Easy-to-Make Organic Fertilizers

Organic Fertilizers You Can Make at Home

Coffee grounds are good fertilizer for rose bushes.
Coffee grounds are good fertilizer for rose bushes. | Source

Coffee Ground Fertilizer

Coffee grounds contain nitrogen as well as trace amounts of the other two nutrients that are essential to plant health, phosphorus and potassium.

Best of all, you don't have to do anything to coffee grounds before adding them to soil.

Collect coffee grounds from a local cafe or save them up at home and spread them around your plants all at once in a layer of no more than 2 inches.

You could also simply dump your daily grind onto the ground daily.

It's all good.

Healthy plants start with healthy soil.
Healthy plants start with healthy soil. | Source

Warning!!!

Even Good Fertilizer Can Be Bad

It's sad but true. Just because fertilizer is organic doesn't mean that it won't adversely affect the environment if you apply too much. Excess fertilizer will leach out of the soil and pollute waterways.

To avoid adding to the world's pollution, get to know your soil. Test it yourself using a soil testing kit. It's sort of fun! Or, take soil samples from your landscape (that's sort of fun, too) and have them tested by a lab through your area cooperative extension office. The cost? Typically anywhere from $8 to $15 dollars.

Maryland's Master Gardener Handbook recommends that home gardeners test their soil at least once every 3 years.

Once you become familiar with your soil's strengths and weaknesses, you can determine what kind of fertilizer it needs as well as how much you should apply.

Quick Compost

Adding compost to your soil is probably the best way to feed it.

This recipe for "quick compost" could take 2 weeks or less. How quickly it works depends upon how well your compost pile heats up.

Ingredients

1 part chopped green matter, such as grass clippings, vegetable scraps & weeds

1 part shredded brown (dry) material, such as leaves, straw & paper

Instructions

Combine equal parts green and brown matter in empty compost bin all at once, completely filling it.

Mix the matter well, and turn it after 3 days. (Steam should be released when you do so. If it doesn't, the pile may need to be moistened.)

Continue turning the organic matter regularly. If the weather is hot and it becomes dry, add water. When it's brown and crumbly, the compost is ready to use (Master Gardener Handbook).

Feed the soil. Your plants will thank you!
Feed the soil. Your plants will thank you! | Source

Compost Tea

This recipe from Patricia Machalak's guide to growing herbs is a good fertilizer for just about any plant.

Ingredients

1 shovel of compost or farmyard manure

5 gal. water

Instructions

1. Place compost or manure into a burlap bag. Tie the top securely & place it in water.

2. Let the bag soak until nutrients leach into the water.

3. Before using on seedlings, dilute with additional water until light brown.

Pee Tea

Human urine contains the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium plants in a form that's accessible to plants. Unlike solid human waste, it contains few pathogens, and those that are found in it become harmless over time.

Once you get past the gross! factor and decide upon a method for collecting and storing it, pee is an easy-to-use, effective fertilizer. It's also virtually free, and it's readily available.

To make pee tea, all you need is water and urine that's been aged at least a month.

The following is a "recipe" based on advice from Barbara Pleasant, a contributing editor to Mother Earth News.

Ingredients

8 to 20 parts water

1 part aged human urine

Instructions

Mix the urine and water. Apply at the base of plants once every 2 weeks.


Recipe for All-Purpose Organic Fertilizer

Here's an animal lover's version of an all-purpose organic fertilizer from Annie Spiegelman's awesome little book on organic gardening, Talking Dirt.

If you're not averse to using animal byproducts, you could substitute other organic ingredients.

Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) & potassium (K) are the 3 essential nutrients for plants. Fertilizer, both organic & synthetic, has 3 numbers on its packaging that indicate the percentage of N-P-K it contains.

Ingredients

  • 3 parts nitrogen (cottonseed meal)
  • 1 part phosphorus (rock phosphate)
  • 1/2 part potassium (kelp meal)
Cast your vote for Organic Fertilizer
About 1 Tbsp. per pot is all your houseplants will need.
About 1 Tbsp. per pot is all your houseplants will need. | Source

Instructions

  1. Although the ingredients can be probably be found in some chain superstores, it's least expensive to purchase them in bulk from a feed store or garden supply store.
  2. Mix together all ingredients in a large container with a tight-fitting lid, such as a metal or plastic garbage can.
  3. Keep the container in a sheltered area away from water and pests.
  4. Use as needed on potted plants, flowers, vegetables, shrubs and trees.

