By Barbara Pleasant
Mother Earth News
Homemade liquid fertilizers made from free, natural ingredients — such as grass clippings, seaweed, chicken manure and human urine — can give your plants the quick boost of nutrients they need to grow stronger and be more productive.
Many organic gardeners keep a bottle of liquid fish fertilizer on hand to feed young seedlings, plants growing in containers and any garden crop that needs a nutrient boost. But liquid, fish-based fertilizers are often pricey, plus we’re supporting an unsustainable fishing industry by buying them. So, what’s a good alternative?
MOTHER EARTH NEWS commissioned Will Brinton — who holds a doctorate in Environmental Science and is president of Woods End Laboratories in Mt. Vernon, Maine — to develop some water-based, homemade fertilizer recipes using free, natural ingredients, such as grass clippings, seaweed, chicken manure and human urine. His results are summarized on our chart of Homemade Fertilizer Tea Recipes.
Add the amount of dry ingredients shown in the chart below to a 5-gallon bucket, then add water to fill, and steep for three days. Strain or decant the tea and dilute as shown below. To make fertilizer tea from urine, simply dilute the urine in 20 parts water, and it’s ready to use. Water plants with these solutions no more than once every two weeks.
Check out Free, Homemade Liquid Fertilizers for more information about liquid fertilizers and the many benefits of making your own.
|Dried chicken manure with wood shavings||1/5 bucket||1:01|
|Fresh grass clippings||2/3 bucket||1:01|
Why and When to Use Liquids
Liquid fertilizers are faster-acting than seed meals and other solid organic products, so liquids are your best choice for several purposes. As soon as seedlings have used up the nutrients provided by the sprouted seeds, they benefit from small amounts of fertilizer. This is especially true if you’re using a soil-less seed starting mix (such as a peat-based mix), which helps prevent damping-off but provides a scant supply of nutrients. Seedlings don’t need much in the way of nutrients, but if they noticeably darken in color after you feed them with a liquid fertilizer, that’s evidence they had a need that has been satisfied. Liquid fertilizers are also essential to success with container-grown plants, which depend entirely on their growers for moisture and nutrients. Container-grown plants do best with frequent light feedings of liquid fertilizers, which are immediately distributed throughout the constricted growing area of the containers.
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