Homemade Fertilizers – 15 Simple and Inexpensive Options

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Grow Your Own Groceries with Homemade Fertilizers

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?

Fertilize with Beer and Milk: A Simple Fertilizer From The Greek Gods

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.

Homemade fertilizers include fresh bananas

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.

Read more: How to Measure Your Favorite Organic Fertilizers

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 one cup each of epsom salts and alfalfa meal.  Dissolve this combination in four gallons of water and top it off with one 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 two percent nitrogen, about a third of a percent of phosphoric acid, and varying amounts of potash (generally less than one percent).  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 percent 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.  Hard wood 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 one 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 four weeks.  Use one 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.

Read more: How to Fertilize Your Container Gardens

Four 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 1000s of years. Give it a try in your garden for a quick and inexpensive dose of nutrients for your plants.

Instructions

• In a five 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 three 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 three day steeping, and then use the concentrate within a day or two.

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 1000s 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

Homemade fish emulsion fertilizers

Recipe #3 – Seaweed Fertilizer

Another fertilizer with a 1000 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 five gallon bucket and fill halfway with water (rain water is always best if it’s available)
• Loosely cover the container, and let the seaweed steep for about three 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 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 egg shell or 1/2 a dried banana peel for potassium (you can omit if using fish bones, but I would still add the egg shell for the calcium – especially for my tomatoes as it helps prevent blossom end rot)
• Fill the jug the rest of the way with water (again rain water 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.

Homemade manure tea fertilizer

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.

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 1/2 way with the tea and then fill it to the top with rain water. I use this every 3 weeks or so during the growing season.

Instructions

• Place a shovel full 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 two 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

Helpful resource: How Much Nutrient is in Your Homemade Fertilizer?

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!

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35 Cheap Organic Fertilizers to Power UP Your Garden

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Home gardeners spend millions each year on fertilizer for their gardens and houseplants. WOW! While many scientists agree that chemical fertilizer is harming the environment, organic fertilizer is draining our wallets. The good news is that you can easily make your own fertilizers from organic waste material and other things that you have around the house.

3 Reasons You Need Organic Fertilizer

Your plants need organic fertilizer because:

  1. Most soil does not provide the essential nutrients that are required for the best plant growth and production.
  2. Even if you are super lucky to have rich loamy soil that all of us crave, as your plants grow they absorb those nutrients and leave the soil less fertile.
  3. All of those beautiful flowers, fruits, and veggies that you grew last year took the nutrients that were in the soil. This year, your garden needs another boost of nutrients for this year’s plants.

Why It’s Important To Know Your Soil

While it’s important to fertilize your plants and the soil, it’s also important to know what your soil needs. That’s where a soil test comes in. Get one from your local county extension office. When you send in your sample, you’ll get the report. It tells you what your soil has in abundance and what you really need to add for best plant growth.

Also, soils vary in their ability to hold nutrients and make them available to plants. Sandy soils do not hold nutrients well, clay soils do. However, clay soils do not like to give up the water they hold, so it is more difficult for plants to take up the nutrients that are available.

Which Do I Need A Soil Amendment Or Organic Fertilizer?

Soil amendments are mixed with soil to improve the physical properties or increase microbial action. It makes a plant’s roots happy and healthy. Amendments improve the soil’s water retention, permeability, drainage, air holding capacity, and structure.

Fertilizers are soil amendments that are applied to promote plant growth not change the soils characteristics.

The short answer is you need both. Okay, so what’s the difference? Soil Amendments are added to…well…the soil!  You can add them before, during, or after planting. However, the nutrients are not readily available for the plants to take up. Microorganisms in the soil need to break them down further so the plants can use the nutrients in the amendment. Fertilizers are pretty close to being available for the plants to get their nutrients pretty quickly. Think of soil amendments like eating your favorite veggie. The nutrients in that veggie aren’t readily available for your body to use right away. Your body has to digest it for the nutrients to be available for your body to use.

Organic vs. Inorganic Manufactured Fertilizer

Organic fertilizer comes from the remains of or are because of different types of organisms. Microorganisms found in the soil breakdown the organic material, making its nutrients readily available to the plants.

Inorganic fertilizers completely or partially contain man-made materials. Manufacturers combine these in different ways and amounts to get a super-growth fertilizer that may or may not be organic. Many inorganic fertilizers are manufactured using fossil fuels, too.

TIP: Over use of inorganic fertilizers or adding a fertilizer that your soil or plants don’t need can lead to a buildup of salts and other minerals in the soil causing damage to your plants. It can also be a waste of money. More is not better when it comes to any kind of fertilizer!

