DIY: 6 natural fertilisers to make at home
The more nourishment plants get, the better they grow. Making your own garden fertiliser is easy, eco-friendly and sustainable.
1. Compost or manure tea
This highly nutritious tea will feed and water your plants simultaneously. To make, put a shovel of compost or well-rotted cow or horse manure in an old pillowcase. Tie the top and submerge in a 20-litre bucket of water. Place the bucket in a sheltered location and allow the tea to steep for 10 days.
At the end of 10 days, remove the tea ‘bag’ and place a lid on the nutrient-rich tea until ready to use. Toss the contents of the pillowcase onto the compost pile and start another batch of tea. Dilute with 50 per cent water when using.
2. Worm tea
Use the liquid that drains from the bottom of your worm farm. Technically called leachate, it can be diluted in water until the colour of tea then used to feed plants. Worm tea has many nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, iron, calcium and sulphur.
3. Quick tea
When you just can’t wait, make this quick tea instead. In a 4-litre jug, put 3 teaspoons of instant iced tea (you will find it at your local supermarket), 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 crushed eggshell, ½ dried banana peel, ½ cup bone meal, 3 teaspoons of molasses, 1 tablespoon liquid blood and bone (or compost tea) and 3 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide (sold at supermarkets and pharmacies).
Fill the jug with water, stir the mix and allow to sit for 1 hour before using. Stir again just before using. Tea contains tannic acid, which helps plants absorb nutrients. Blood and bone provide nitrogen. Hydrogen peroxide is fine for use in organic gardens because it rapidly breaks down into harmless oxygen and water molecules – and both are good for plant roots. All the other ingredients provide nutrients.
4. Banana peel meal
Bury banana peels in the soil around plants for a slow release of nutrients. Banana peels add potassium and small amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and magnesium to the earth. Over-ripe bananas buried in the soil also make great food for plants.
Make a banana-peel fertiliser by soaking one banana peel in 1 litre of water for 3 days. Pour the strained liquid into a spray bottle and use it to foliar-feed garden plants.
5. Eggshell fertiliser
Add calcium to the soil by burying crushed eggshells. Make organic foliar food by boiling 20 eggshells in 4 litres of water for 5 minutes. Allow water to cool overnight. Strain and use as a foliar food or pour onto soil.
6. Comfrey tea
Comfrey is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, which makes it an ideal fertiliser. As a foliar spray, it can also help slow the growth of powdery mildew.
To make, put chopped comfrey leaves in a lidded bucket and weigh them down with something heavy. Cover with water, replace the lid and allow to steep for about 20 days. When ready to use, dilute by 50 per cent with water.