sustainability Guide 2011 / Home gardening can be an expensive pursuit, but for backyard farmers there are less expensive ways to fertilize and improve the soil and to rid garden beds of unwanted pests. Here’s a quick look at some of the many low-cost, DIY fertilizing methods.
The beneficial properties of seaweed are numerous, but one way to liven up your soil is to fill an empty bucket with seaweed, fill it with water and then cover it. As it begins to decompose, the water will turn brown. Within a couple of months the fertilizer is ready. Use this liquid as a concentrate. Dilute with water and spray on plants. This potassium rich emulsion works against insects and can be mixed with a fish emulsion for a perfect fertilizer.
Don’t discard those eggshells. These commonly discarded kitchen scraps are perfect for garden plants. And since eggshells are 93 percent calcium carbonate, you can sprinkle it over the lawn in place of a calcium carbonate product. (You’ve heard of “liming” the garden, right?)
The eggshells contain nitrogen, phosphoric acid and other trace elements that make them a practical fertilizer. Crush them by hand, powder them in the blender and spread around fruit trees, in potted plants, rose bushes and vegetable gardens.
3. Human/Pet Hair
Using hair in the garden isn’t a new concept, but gardeners have found ways to prevent more than the average predator.
Mulch: Human and pet hair have a natural interweaving texture that allows water in but reduces its evaporation. It also acts as a warm blanket keeping the soil warm during cooler season.
Weed-suppressant: Using hair is a great way to suppress weeds. Studies have shown that weeds have to grow around it because they can’t grow through it.
Fertilizer Trap: Hair is devoid of nutritional benefits, however, as a fertilizer trap, it proves to be successful. However, as a fertilizer trap, human hair is proving to be quite successful. In sandy soils, one of the biggest problems that gardeners face is nutrient leeching, therefore they bulk up the soil with composts and manures to properly feed their plants. The idea of human hair as a trap is to position it beneath your plants where it will hold nutrient run-off for later use.
4. Coffee Recycling
Many coffee shops around the island throw away pounds and pounds of coffee grounds daily. Used coffee grounds contain nitrogen, phosphoric acid, and varying amounts of potash (generally less than one percent). They also include trace minerals, carbohydrates, sugars, some vitamins and caffeine. They are particularly useful on those plants for which you would purchase and apply an “acid food,” such as blueberries, evergreens, azaleas, roses, camellias, avocados, and certain fruit trees.
First dry the coffee grounds in the oven, then scatter them as mulch around the plants that will benefit from them. Don’t scatter thickly, otherwise they might get moldy. A great addition to other kitchen waste products.