Organic Fertilizer

Organic fertilizer releases nutrients slowly and decreases the risk of over-fertilization. The slow release of nutrients also means they are available for a longer period of time. Many organic fertilizers improve your soil, by increasing your soil’s ability to hold water and nutrients. They will also help decrease erosion and hard, packed soil due to wind and rain. Organic fertilizer adds natural nutrients, feeds important microbes, and improves the soil structure.

On the downside, organic fertilizer is released slowly so your plants will be nutrient deficient until the decomposing process is completed, and some organic fertilizers contain lower percentages of the three key nutrients: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (N-P-K). Timing is everything with any fertilizer. The best time is to add them when your soil is waiting to be planted.

TIP: There are fast-acting organic fertilizers, too. Bat guano, fish meal, and worm casting all have nutrients readily available for plants.

 

You’ve probably already read about
15 of the best fertilizers here.

Here are 35 more great fertilizers to consider:

  1. Worm castings
 – Worm castings are soil superfood! They provide nitrogen and make soil absorbent. A huge number of beneficial microbes and bacteria are introduced to the soil, too.
  2. Beer
 – The jury is out on this one. Many tests have shown that beer doesn’t add anything, but some people swear by it. Beer is a simple sugar and plants need complex sugars. Scientifically speaking, it probably doesn’t work. However, it does work to get rid of slugs and is a great cool down on a hot gardening day! Also, if you brew your own beer or live near a microbrewery, you might want to use “Beer Mash” (the grains leftover from making beer). It’s a great soil amendment.
  3. Ammonia
 – Ammonia naturally occurs in the soil. There are microbes in the soil that pull nitrogen from the air and put it into the soil in the form of ammonia. The amount is what is important here. Use 1 or 2 ounces per gallon of water mixed with molasses. Microbes love this stuff. If you’re uncomfortable using man-made ammonia, you can always slide down the list and use urine instead.
  4. Liquid Dish Soap
 – This is another one that is up for debate. There are a lot of studies that show that dish detergent (made with a lot of chemicals) is harmful to plants. However, there are some organic dish soaps that will help your “supertonic” to penetrate the soil. You only need a couple of drops in 32 oz. of water to get the job done. Remember, more is not better!
  5. Dog and Cat Food
 – Make sure that it is an organic pet food. Sprinkle the dry pet food on the bed or container. Turn the soil or water it in. It provides protein to feed the fungi and bacteria, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium, plus other minerals. To discourage vertebrae pests, be sure to cover this fertilizer with cardboard.
  6. Tea
 – Tea and tea bags are excellent for your garden. As the bag and tea decompose, they release nitrogen. First, make sure your tea bag is compostable. You don’t want the ones made of polypropylene. If the bag is slippery, don’t use it in the garden. Tea also makes a great brew for acid-loving plants like azaleas and blueberries. Tea also helps deter some root maggots.
  7. Bone Meal
 – Alright so this is a stretch for just having some lying around the house. However, bone meal is a really good source of phosphorus and protein. It is coarsely ground animal bones and waste products. Make sure you need phosphorus in your soil before adding it. A soil test is your best friend in the garden. However, if you want to make your own bone meal, here’s what you do: 1. Collect bones by storing them in the freezer. 2. Clean them by making a bone broth. 3. Once they are clean, sterilize them. Place them on a baking sheet under the broiler for 10-15 minutes. 4. Dry the bones by placing the cooking sheet on the counter for about three to four weeks. They need to be completely dry. 5. Crush them into a fine powder with a food processor. If you use a mortar and pestle, be sure to wear a mask over your nose and mouth. 6. It is now ready to use.
  8. Antacid Tablets
 – If your soil is low in calcium, this should be a go-to. It helps prevent blossom end rot in your tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Push one tablet into the soil by the plant’s roots. Voila! Instant calcium boost.
  9. Coconut Coir
 – Coconut coir has become the replacement for the non-renewable Peat Moss. This soil amendment adds air and space to assist with water retention and nutrient uptake. It makes a great seedling starter!
  10. Humanure – (To prevent pathogens and disease, only use for fruit and nut tree, not vegetables)
 Okay, I hear you with your “Ewww’s,” but hear me out. This organic material is a valuable resource rich in soil nutrients. In the U.S., each of us wastes more than a thousand pounds of humanure each year. Composting is key! It takes a year to fully compost human feces and breakdown the pathogens. For more information, check out The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins.
  11. Newspaper
 – Makes a great mulch and soil amendment. The added bonus is that the soil-based ink kills diseases in the soil. It can be shredded or laid in a thick layer on your beds. It is best to wet the newspaper before applying.
  12. Comfrey
 – This deep-rooted herb was once a traditional remedy to help heal broken bones. Its vast root system acts as an accumulator by extracting a wide range of nutrients from deep in your soil. These nutrients naturally accumulate in its fast-growing leaves. Cut 4 to 5 pounds (1.8 to 2.27 kg) of leaves from each plant. It is super-rich in nitrogen and potassium. Some research has shown that comfrey leaves have 2 to 3 times more potassium than farmyard manures!
  13. Urine
 – Yes, you read that right! Human urine is an excellent source of nitrogen. It is great to add to compost tea or your compost pile as an activator. Pathogens, disease, and toxins are quickly killed within 24 hours of leaving your body. Dilute the urine with water in a ratio 1::2 and water your plants.
  14. Citrus rinds – 
Stir those rinds right into the soil. As they break down, they’ll release sulfur, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and more nutrients. You can also dry the peels and grind them into a fine powder that can be added to the soil.
