As organic farming gains popularity, more and more people are looking into growing plants organically. However, gardening resources – especially fertilizers – can be expensive. Luckily for you, there are many resources available in nature that are yours for the taking, and can be obtained more or less for free. And of course, it goes without saying that these resources are also sustainable. Here’s a list of some of them.
Use plants to feed plants
Certain plants, such as comfrey, are grown specifically for their use as organic fertilizer. There are other options, but so far, comfrey seems to be the strongest contender. Its roots bury deep into the soil and collect nutrients, and its leaves can be used as mulch or turned into a ‘tea’ for plants. The best thing about comfrey is that it grows rapidly, so you can obtain many plants from just one mother plant.
Compost is a mixture of decayed green and brown materials, and is ideal for growing seedlings in, or using as soil-nourishing mulch. It is made with a combination of greens and browns – with greens being plants, leaves, etc, and browns being substances such as cardboard, paper, hay, wood chips, and others. Most of these substances are thrown away as waste, and others can be obtained for free when they’re thrown away by others.
Wood chips, sawdust and wood ash
Wood chips and sawdust are excellent for using as mulch. They’ll decompose slowly, releasing nutrients into the soil over time. Wood ash is an excellent source of potassium, and is great for reducing the acidity of soil. They’re perfectly organic, and can be obtained for free from wood mills, carpenters, tree surgeons, and your local forest department. Wood ash can be obtained from restaurants or homes that use wood for heating. I should mention here that sawdust isn’t very potent as fertilizer, and is better suited for use in your compost heap, or as mulch.
These are my favourite source. We have lots of vegetable and fruit peels, and to be able to use them in the garden is very satisfying. I mostly use banana peels, as they have a lot of Potassium. Apart from that, I use peels and waste from potato, cucumber, radish, spinach, and some others. I usually dry them out and use them as mulch, but they can also be tossed into your compost heap, if you don’t want to bother with all that.
Used tea and coffee grounds
These can be obtained from a local tea or coffee place, and are an excellent source of Nitrogen. Or, if you drink a lot of tea/coffee at home, you can keep the grounds or leaves. Remember to wash them out well, because if any remnants of milk or sugar are on them, the ants will be swarming on them within days! Also keep in mind the soil pH in your veggie patch, as these will alter the pH.
Also called gardener’s gold, leaf mold is what’s formed when fallen leaves are collected in the autumn and set aside to decompose for the next 1-2 years. Like the others, it’s making use of what would otherwise be waste material, and it contains lots of nutrients – including trace nutrients, which most of the other resources lack. A simple way to make leaf mold is by filling up large garbage bags with leaves, punching a few holes in their bottom, and setting them aside in a corner for a year.
Vermicompost is great for plants. It’s full of nutrients, completely organic, and what’s more, it can be made at home! But what is vermicompost, really? Earthworm poop. Once you get over the yucky factor though, it’s actually quite simple to make it. Set up a vermicompost bin at home (or in your garden), put in some earthworms, put in some peels and other stuff they can eat, and in a few months, you’ll have beautiful, rich vermicompost that your plants will LOVE.
Human and animal waste
It’s an excellent free resource available in large quantities in nature. Manure from cows, horses, and other farm animals are used often in farming. In addition, rabbit poop is also used. It is dry and in pellet form, so it isn’t quite as gross as normal poop. As to human waste, I was referring largely to urine. Urine is a great source of Nitrogen, and it gives plants a good growth boost without affecting the environment negatively. You can collect your pee, and pour it onto your compost heap, or dilute it and feed it to your plants weekly.