“Gardening costs a lot of money.” You’ve probably heard this myth before or might even believe it yourself. Sometime in the past few decades, people started believing they had to make a significant investment to buy all of the fertilizer and supplies needed to plan a garden.
Yet simple activities such as making your own homemade plant food and composting can cut your costs significantly.
It removes the need for store-bought fertilizer. And a natural fertilizer will ensure your plants stay healthy and uncontaminated by unnatural products commonly found in mass-produced fertilizer.
Try Homemade Food for Plants
Before you try any fertilizers on your whole garden, test it on a few plants first. Every soil, plant, and garden has different needs and deficiencies, and as a result, will react better to different types of fertilizer.
By testing out your homemade plant food first, you will be able to find which one works best for your situation.
If one of your gardening goals is to avoid chemicals you're in the right place. Use these seven easy natural fertilizer recipes to make your own homemade plant food and give your backyard garden that extra boost.
These seven natural fertilizers represent just some of the total amount of fertilizers you can make at home or find for free. Cost should never be an excuse not to garden, so start getting creative and use these recipes to make your own ultimate plant food.
And before I forget, if you're looking for inexpensive planters, try making your own DIY planters for indoors or outdoors with these fun upcycling ideas!
Homemade Plant Food: 7 Easy Natural Fertilizer Recipes
Make homemade plant food with these seven easy natural fertilizer recipes using ingredients you already have on hand.
1. Seaweed Tea
Don’t be scared by the title, you can still make this fertilizer even if you don’t live near the ocean.
Here's a quick look at how to make seaweed tea.
- Collect any “marine weeds” in your area, including freshwater seaweed.
- Check your state or local guidelines to make sure foraging for seaweed has been permitted in your area. Depending on protected species and lands, there may be different regulations in your area.
- Walk along the shoreline of a local lake, pond, or ocean, and look for washed-up seaweed on the shore.
- Rinse off the seaweed to remove any dirt, bugs, or salt (if you have an ocean nearby).
- Chop the seaweed then submerge it in a bucket with a few gallons of water, enough to steep the seaweed for a few weeks.
- As the seaweed breaks down, the water absorbs most of the nutrients. After 3 - 4 weeks of steeping, strain out the seaweed and use the tea mixed with 50% regular water for your plants.
2. Epsom Salts, Baking Powder, and Ammonia
By combining some inexpensive and common household products, you can make a natural fertilizer that gives your plants all of the nutrients they need. And this is a great solution to try if you're trying to save money off the grid.
Epsom salt contains high levels of magnesium and sulfur, which plants need to create healthy foliage and absorb nutrients from the soil.
Baking soda helps plants bloom and protects them from fungal disease, while ammonia contains nitrogen to assist in growing a healthy root system.
These three simple ingredients conveniently contain most of the nutrients needed to grow a healthy plant, and you most likely have them in your homestead kitchen or around the house. If not, they cost just a few dollars and can be found at most grocery or superstores.
Here's a quick recipe for using Epsom salts, baking soda, and ammonia homemade fertilizer.
- Use an old 1-gallon plastic jug or watering can to mix the natural fertilizer.
- Add 1.5 tablespoons of Epsom salt, 1.5 teaspoons of baking soda, and just under half a teaspoon of ammonia.
- Once you’ve added these to your empty jug, fill up the rest of the container with water.
- Shake well to mix. Let sit for 15 minutes or until all the ingredients have dissolved.
- Apply to your vegetable garden or houseplants.
3. Banana Peels
What makes bananas so healthy for us to eat? Potassium.
Well, it turns out plants need potassium to grow just as much as we do. If you’re anything like our family, you probably go through quite a few bananas every week.
Save your banana peels (if you don’t already compost) and bury them in a hole a few inches below the surface next to plants like rose bushes or other plants that require high levels of potassium. You can even do this with overripe bananas if you don’t feel like making banana bread!
If you want to take it a step further, steep the bananas in water similar to the seaweed tea process. Once the mixture has steeped long enough, use the water AND the peels to add some natural fertilizer to your garden.
4. Animal Manure
The original and most effective natural fertilizer available: animal manure. Our ancestors have been using animal manure as a homemade (or animal made) plant food ever since humans began farming.
It obviously comes with no cost, other than the cost of owning and feeding animals. But you would be paying for those costs anyway, people don’t own animals just to make compost!
Keep in mind, you need to dry and age the manure for about 6 months before adding it to your garden. Also, don’t use the waste from any household pets or meat-eating animals, as these may contain harmful parasites and bacteria.
To learn more about how to properly compost animal manure, check out North Dakota State’s free guide.
5. Aquarium Water
If you have an aquarium or fishbowl that you clean every few weeks, save the water to use in your garden. As you know, aquarium water will get cloudy, smelly, and dirty over time due to fish waste.
This same waste is what makes aquarium water so good for your plants, adding natural fertilizer and nutrients to your soil. The aquarium water also has a high level of nitrogen, one of the most vital nutrients for healthy plants.
Before you try any of these fertilizers on your whole garden, test it on a few plants first. Every soil, plant, and garden has different needs and deficiencies, and as a result, will react better to different types of fertilizer. By testing out your homemade plant food first, you will be able to find which one works best for your situation.
6. Compost Tea
We've listed compost tea separately from regular compost because it can be used on its own, and gives apartment homesteaders an easy option if you have limited space. Here's how to make compost tea.
- Simply keep a glass jar on your counter, or in a closet or cupboard.
- Fill the jar about ⅓ - ½ of the way with clean water.
- Whenever you have food scraps, like eggshells, coffee grounds, tea bags, or vegetable trimmings, crush them up and add them to the jar.
- Add more water as necessary, just make sure all the compost is covered.
- Once you’ve almost filled the jar, top it up with water and shake once daily for a week.
- Let it sit away from direct sunlight, and don’t put a tight-fitting lid on the jar. You don’t want it to explode by accident if fermentation occurs and you forget about it. If you see the liquid begin to ferment, add it to your garden before it ferments any further.
7. Homemade Compost
This one seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many people don’t bother composting.
Organic matter contains incredibly high amounts of nitrogen, potassium, and other essential nutrients needed in your garden. Save these nutrients rather than throwing them out. When you have food scraps or any organic waste, add it to your compost pile.
The nutrients found in expensive store-bought fertilizer will be similar (if not less) than the levels of nutrients in your own compost, so why would you pay for something you already have at home?
Make composting a family affair - learn more about composting with kids and get started today.
More Resources for Homemade Plant Food & Easy Natural Fertilizers
- University of Massachusetts: Fertilizing Flower Gardens Avoid Too Much Phosphorus
- North Dakota State: Composting Animal Manures Guide
- Michigan State University: Storing Manure
- Oregon State University: Here's the scoop on chemical and organic fertilizers
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