  15. Kelp meal or seaweed
 – Kelp contains small amounts of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, but it’s very high in trace elements, too. Typically, you’ll mix this liquid fertilizer with water. Use it as a foliar spray or pour it onto the soil around plants.
  16. Granite dust – 
Granite is made of volcanic rock. It is filled with more than 60 different elements, including potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Trace elements in granite make the soil nutrient dense. Be sure to read the label!
  17. Green manures
 – This is a favorite! Green manures are a fall cover crop that is grown on beds or pastures before or after crops or flowers to add nutrients back into the soil as they grow. They get turned under after their season. Some green manures include clovers, vetch, rye, and mustards.
  18. White Vinegar
 – There is a lot of chatter on the Internet about white vinegar changing the pH level of your soil. Tests have shown that it may have a temporary effect, but it is nearly impossible to change the pH of your soil, except over the very long-term. However, feed your container plants with a mixture of 1 Tablespoon of vinegar, 1 tablespoon of sugar in 8 ounces of water. Bring the mix to a slow boil until the sugar dissolves. Then, let it cool and feed those hungry plants.
  19. Grass clippings and Weeds – These are an excellent source of nitrogen and potassium for your fertilizer teas. Put the clippings in a 5-gallon bucket filled with water. Cover and let marinate for 3 to 4 weeks. You’ll have a lovely batch of “green” fertilizer tea.
  20. Mushrooms
 – The part of the mushroom that you see is actually the fruiting body. In the soil is where the real magic happens. Fungi are part of the soil web that helps bring nutrients to your plants.
  21. Borax
 – Some plants of the Brassica Family, like broccoli and cauliflower need boron (found in borax). Be sure to do a soil test to see if your soil needs boron. If it does, sprinkle 1 Tablespoon over 100 linear feet.
  22. Bat guano
 – Whether fresh or dry, bat poo adds a heavy dose of nitrogen to the soil. It acts fast and has very little odor. It also helps enrich the soil and help with drainage and texture. Add it directly to the soil or make a bat guano tea!
  23. Rabbit droppings
 – Bunny poo has a high concentration of nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as other trace minerals. It can be added directly into the soil or added to your compost pile. Bunny Poo Tea can be made using a 5-gallon bucket, a shovel full of rabbit pellets, add water, and let steep for two days. Water the soil when it’s ready!
  24. Chicken feathers – Feathers from your backyard chickens add nitrogen to your compost pile, and eventually, the garden. First, put them into your compost pile to let them decompose.
  25. Shellfish – 
Lobster, shrimp, and crab shells provide nutrients, including phosphorus. However, the bacteria that breaks them down is even more important! Simmer the shells for 20 to 30 minutes in boiling water. Drain well. Put them in a food dehydrator or oven until dry. Crush the shells with a mortar and pestle. Add to your compost pile or directly into the soil.
  26. Baking Soda – 
In order to sweeten tomatoes and discourage pests, lightly sprinkle baking soda on the soil.
  27. Compost
 – Compost is a great soil amendment and provides nutrients and micro-organisms to your soil. The microorganisms make the nutrients available for the plants to take up. However, some research is showing that compost teas are ineffective. Basically, it is watering down the nutrients in the compost, and doesn’t make it any more available to the plants to take up. Click here to read more about boosting your compost pile.
  28. Alfalfa
 – Alfalfa is commonly used as part of livestock feed. However, alfalfa meal is simply ground up so that it breaks down faster. This particular fertilizer has low amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. As a result, alfalfa meal works fairly slow. The best use for this fertilizer is as a soil amendment in the early spring prior to planting crops.
  29. Nettles
 – The stinging hairs of the nettle plant may deter you from using this bad boy, but if you can stand it, put your harvest into a 5-gallon bucket, and cover them with water. In 3 to 4 weeks, you’ll have wonderful plant food for your garden.
  30. Hydrogen Peroxide
 – Your plants’ roots will thank you for a little extra oxygen. Mix 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide with 2 cups of water. Water your plant’s roots with the solution.
  31. Pine needles or Straw
 – Adding pine needles supplies nitrogen to your soil. It also adds bulk that will bring in the beneficial microbes to help break them down.
  32. Blood Meal
 – Add crucial nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen to the soil by using blood meal to promote healthy plant growth. Want to make your own blood meal? You can! Gather the blood. If you’re a woman, use your menstrual blood by collecting it in a menstrual cup. You can gather it from your meals, or from butchering some of your animals, too. Either way, pour the blood onto a baking sheet. Put it into a 375° oven. Keep it in the oven until all the blood is completely dry, about 20 minutes. Let cool. Scrape the dried blood off the baking sheet and into a container. Use a mortar and pestle to ground the blood into a fine powder.
  33. Fish Emulsion
 – Fish emulsion fertilizer is high in nitrogen but pretty stinky! It is also very acidic and should be used lightly to avoid burning plants. Nonetheless, fish emulsion acts immediately once it is applied, which makes it a good treatment for leafy greens that are suffering from low nitrogen levels. Be sure to experiment. Some plants may not tolerate it very well. There is a recipe below!
  34. Ground oyster shells
 – You may or may not have access to oyster shells, but they are a slow-release fertilizer to keep your garden healthy. Crush them into small pieces and bury them in the garden. The calcium carbonate in the shells will make the soil alkaline. Again, make sure you know your soil before adding this amendment.
  35. Nut Shells – 
Pop the nut in your mouth and toss the shell into the garden. It’s a win-win! Nut shells add bulk, which will allow water and nutrients to get to the plant roots. Microbes will be super-happy with your discarded shells.

