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8 Best Homemade Garden Fertilizers

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8 Best Homemade Garden Fertilizers

Organic gardening is as popular as ever, and the methods we use plays a critical role in our health and the health of the planet.

There are many different all-natural fertilizers that you can use in your garden or with potting soil. Some of these fertilizers can be made or collected at home using common items from your pantry or your backyard. Here are 8 of our favorite DIY fertilizers for a variety of needs.

  1. Grass clippings. If you have an organic lawn, make sure to collect your grass clippings to use on your gardens. Half an inch to an inch of grass clippings makes a great weed-blocking mulch, and it is also rich in nitrogen, which is an essential nutrient for most plants.
  2. Weeds. Just like grass clippings, many of the weeds that you’ll find in your gardens are very high in nitrogen and will make an excellent fertilizer. The problem is, once you’ve pulled the weeds, you certainly won’t want to put them back in the garden because any seeds will sprout and make new weeds. The solution? Make weed tea. To do this, fill a five-gallon bucket no more than 1/4 full with weeds that you’ve pulled. Then fill the bucket the rest of the way with water, and let the weeds soak for a week or two. Once the water turns nice and brown (like tea), pour this weed tea on your gardens.
  3. Kitchen Scraps. Put your kitchen and garden waste to work by making your own compost. Compost releases nutrients slowly, which means a well-composted garden can go a year or two without requiring reapplication of fertilizer. Compost also helps the soil retain moisture, which is essential for vegetable gardens to thrive during hot, dry summers.
  4. Manure. Manure comes from a variety of sources — cows, horses, chickens, and even bats. Each type of manure is high in nitrogen and other nutrients, but you’ll need to use it carefully. Raw manure is highly acidic and may actually have more nutrients than your plants need, so too much can burn your plants. It’s best to use composted manure. Since it is less nutrient-dense and acidic, you can use more of it to improve your soil’s water retention without risking your plants. You won’t have to wait long—manure quickly turns to a perfect odor-free soil amendment.
  5. Tree Leaves. Rather than bagging up the fall leaves and putting them out on your curb, collect them for your gardens instead. Leaves are rich with trace minerals, they attract earthworms, they retain moisture, and they’ll help make heavy soils lighter. You can use leaves in two ways: Either till them into your soil (or mix crushed leaves into potting soil), or use them as a mulch to both fertilize your plants and keep weeds down.
  6. Coffee Grounds. Coffee grounds come with a lot of uses, but one of their best is as a fertilizer. Lots of plants, such as blueberries, rhododendron, roses, and tomatoes, thrive best in acidic soil. Recycle your coffee grounds to help acidify your soil. There are a couple of ways to do this— you can either top dress by sprinkling the used grounds over the surface of the soil, or you can make “coffee” to pour on your gardens. Soak up to six cups of used coffee grounds for up to a week to make garden coffee, then use it to water your acid-loving plants.
  7. Eggshells. If you’ve ever used lime on your garden, then you know it comes with lots of benefits — chiefly, it helps lower the acidity of your soil for plants that don’t like acid, and it provides plants with lots of calcium, which is an essential nutrient. Lime itself is an all-natural fertilizer that you can buy at the garden center, but if you’d rather save some money, there is a cheaper way to get the same benefits. Simply wash out the eggshells from your kitchen, save them, and crush them to use in your garden. It turns out that eggshells are 93% calcium carbonate, which is the scientific name for lime. See what else you can do with eggshells here!
  8. Banana Peels. We eat bananas for their potassium, and roses love potassium too. Simply bury peels in a hole alongside the rose bush so they can compost naturally. As the rose grows, bury the peels into the soil’s top layer. Both of these approaches will provide much-needed potassium for the plant’s proper growth.

No matter what you’re growing, one or more of these fertilizers will make your gardens thrive!

19 comments

1 Susan Higgins { 09.03.19 at 12:03 pm }

Paula, you bring up a good point. Gardeners can take the information they collect and put as much to use as they can, but it’s really trial and error. We started a garden this year on the lawn at the Almanac and there are things we will do differently next year. It’s about learning what works for you! Thanks for your comment.

2 Paula Middleton { 09.01.19 at 1:04 pm }

I am a complete beginner and I have been trying to be an expert Gardner for many years… there are so many tips and tricks that everyone has to share. But this year I decided to take all the knowledge I have read and wing it. I think all the comments work, but I think every garden is different and it really pays off with hard work lots of trial and error. I have been trying to make my boggy heavy clay garden into a show garden. 5 years and so many disappointments. So I decided to let it be wild. I took advantage of my heavy clay soil lawn. Made a wildlife pond and then run a french drain from the top of it down into the storm drain. It’s taken me 7 months of hard labour and I can’t believe I have actually got a lawn to be proud of. The water that sat on top of it now fills into the pond and anything runs through the dry creek placed on top of the drainage. The wildlife is crazy I have frogs, newts, slow worms and a hedgehog who visit. I have a floor compost from top to bottom I dug 2ft laid with paper and all my organic waste. I covered it over and sprinkled wildflower seeds. It is such a pleasure to sit and enjoy. So use all the tips you can find and make them work for you
I am a single mum with two children working and studying in university if I can do it any one can

3 David { 08.20.19 at 3:11 pm }

I have tried so many things over the years, from dish soap, a recipe from a friend that had beer as an ingredient and so many other things. After all of my testing I have found an organic product that I have used for the last 3 years, that has worked the best. The product is https://www.revive.com I use all of the product line and it works really well.

