Organic fertilizers

Once in a while even the sturdiest of plants in the garden appreciate a little boost. Liquid fertilizers are a lot of fun to make, they are just about free, fruit and vegetable trimmings are recycled, and I find the results amazing.

Stinging Nettle brew

My very favorite fertilizer is a brew made with stinging nettles. It is really easy to prepare, all you need is

  • a plastic or wooden container (because metal has a tendency to react during the fermentation process),
  • a bunch of nettles, try to harvest them before they have gone to seed,
  • rain water if available, or tap water drawn the day before,
  • plastic gloves to remove the ouch factor when you touch the nettles

cut the nettles into pieces, fill the bucket with water but make sure to leave some room on top because the liquid will foam as it starts to ferment. Place the container in a sunny location, then all you have to do is wait until the color of the brew is a nice dark brown and you notice its ‘fragrance’ as you walk by. Stir the mix a couple of times during the day to let air circulate.  I use a long wooden stick for that because you really don’t want to get the mix on your hands (see comment above  about its ‘fragrance’). The time it takes until your fertilizer is ready to use depends on the temperature, but a good guideline is a dark color of the liquid and no more foam. I find that when the days are warm and sunny the mix can be used in about 1 week.

Before applying this nourishing soup to your plants you will want to dilute it until the color is no darker than weak tea.  It is better to work with a weaker solution and repeat the application after a few days than to harm your plants. I never pour any of this on the leaves so as not to burn them but apply it to the soil around the plants. Tomatoes, cucumbers, squash all groove on this fertilizer, but some plants (garlic, onions, beans and peas for instance) are not happy with the nettle fertilizer. For those you can prepare a fertilizer from a mix of herbs.

A word of caution: pumpkins seem to respond overly enthusiastic to the nettle fertilizer. My 3 plants are threatening to take over not only the vegetable garden but have already sent out their feelers underneath the fence and are now headed into the street.

Liquid herbal manure

can be prepared in a similar fashion, but instead of nettles use whatever herbs are available. Lately I have also experimented with a mix of raw fruit and vegetable trimmings. Works just as well, right now I have a bucket filled with onion and garlic peels,  trimmings from leeks, carrots, lettuce, parsely, red beet skins etc. It is quite aromatic already, the bigger pieces have dissolved, and it should be ready to dilute and use in a day or so.

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