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I longed for huge pumpkins for Halloween, tall sunflowers and plentiful chili and tomato plants, and I found that even with repeated mulching throughout the season, my plants were missing a boost of nutrients, so I made my own natural liquid feeds or fertilizers.
Now, I have sunflowers nearly 15 feet tall, tomatoes ripening nicely, three repeat harvests of chili peppers, squash and pumpkin harvests which don’t seem to stop as well as luscious peaches the size of baseballs, and not to mention, numerous crops of broccoli which are on a cut-and-come-again rotation!
The growth was astounding in a short space of time and in this post I would like to share with you step by step how to make your own liquid fertilizers.
Making your own liquid fertilizers is incredibly easy, super thrifty, less wasteful and you will be able to see the benefits very quickly.
To make the recipes below you will need the following equipment:
• Stick to stir
• Old jars or bottles to store the liquid
Tips for Using Homemade Fertilizers
Try to use a container which can be covered to reduce the risk of mosquitoes laying eggs and their larvae thriving in the stagnant water.
Water the plants first before feeding with the fertilizers to ensure plants take up the appropriate amount and to reduce salt-burns.
There are lots of things you can use to make your own natural fertilizers which you may have already in your garden or homestead.
1. The chickens are a leading contributor to my fertilizer with their manure, 2. Bedding from the coop, feathers and all the bits of greens and everything else they didn’t eat can all be used, 3. Weeds, 4. Grass clippings, 5. Seaweed meal.
Below are some recipe guidelines for you to create your own liquid feeds to use in your vegetable garden.
A word of caution however, these smell terrible!
'Gardener's Revenge' Liquid Fertilizer
Perennial weeds should not be placed into the compost heap unless you know that you will get the heap to heat up enough to kill the weed and any seeds. You can however, drown the weeds then place them in the compost heap so nothing is wasted.
I think this is the easiest liquid fertilizer to make since it only requires enough weeds to fill the bucket.
Filling the bucket with pesky weeds.
• Fill your bucket with at least 1/2 way with weeds. I fill a 5 gallon bucket all the way with a variety of weeds including foxtail grass, fat hen, pig weed, couch grass, bindweed and some unknown weeds which sprout up over and over again. I add in everything, roots, flowers, leaves etc.
• Chop them up a bit using garden shears or pruners for faster decomposition then cover with water. Rainwater is ideal but tap water should be fine; there is some debate about using tap water and the general consensus seems to be to allow the chlorine to dissipate 24 hours before using. I use the secondary water from my city which isn’t treated.
• After 2-4 weeks, the weeds should be sludgy and when the water is disturbed, a pungent (ok, extremely bad) smell released.
• The water should be drained off into bottles or containers and labelled with the contents.
• To use, dilute around 1/4 to 1/2 cup in 2 gallon watering can for general watering. If using as a foliar feed, reduce the quantity to around 2 table spoons to a gallon of water to avoid leaf-burn.
• If the smell does become a bit overpowering, water the plants and garden afterwards and the smell will dissipate. I try to feed the plants on a windy day so it doesn’t settle and disturb the neighbors too much.
• The sludgy weeds can now be placed on the compost pile, these also smell terrible so put them amongst other layers or place layers straight on top.
Seaweed Liquid Fertilizer
Another easy fertilizer to make. You will need some fresh or dried seaweed. If you live on the coast, it is easy to forage for seaweed, particularly after a storm.
Check with local regulations to make sure you can forage in your area and research protected species so you don't accidentally take something which is protected.
Flamborough Head, East Coast of England
If you are using fresh seaweed, wash the salt off by thoroughly rinsing with plenty of water then place in the bucket and top up with water and cover. You will want as much seaweed as the bucket can hold and equal amounts of water. It's ok to use different varieties of seaweed.
1. Leave for at least 8 weeks for the seaweed to start rotting down, stir the concoction every few days. The longer you leave the seaweed in the water, the better it is.
2. Drain off the liquid into bottles or containers and label them. The seaweed makes a wonderful addition to the compost pile or can be used as a mulch around plants, in containers or spread on the vegetable bed.
3. To use, dilute around 1/4 - 1/2 cup in 2-gallon watering can for general watering. If using as a foliar feed, reduce the quantity to around 2 table spoons to a gallon of water to avoid leaf-burn.
You could also use dried seaweed meal if you live in a landlocked location. Seaweed meals do vary, so you should experiment with the amount of seaweed meal to water, I would start at 2-3 cups in a 10-quart bucket.
Learn more recipes for natural fertilizers you can make at home in Part 2 of this post coming up.
Emma Raven has been gardening, cooking, canning and home brewing for most of her life. Formulation scientist, blogger, home brewer and avid gardener. Born in a village on the northern east coast of England, she now calls the Wasatch Mountains of Utah home. Find Emma at Misfit Gardening, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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