4 lbp { 05.29.19 at 6:25 am }

Note to #4 go to garden supply and purchase a some Agriculture Gypsum and put that on your clay soil plus some course sand. a fairly good soil. Also work in saw dust into your soil and within a couple of years you can have workable garden soil and in a few years a great soil for your garden.

5 Margaret { 04.26.19 at 9:08 am }

Please tell me what to do with hard clots of dirt in my garden?

6 Zetella Bonner { 03.31.19 at 3:00 pm }

To Ernest peques: Never run your earthworms away. They are very beneficial to the garden. They keeps the soil fertile. I also use banana peels and coffee grounds especially for my acidic plants.

7 Carolyn Wallace { 04.07.17 at 9:37 pm }

I have a long flower box on the out side of my porch, and I bury all my raw fruit and vegetable scraps in it all winter. I also use dried egg shells, coffee and tea grounds in it. Have done this for several years, and have the most beautiful flowers in it. It is also convenient to put everything in it without having to go into the garden.

8 Mary Forrester Forrester { 01.17.17 at 12:29 am }

Can I use shredded paper in my garden to break up the soil? I unknowingly bought a truck load of (Pure black dirt) which turned out to be river clay. I had no idea it would be that kind of soil! I was a “sucker” buyer! He thought it was funny!! ?? I need something to add to the soil besides chemicals to break up the chunks. I am keeping the kitchen waste for a future compost! Another neighbor said I should add saw-dust or sand to the soil. Who is correct? You can tell I’m just a “second year” gardner. HELP !

9 Jassa { 06.06.16 at 10:41 pm }

I’ve been going organic in my garden for about four(?) years now, and I’m a huge fan of compost. I’ve gone back and forth between traditional compost (which I make myself) and vermicompost (which I’ve started buying online http://www.goodsweetearth.com/living-worm-compost.html). Does anyone here have a preference? I haven’t done any sort of scientific comparisons in how the different composts react, but I’ve been digging (ha!) the vermicompost because it feels more “finished’ when I put it in the garden, and I’ve heard it has more nutrients.

I haven’t tried coffee grounds, but maybe I’ll save some this week and put it on a couple tomato plants to see how they do.

10 emily bennette { 05.17.16 at 11:55 pm }

These are some good things to know about if you want to make your own fertilizer. However, I feel like it would take a while to make a lot for your garden and yard. It seems like it might be a good idea to get fertilizer for the store. http://www.tandninc.com/about-us.html

11 Dawn Gilmore { 04.29.16 at 12:38 pm }

Can you use the coffee grounds on all veggies or just tomatoes?

12 ernest pegues { 04.29.16 at 10:08 am }

To years ago I started a garden in my front yard, the more I dug the more I dug up earth worm, my neighbor said to me get you some leaves they will run them away I use those oak leaves and they did the job for me kept my garden clean all year long, this year no problem. they is the best and I found out they will keep your soil most.

13 mike { 04.27.16 at 6:09 pm }

Try using Epsom salt 1 tablespoon in a gal of water. water your whole garden it gives them nitrogen

14 Susan Higgins { 04.27.16 at 8:37 pm }
15 bj { 04.27.16 at 12:20 pm }

Hello,
How to repel rats/mice?? A natural way, like mothballs or ?? Thanks!

16 Larry Davis { 04.27.16 at 10:57 am }

I am 74 years old, and remember all my life till their passing my parents and other members used egg shells and coffee grounds on Peppers, Tomatoes, and other areas of the garden. I know they work, but the weed tea is a new one on me though, but I will try it this year.

17 Susan Higgins { 04.27.16 at 8:36 pm }

Hi Jeanelle Edwards: You may find this story interesting: http://farmersalmanac.wpengine.com/home-garden/2015/02/16/10-household-uses-tea-bags/

18 Jeanelle Edwards { 04.27.16 at 9:48 am }

what about tea bags are they, is there anything I can use them for?

19 MaryBeth McDonald { 04.27.16 at 8:52 am }

Great tips. I will be using a few. I do the coffee method now, but I love the idea of the bananas in with the roses. Who knew !!! Thanks for sharing…

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