Five More Easy Homemade Fertilizers

Comfrey Tea

What you’ll need:

  • Brick to hold the comfrey leaves down
  • Big bucket or plastic trash can with a lid
  1. Submerge your leaves for 3 to 5 weeks in a bucket or trash can of water. It depends on the warmth of  your climate.
  2. Mix the comfrey solution with more water to dilute (so it doesn’t damage or burn the root systems of plants), a 1::3 (water) ratio should work.
  3. Store in a cool dark place.

WARNING: Comfrey Tea stinks like crazy, but is OH-so good for your plants!

 

 

For Acid Loving Plants

Mix 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in one gallon of water. Hand water your acid loving plants.

Seed Starter Organic Fertilizer

What you’ll need:

  • 1 drop of organic liquid dish soap
  • 2 drops of ammonia
  • 1 tablespoon of worm castings
  1. Place the above into a one quart misting bottle.
  2. Fill with water.
  3. Shake it gently and mist the surface of the seed container every day until you start to see little sprouts.

Homemade Fish Emulsion

Don’t buy fish emulsion. You can make it with this recipe! Click here to get the homemade recipe.

 

 Apartment (or Condo) Container Garden Smoothie Fertilizer

What you’ll need:

  • Compost bucket
  • Blender
  • Kitchen scraps
    • Egg shells
    • Vegetable scraps
    • Banana peel broken into small pieces
    • Old coffee grounds
    • Used bulk herbs from herbal teas
    • Spent fruit (non-moldy)
    • Stale sea-vegetables
  1. Place all scraps in blender.
  2. Fill blender halfway with water. Don’t add too much water because there is already liquid in your kitchen scraps. (You don’t want your blender to explode compost all over the kitchen!)
  3. Place lid on blender.  Start on a low setting and puree until everything is combined and becomes a liquid.
  4. Feed it to your container soil.

Other Options:

  • Pour it on top of the soil, and let it sit for 24 hours. Then, water it in or turn the soil.
  • Water it in as soon as you put it on the container’s soil.
  • If you already have plants in place, pour the mixture into large bucket and fill with water.  Then pour the water-liquid over soil.

There are a lot of different types of fertilizers for you to try. However, use what you have locally or in your home to save you some money. If you are in the Midwest, there is no point in ordering Oyster Shells. Use what you have! Whether you are a Hobby Farmer or a Container Gardener, here are your first steps in a nutshell (pun intended!)

