The use of fertilizers in the garden is an essential part of having a successful productive garden. Growing crops or plants uses up minerals in the earth and over time the soil will need replenishing. This need not be via the many chemical fertilizers, but by a more natural eco-friendly approach using ingredients can either be ‘grown’ at home or sourced locally.
Homemade fertilisers come in two main categories, there is the solid type and the liquid type, both need creating from raw materials before they can be used around the garden so a bit of planning ahead is required. Also both have their pro’s & con’s in terms of effectiveness, ease of making and time of use.
These are basically fertilizers created by composting waste and are used as a dressing at the beginning of the growing season. They slowly release their nutrients into the surrounding soil during the season giving the plants a steady supply of minerals as it begins to grow.
If, like me, you keep hens as part of your garden then you will probably be well aware of the fantastic properties of chicken poo but equally be aware of the fact that fresh chicken manure, if applied directly around plants, can cause scorching as its simply too strong for the plant. The same can be said of cow or horse manure and as such these waste products will need heaping preferably in a 1 metre square bay for at least a year so they rot down before they can be used. That said the resulting ‘black gold’ makes an absolutely fantastic dressing for your beds at the beginning of the season. It can also be used as a dressing around fruit trees in the spring giving them an excellent boost.
Unlike the ‘heap and forget’ approach required for solid fertilizers, liquid types need a little more preparation though they produce the valuable end product much faster. Basically these types of fertilizers are used to apply directly to the plants during their main growing season. They are also fast acting.
To make liquid fertilisers you will need a good sized water butt preferably with a tap on it for draining of the final product. You can buy a water butt if you wish or alternatively make one using a plastic dustbin with a tap attachment.
I use two types of plant to create liquid fertilisers, Comfrey which I grow in the vegetable patch, is a naturally very deep rooted herb that acts as an accumulator extracting inaccessible minerals from the depths of the soil. I also use nettles which I leave to grow in a corner of the orchard, these are fast growing surface plants that have plenty of lush nutrient-packed growth. especially during the early part of their lifecycle. Both plants are made into fertilizer in much the same way by half filling the bin with leaf matter from the plant, weighting it down with a brick and then fill the bin with water. In 6 weeks’ time a dark brown liquid that can be tapped off from the bin. This can be bottled and stored or put to use straight away but don’t be tempted to apply it directly, it is way too strong and needs diluting down with 10 parts water to a tea colour. One word of warning though, the solution can get smelly so make sure you use a lid on your water butt and locate it well away from the kitchen window or communal part of the garden!