Directions for Using All-Purpose Fertlizer

Sprinkle fertilizer at plant drip line once a month. The mix can also be raked into new garden beds.

1 Tbsp. per 6-inch pot

1/4 C. per gallon container

1 C. per large shrub

1-2 C. per tree

Note to Vegetarians & Animal Lovers

If you're a strict vegetarian or an animal rights activist who eschews all animal products, you'll probably want to give bone meal, blood meal, fish emulsion and packaged manures a pass. Bone meal and blood meal are byproducts of the meat industry. Packaged manures are byproducts of the animal production industry.

Some Organic Sources of the 3 Essential Plant Nutrients

Fertilizer
N-P-K
alfalfa meal
5-1-2
bat guano
8-4-2
blood meal
11-3-1
bone meal
4-2-0
coffee grounds
2-.03-.02
colloidal/rock phosphate
variable; check package
cottonseed meal
7-2-1
earthworm castings
1-0-0
fish meal & emulsion
7-3-0
greensand
0-1-8
kelp meal
1-0.8-2.5
manure
varies by animal
soybean meal
7-2-1
wood ash
0-2-6
When buying organic fertilizer, check the packaging for the percentage of N-P-K it contains & follow the directions for use on the label.

Resources

Master Gardener Handbook. University of Maryland College of Agricultural and Natural Resources. 2008. Print.

Michalak, Patricia S. Rodale's Successful Organic Gardening: Herbs. Ennaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1993. Print.

Pleasant, Barbara. "Free, Homemade Liquid Fertilizers." Mother Earth News Feb/March 2011. Web. 27 July 2012.

Spiegelman, Annie. Talking Dirt. New York: Penguin, 2010. Print.

Source

About the Author

The Dirt Farmer has been an active gardener for over 30 years.

She first began gardening as a child alongside her grandfather on her parents' farm.

Today, The Dirt Farmer gardens at home, volunteers at community gardens and continues to learn about gardening through the MD Master Gardener program.

More by this Author


Comments 12 comments

The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 19 months ago from United States Author

Hi Delores! This year I've been making compost tea with worm castings. I'll be interested to see if it works as well as horse manure. Hope a few of these work for you! All the best, Jill


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 19 months ago from East Coast, United States

Thanks for the great tips. I think that I will try a few of your suggestions. I already use coffee grounds, especially for my acid loving plants. I'm also a big fan of bone meal. I do not think I'll try the pee tea. I can just hear my family asking me what's that in the bottle....(voted up and shared)


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 19 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Thanks Jill. I know what you mean by waiting for feedback or a rejection or a partial request. I'm in revision mode on one ms now. Good luck on yours. You're very welcome.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 19 months ago from United States Author

Thanks for stopping by, Kristen. Good luck with your manuscripts. I'm writing fiction now, too. I love it but hate the wait for feedback, you know? All the best, Jill


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 19 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Jill, this was a great hub about making your own organize fertilizer, even with your own urine. This is so informative and useful for gardeners. Voted up!


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 4 years ago from United States Author

@ sgbrown -- No pee tea? Oh, come on! (; Glad the other ideas seem useful to you. Coffee grounds would be great for your miniature roses! Thanks for commenting, Jill


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

This was so interesting! I am definitely using some of your ideas here for organic fertilizer. I think, however, I will skip the pee tea. Great information, voted up and useful! :)


Susan Green 4 years ago

Im going to try this home made recipe for organic fertilizer. It seems no matter how diluted I try to make store bought checmical based feretilizer for my soft housplants, they burn them up and die. Im definitely going to try this. Here's another nursery that used this type fertilizer on their berry plants- http://www.tnnursery.net and I think there's a couple more out there but im not sure who they are. I purchased some from this particular nursery.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 4 years ago from United States Author

Thanks, angela michelle. Appreciate the encouragement. Glad you stopped by.


angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 4 years ago from United States

This is a fantastic article with great advice. You did such a great job on this.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 4 years ago from United States Author

Hey, Farmer Rachel! My husband told me I should put something in the article about pee keeping away animals. I should have listened to him! Good luck with your decorative corn. It's so beautiful for fall. Take care, Jill


Farmer Rachel profile image

Farmer Rachel 4 years ago from Minnesota

Well written, informative, and love those little text boxes ;) These recipes for home made fertilizer are really useful, I think I'm going to try one of them on my little decorative corn crop. There's something else I figured out about pee, by the way - human urine seems to work well as a groundhog and deer detterent. Kept them out of my corn and potatoes last year! Great hub, voted up and all :)

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