  1. Start your compost pile. Regardless of what your soil test tells you, a compost pile will be an invaluable source of nutrients that will feed your soil’s microbes and your plants.
  2. Get a soil test to know and understand what your soil needs. More than likely your county extension office will have soil testing kits.
  3. Understand what your plants need at different times of the season. Are they growing, flowering, or needing to add roots? Fertilize at the right time with the right organic fertilizer!
  4. Make up a batch of fertilizer that is just right for your garden. Experiment. Learn. Have fun!
  5. Remember that gardening is an adventure. Try different things and make note of the results. Some things may work better for you than others. You be the judge!

 

What’s your favorite organic fertilizer and how do you use it in your garden? Tell us in the comments below. We’d love to hear about your gardening adventures!

Keep growing!

 

 

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The post 35 Cheap Organic Fertilizers to Power UP Your Garden appeared first on The Grow Network.

Fertilizing Vegetable Gardens Organically – When, How And What To Use!

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When it comes to fertilizing vegetable gardens, nothing can top good old, time-tested organic solutions! Not only are they safe to use on the plants that will feed your family, they are extremely economical. Organic fertilizers, with their natural nutrients,

The post Fertilizing Vegetable Gardens Organically – When, How And What To Use! appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

Unbelievable Hydrogen Peroxide Uses In Garden You Should Know

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Is it possible? Are there Hydrogen Peroxide Uses in the garden? Well, yes, it can be useful! Read on to find out how.

How & Why Hydrogen Peroxide is So Useful

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) has an extra oxygen atom than Water (H2O), this extra oxygen atom breaks down and the molecule of water releases from this separately. It is this extra oxygen atom that makes the hydrogen peroxide so useful. The Hydrogen peroxide is used in cleaning, bleaching, sterilizing, as a disinfectant etc. but it can also be used in horticulture. In simple words, Hydrogen Peroxide acts as an oxygen supplement for plants (beneficial if used in low strength). It works by releasing oxygen and also aerates the soil.

Here’s a very helpful article if you like to read.

Hydrogen Peroxide Uses

1. Hydrogen Peroxide Uses Against Root Rot

Overwatering causes the shortage of Oxygen at the root zone. If you overwater the plant, the water fills the air spaces in soil and the plant’s roots suffocate due to the lack of air and they begin to die after 24 hours. To save such a plant from this problem, water it thoroughly with 3% hydrogen peroxide mixed in 1 quart of water. The extra oxygen in the hydrogen peroxide provides the roots their much-needed oxygen to survive. After this, don’t water the plant until top 1 or 2 inches of soil dries out well.

Read more about this here

2. Using Hydrogen for Faster Seed Germination

You can use hydrogen peroxide to help seeds germinate more quickly. Hydrogen peroxide softens the coat of seeds and kills any pathogen present on seed coat thus increase the germination rate and help the seed germinate faster. Soak your seeds in a 3% hydrogen peroxide for 30 minutes. Rinse the seeds several times with water before planting and plant them as usual.

3. Hydrogen Peroxide for Mold and Mildew

Hydrogen peroxide has an oxidizing property that is fatal for mold and mildew. Mix a liter of water with 10 tablespoons of 3 to 6% hydrogen peroxide depending on the level of infection. Spray this solution on plants daily until the fungus disappears.

4. Hydrogen Peroxide as a Fertilizer

Use hydrogen peroxide to help strengthen the root system of your plants. Hydrogen peroxide has one extra oxygen molecule (than water) that helps plant’s roots to absorb nutritions from soil more effectively, you can use this formula occasionally to boost the growth– Mix about 1 teaspoon of 3% Hydrogen peroxide with 1 gallon of water.

*Read more about this on eHow here.

Caveat: Make sure that you do not use more concentrated hydrogen peroxide as it can kill plants. 3% strength is the most familiar concentration and usually recommended.

5. To Keep Pests Away

The hydrogen peroxide can be used as a pesticide. Spraying the plant thoroughly with 3% hydrogen peroxide mixed in the equal amount of water kills the pests and their eggs. The hydrogen peroxide also kills the bacteria that develop on fruits and vegetables.

 

Source : balconygardenweb.com

 

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DIY Dry Banana Peels as Fertilizer

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How to dry banana peels and give a potassium boost to your garden | PreparednessMama

Did you know you can take dry banana peels and turn it into fertilizer for your garden? We eat a lot of bananas at our house so I like the idea that all the peels that we would normally compost can be used to benefit the garden. Homemade potassium fertilizer using banana peels is very […]

The post DIY Dry Banana Peels as Fertilizer appeared first on PreparednessMama.

