works pretty much the same as your compost heap, but has a few more layers where you can separate the good stuff. Castings can be the solids left over, or the ‘juice’ that you get from the farm, and you can buy specific kits and farms that come with a little reservoir to collect and a tap to get it out.
Ground coffee beans.
If you brew your own coffee, you’re in luck, because these are a pretty decent source of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus for your plants.
How to DIY – Once you’ve brewed your cup of coffee, give your beans a rinse with cold water, and throw them straight into your soil! Simple as that. The more you rinse them (and this includes the drink brewing stage), the more you bring their pH to neutral, and the less acidic they are for your soils and plants. This is great for plants that love nitrogen (anything that you want big green leaves on) or plants that prefer acidic soils (tomatoes, azaleas, roses). Don’t be tempted to toss straight, un-brewed beans on though, and they’ll be too strong and likely burn your plants.
There are a lot more natural fertilisers which can be used for your garden. Pick your favourite, and try and learn as much about it as you can and soon you’ll have your own secret formula! Got a favourite that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!