My old neighbor in Mandan was a gardener. He encouraged my gardening habit by leaving melty footprints in the spring snow leading from his back door across the sidewalk, up the front steps to deliver packets of seeds. We raced to the garden each year to see whose radishes would be the first to appear in the spring.
Begin widowed, elderly and living with his working son, Mr. Weber would be up before the crack of dawn crushing aluminum cans or digging in his huge garden.
There was a dedicated row for composting his kitchen scraps. Using a spade, he dug a trench and each day buried his compost. Once the row was filled, he moved over and dug another row. Moving from one end of the garden to the next, he continued to feed it organic matter – never having to purchase fertilizer.
Researching compost teas, which are quicker than compost heaps in becoming garden fertilizer, I found the following information and recipes from several online sites.
10 Natural Fertilizer Recipes | Home Grown Fun. https://www.homegrownfun.com/natural-fertilizers-around-house/
10 Natural Fertilizer Recipes | Sun Oven® | The Original .... https://www.sunoven.com/10-natural-fertilizer-recipes/
Plants like potassium and banana peels have it. Just throw those peels in a bucket and add water in 2-3 days, use that water around the base of your plants.
Starbucks gives them away, and they have nitrogen. However, you do not want to use them until you use them in your coffee maker. Plants such as tomatoes, blueberries, roses, and azaleas may get a jolt out of coffee grounds mixed into the soil. But more likely it’s the nitrogen that helps. Sprinkled on top of the ground before watering or pour a liquid version on top of the soil.
Coffee compost tea can be made by soaking six cups of coffee grounds in a 5-gallon bucket of water. Let it sit for 2-3 days and then saturate the soil around your plants.
Rinse them off, let dry and then crush them for working into the soil near peppers and tomatoes. The calcium helps fend off blossom end rot. Eggshells are 93 percent calcium carbonate, the same ingredient as lime, a tried and true soil amendment! These can also be added to your compost tea bucket.
WEEDS – Ruth Stout had it correct when she said all you need to do to garden the lazy way was pull those weeds and pile them on the soil next to your vegetables.
Nettles, comfrey, yellow dock, burdock, horsetail, and chickweed make excellent homemade fertilizer. There are several ways you can use them to make your own brew or to speed up your compost pile. If your weeds have not gone to flower, you can dry them in the sun and chop them up to use as a mulch. They are high in nitrogen and won’t rob your plants of nutrients.
I LOVE BORAGE, and so do bees. A topic for another episode of Main Street Eats. PS: A listener emailed and said borage is available at Faulkner’s in Mandan, both plants and seeds. However, they are the oldest business on the Strip in Mandan and sell out quickly.
Borage (Starflower) is a beautiful herb with nutritional properties of comfrey. Dried and thrown in your compost bin, it works like comfrey as a kickstarter.
Fermented borage tea can be made by adding water and borage leaves to a five-gallon bucket. Make sure the leaves are under water, wait three to five weeks and dilute the goo 1:10 as a topical fertilizer. Yes, it will stink...
BUCKET TIP: Drill some holes in one side of a tight-fitting cover to your compost tea bucket. Fill the bucket and use that cover to strain the mixture. Throw the waste in your compost bin.
To make it even more convenient, you can use two buckets and make a hole in the bottom of the bucket that contains the plants. The goo will seep through to the lower bucket. It’s always best to apply the liquid fertilizer diluted – it should look like weak tea.
Grass clippings are the best way to add nitrogen back to the soil. HOWEVER – do not spray your land with killer chemicals before using it on the garden. Trust me. Fill a 5-gallon bucket full of grass clippings. You can even add weeds! Weeds soak up nutrients from the soil just as much as grass. Add water to the top of the bucket and let sit for a day or two. Dilute your grass tea by mixing 1 cup of liquid grass into 10 cups of water. Apply to the base of plants using the same amounts as listed in the urine recipe. Add one cup to four cups of the diluted mixture around the base of your plants.
MANURE – With a little effort, you’ll find folks that are giving away composted chicken, horse or cow manure for free. Composted and aged manure is best. Add the composted manure to a small porous bag made from recycled cloth, e.g., a t-shirt or old towel. Let it steep in the shade for a few days and apply it to your soil to condition it before planting. Bury or discard the used bag. Some people use manure tea to soak bare root roses!
HUMAN URINE – Sounds disgusting, but urine is considered sterile if the body it’s coming from is healthy and free of viruses and infection. High in nitrogen, urea contains more phosphorous and potassium than many of the fertilizers we buy at the store! If serving tomatoes that have been fertilized with pee gives you the “willies,” try it in the compost pile. A good ratio of urine to water would be 1:8. You can collect a cup of urine and pour it into 8 cups of water in a plastic bucket used outside for fertilizing plants. Pour 2 cups around the perimeter of each SMALL plant. For MEDIUM plants add 4 cups, and LARGE plants deserve a good 6 cups of your homebrew.
Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.