Worm Farms: The Quick DIY Way To Make Fertilizer, Feed Chickens & Get Rid Of Food Scraps, Too

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Worm Farms: The Quick Way To Make Fertilizer, Feed Chickens & Get Rid Of Food Scraps, Too

Image source: Pixabay.com

Several years ago, Ohio State University researchers reported that there are “more microbes in a teaspoon of soil than there are people on the earth.” These microorganisms, of course, are essential to producing rich soil and strong, hardy plants.

And one big key to healthy soil is worms. Worms help compost your soil and add castings (“worm poop”) for proper soil nutrition. Liquid fertilizer then can be made from the worm castings (a fertilizer called worm “tea”). This worm tea boosts the activity of the microorganisms of the soil by adding things like bacteria and protozoa.

You can dramatically improve your soil’s quality with a worm farm, also known as vermiculture — a process in which worms are utilized to decompose the organic food waste into a material usable by the plants. This can be done at home in a cheap and easy setup, and it doesn’t need to be complicated. All you need is creativity and time!

There really is no end to the uses of your worms and their byproduct. Use them for:

  • Fertilizer.
  • As a way to get rid of rabbit poop.
  • Fishing.
  • As a way to get rid of vegetable scraps and coffee grounds.
  • Chicken feed.

You can get creative with your vermiculture, but there is a general structure that must be followed for success. You’ll need the following components:

  • Something to hold your worms.
  • Some newspaper.
  • Compost or soil.
  • Green waste.
  • Manure.
  • Worms (of course!).

Assembly

Think of a vermiculture setup like a compost bin with worms and a tap. The container can be anything from an old broken fridge to a wood bin. Whatever it is, you want to make sure it has a hole in the bottom for draining. If you use the fridge, lay it on its back, take all the stuff out, and drill a hole in the bottom.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

Make sure your worms are kept cool and are not in the sun! Also, avoid areas with vibrations.

Worm Farms: The Quick Way To Make Fertilizer, Feed Chickens & Get Rid Of Food Scraps, Too

A vermiculture training class at a garden center.

Now that you have your container, it’s time to work on the bedding. Start with the newspaper and rip it into little pieces. Don’t rip it all up, though. Keep some whole sheets for later. Soak it in water until mushy, and then mix well with soil. Take a few sheets of wet newspaper and place it at the bottom of the container as a base. Then, place the soil-compost mixture on top. Make sure there are a few inches of soil. (This depends on the bin and how many worms you have.)

Place the worms on top and they will burrow down into the soil. Place the green waste on one side of the worm bin. This is what the worms are going to eat. If you have some manure, great, put it on top. Use farm manure from pigs, rabbits or cattle, but not from house pets. I would not put more food than one-fourth of the soil you have. Believe it or not, they eat half their weight every day!

To finish assembling, put a lid on it and make sure to allow a small amount of light in to keep them in there. If you don’t have a top on your worms, you will have a breeding colony of flies and maggots.

Worms of choice are red wigglers or composting worms. Earthworms just don’t like to eat like the little red wigglers do. Worms are the most expensive part of the worm bin. You buy them by the pound. Start small if you have more time than money, or go big with a few pounds of worms to get castings quickly.

The nice part about worms is they multiply quickly. Adult red wiggler worms (three months old) can produce up to three cocoons per week. Each cocoon has about two to three worms. The cocoons take 11 weeks or so to hatch.

You even could make some income selling worms!

Tip: The main issue with vermiculture is that people often overwater their worm bins. You can drown your worms, so just keep the plant-based scraps and manures we described above as the main source of moisture. Worms love leaves, so put a layer of leaves on top to make them happy. Also, don’t use meat! This will turn your worm bin into a mess — and worms do not like it, either!

How do you use worms on the homestead? Do you have any vermiculture advice? Share your tips in the section below:

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Gardening Wisdom From The Native Americans

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Gardening Wisdom From The Native Americans

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

When we think of the Native Americans of centuries ago, we tend to think of a nomadic warrior people, living in teepees and following the buffalo herds. This image comes mainly from the Plains Indians, who depended on bison for their survival. But not all tribes were the same. Many were quite stable, living in the same place for years and augmenting the game they hunted with crops that they grew.

We need look no further than American history to confirm this. The Pilgrims, arriving at Plymouth, nearly died of starvation their first winter. But although some did die, many more survived. Their prosperity that next year was largely due to the local Native American tribe, which taught them how to successfully farm.

But the farming techniques of Native Americans were different than that of Europeans. They didn’t use draft animals and they didn’t plow the soil. This has led many to believe that their farms were simple slash-and-burn operations, where they cleared an area in the forest by killing off whatever was there and planted crops until their efforts depleted the soil, at which time they would move on to start a similar operation elsewhere.

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Nothing could be farther from the truth. A slash-and-burn operation would go contrary to the Native American’s way of life, which was much more in harmony with nature than Europeans or Anglo-Americans can imagine. To kill plants, merely to plant others, would be beyond their understanding.

Rather, the Indians farmed in harmony with nature, planting in many small beds. Their farms were sustainable as well, mostly depending on perennials that aren’t cultivated today. But by using perennials, they were able keep their gardens going, with less effort and greater yields. In some places, they cultivated over 250 varieties of plants, using the plants for everything from food, to construction, to building canoes and producing dyes and glues.

native americans -- FerdinandDeppe

Artist: Ferdinand Deppe

In fact, the yields of the Native Americans in the Northeast part of what is now the United States were so great that their corn (or maize) production regularly out-produced that of the wheat farmers of England. Part of this was due to the higher yield that corn produces, but part was due to their superior farming techniques — techniques that did not require plowing or draft animals.

So what can we learn from the farming style of Native Americans who lived nearly 400 years ago? Here’s just a few tips:

Start With the Soil

Any gardener knows that the most important part of any garden is the soil. Without good soil, no garden is going to produce well. In this, Native Americans in the past had an advantage, as the soil was deep and rich. In most parts, the soil had a high biomass content, which is essential to replacing the nutrients.

Native Americans also knew how to care for that soil. They didn’t plow the land like European farmers. Recent experimentation is proving that plowing is not healthy for the soil. More than anything, it brings the subterraneous microorganisms to the surface, where they die. By not plowing, you keep the soil healthier by keeping these microorganisms alive.

One of the most important subterraneous organisms in any garden are mycorrhizal fungi. These attach to the roots of plants, forming a symbiotic relationship with them. While the fungi feed off the plant, they also extend the roots system, drawing in water and nutrients for the plant. A garden with a good network of these fungi will grow faster, produce healthier plants, and bring higher yields of produce.

Fertilization

Any soil is going to need added nutrients to replace those used by the plants growing in the garden. Native Americans understood this and were constantly providing nutrition to the soil of their gardens.

Compost

Composting wasn’t a separate activity for Native Americans who farmed. They didn’t have a compost heap or compost bin. Rather, their gardens were their compost heaps. Leftover plant matter was cut up and placed directly in the garden to break down and provide nutrients.

At the same time, adding plant matter to the soil functioned like mulch, covering the soil and preventing weeds from growing. This basically eliminated the need to weed, preventing one more activity which would disturb the soil.

Potash

Potash is essentially wood ash. But the potash used by Native Americans went a bit farther than that. They would throw the bones from their kills in the fire, as well as the shells from bird eggs. This allowed the bones and shells to burn, breaking them down so that they were ready to add to the soil. Ashes were regularly spread on their vegetable gardens, providing valuable nutrients, especially calcium.

Urine

Urine is an almost perfect fertilizer, containing many of the essential nutrients that plants need for growth. However, in its natural state, it is too acidic. So Native Americans would mix urine with water to dilute it. The acid was still there, but it was not concentrated. Added to the garden, the potash, which was alkaline, would counteract the acid in the urine and bring the pH of the soil back into balance.

Urine also served the purpose of “marking” the garden, helping to keep some pests out. Animals regularly mark their territory, warning other animals. While this doesn’t serve as a warning sign to you and I, it does to raccoons and other animals who would love to feast at our gardens.

Fish

Gardening Wisdom From The Native Americans

Three sisters gardening method. Image source: USDA.gov

Another thing we should all remember from our elementary school lessons about the Pilgrims is the use of fish as a fertilizer. Not all tribes used fish, and those that did usually didn’t use the whole fish. Rather, they used the leftover parts from cleaning and eating the fish. Like urine, fish contains all the necessary nutrients for plant growth, making it one of the best fertilizers around.

No Chemicals

With the use of natural fertilizers, one major source of chemicals was eliminated from the Native American garden. Another way that they avoided chemicals is not using chemical pesticides. Granted, they didn’t have modern pesticides, but the point isn’t whether they had them or not, it’s whether they used them or not.

Not using chemicals in their gardens had another advantage. It made the garden a great habitat for toads, turtles, praying mantises and birds, who ate the insects which would otherwise destroy the plants in the garden.

Planting

Almost everyone who has grown a vegetable garden has heard of the “Three Sisters” – corn, beans and squash. This traditional means of planting was common for Native Americans. Each of these three provide benefits for the others, making them an excellent combination to plant together.

But Native Americans didn’t just plant the sisters together. Their gardens were a mixture of many different things. By mixing plant types, rather than making neat rows, they prevented insects from traveling from plant to plant, destroying them.

I mentioned earlier that Native Americans planted for sustainability, using many perennials. They also harvested in a way to prolong the life of the plants. Rather than dig up a plant and take all its fruit, they’d only remove what they needed at the time. With a potato plant, for example, they’d only take a few potatoes, covering the roots back up so that the plant could replace them.

Aquaculture

Although not as commonly thought of as part of gardening, aquaculture is an important aspect of farming. Some tribes depended greatly on freshwater water life as a part of their diet. The salmon in the Northwest, as well as fresh water shellfish, were consumed by various Native American tribes.

While they left these water creatures to thrive in the wild, they did cultivate them. Mostly, this was by improving their environment so that they could grow well. They moved rocks to create the most productive clam beds and transplanted salmon eggs to new stream beds. In this, they increased their yields of these creatures, helping to ensure an abundance of food.

What would you add? Share your thoughts on how Native Americans gardened in the section below:

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Here’s Why Your Should NEVER Rake Your Leaves

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Don’t Rake Your Leaves This Year! (Here’s Why)

Image source: Pixabay.com

In preparation for winter, many homeowners go through the grueling task of raking and bagging leaves. Maybe it isn’t a big deal for those with very small yards in the city, but it can be quite the workout in large yards or around rural homes.

Well, as it turns out, raking your leaves can lead to a more attractive yard but may not be the best idea. Why? Keeping leaves in your yard not only helps the creatures around the tree, but also boosts the health of your lawn, too. Read on to find out how to do it.

Why Leaves Fall

Deciduous trees lose their leaves in autumn as a survival method; no leaves means the tree can conserve water and energy to get it through the winter. As most aspects of nature, a tree losing its leaves doesn’t just help the tree but also assists the environment around it.

The many animals and insects around the tree are looking for shelter to get them through the upcoming winter. In a very wonderful way, the critters are able to use these leaves as a home until spring arrives. As with most things, this system works perfectly well in nature. But it’s a different story when humans begin to disturb this process by raking their yards.

The Problem with Raking

Raking leaves and bagging them destroys the homes these many creatures need. All homeowners should do their best to work with nature and support their local ecosystem. Not only is it part of being a steward of the land, but it also improves the lawn. Homesteaders will benefit from healthier beneficial insect and animal populations come spring, which will improve their gardens, woodlots, ponds, etc.

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This no-rake method has been used for decades by various homeowners but lately has made its way into the mainstream, including a recent USA Today article.

Examples of some critters that call leaf litter home in winter include:

  • Box turtles
  • Salamanders and other amphibians
  • Snakes
  • Spiders and other arachnids
  • Snails and slugs
  • Millipedes and centipedes
  • Beetles and other insects
  • Moth and butterfly pupae
  • Worms and other soil aerators
  • Soil-improving microorganisms
  • Important fungus and healthy bacteria
Don’t Rake Your Leaves This Year! (Here’s Why)

Image source: Pixabay.com

For example, when caterpillars have a safe place to live you will have a much healthier butterfly population in spring and summer — which will in turn help your garden, fruit trees and general vegetation. Healthy insect populations that rely on leaf litter in winter will also feed birds and predatory insects.

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While animals benefit from the no-rake method, so does the ground. It will act as a natural fertilizer, improving your soil and also suppressing weeds. Not to mention, skipping raking completely saves a lot of time and reduces costs from bagging.

What to Do Instead of Raking

So if you don’t rake your leaves, what do you do? There are a few options. Some people don’t rake their leaves at all, or just wait until spring arrives before raking them away to a new location. This is ideal, but it’s understandable if leaves covering the lawn bother you. If that is the case you can instead:

  • Rake up leaves and move to the outskirts of your lawn or just somewhere else on your property where it doesn’t bother you.
  • Rake up leaves and put them over your garden beds for protection.
  • Rake up leaves and leave them around the base of trees in your woodlot as mulch.
  • Mulch the leaves with your mower. Some homeowners use a mulch mower or a special mulch attachment, but neither are necessary. Most mowers will mulch leaves simply by driving over them.

This year, don’t think of fallen leaves as an annoyance, but rather an amazing way nature protects vulnerable critters in winter – and fertilizes your lawn.

Do you have any “leaf advice”? What do you do? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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