Let's Talk Trash - DIY Garden Fertilizers

Let’s Talk Trash - March 2023 - DIY Garden Fertilizers

 

Signs of spring are showing! Birds are singing morning love songs, bulbs are poking up, and if you’re a gardener you’ve probably started preparing for a new season of growing. Maybe this will be the year you start making your own organic fertilizers to feed the food and flowers you sow. 

When you buy commercial fertilizers they are likely to be packaged in plastic, made in a factory and shipped long distances - all good reasons to avoid them. 

Synthetic and organic fertilizers both list their N, P, K content.  N is for Nitrogen which plants use to grow large, lush, and with lots of leafy growth. P is for Phosphorous which is needed for a strong healthy root system and promoting vigorous flowering. K is for Potassium which helps with plant growth, protein production, plant hardiness, disease and insect resistance and efficient water use. 

Chemical fertilizers contain high concentrations of N, P, and K and they work quickly because they feed the plants directly. However, they don’t improve the soil itself and over time they destroy beneficial nutrients. If used in large quantities and repeatedly, chemical byproducts can build up in the soil and eventually hinder plant growth. 

Organic fertilizers work more slowly. Adding alfalfa meal, cottonseed meal or fish emulsion for the Nitrogen, bone meal or rock phosphate for the Phosphorous and kelp meal for Potassium to the soil doesn’t feed the plants directly but it adds essential nutrients to the soil where they become available to the plants over time. 

When I moved to the coast I was taught to amend my garden beds with the original Steve Solomon formula: 4 parts alfalfa/blood/cottonseed meal, 1 part bone meal or rock phosphate, 1 part lime, 1 part kelp meal. (I like to throw in 1 part of green sand for trace minerals.) I mix up the magic powder and hoe it into my rows when I plant. This is a slow release fertilizer and does require buying sacks of powders that are mined from the mountains and the ocean. 

 

If you are into making your own fertilizers at home, with material closer to hand, try playing around with these simple recipes.

 

-Banana peels are amazing for roses if you bury them in the top layer of soil. 

-Coffee grounds are good for acid loving plants i.e. blueberries, azaleas, rhodos, roses and camellias. For best results dry the grounds or scatter them lightly as clumps will get moldy. 

-Cooking water is full of different nutrients. Potatoes, vegetables, even pasta release all kinds of goodies. Ensure the water is cool before applying it to plants. 

-Eggshells offer calcium to the soil, which is essential to cell manufacture and plant growth. Crushed and sprinkled around the garden, it also might help repel slugs.

-Epsom salts. One teaspoon of epsom salts dissolved in a gallon on water can be sprayed directly onto foliage, once a month, for a quick dose of magnesium and sulfur. 

-Wood ash from the wood stove supplies potassium and calcium carbonate. Ash is alkaline so don’t use this for acid loving plants like blueberries, roses, azaleas etc.

-For compost tea. Fill a 5 gallon bucket one third full of mature compost. Top with water, stir and let sit for 24-26 hours. Strain and use. Be careful of letting this sit too long. Fermentation means the microbes used up all the oxygen creating anaerobic conditions where bacteria, mold and viruses can thrive. 

-For seaweed tea. About 16 cups of seaweed covered with water in a 5 gallon bucket. Cover loosely, steep for about three weeks. Strain and use, diluting to half strength with water.

-For manure tea. Use well aged manure! Put a shovel full in an old pillow case or burlap sack. Suspend in a 5 gallon bucket full of water. Steep up to 2 weeks. Remove bag, strain and dilute by half with water before using. 

-Simple all purpose tea. Start with a 5 gallon bucket. Add 1/4 cup epsom salts, 2 cups urine, and 2 cups wood ash. Fill the rest of the bucket with grass clippings, pruned green leaves or green weeds pulled right out of the ground. Top up with water, cover, and steep for three days. Strain and use quickly so it doesn’t ferment.

-All liquid teas can be applied as soil drenches and foliar sprays and can even be incorporated into irrigation systems. 

 

With all fertilizers it’s best to remember that less is more. Too much can harm your plants. Remember to dilute when you are feeding your garden! May your crops respond with bounty and beauty!

 

Island Trash Removal: The 2nd Wednesday of every month is the trash removal day at False Bay barge ramp. March 8, 2023 is the next scheduled date. 10:00 am until the barge is full.  Any changes due to weather will be posted on the email list and FB Lasqueti Hotwire. Please call Mark if you have any questions. 8601 or 250 240 9886

Recycling Depot: Fall/Winter Hours  October 1st to March 30th.

Mondays 10 am - 2 pm, Thursdays 1 - 5 pm

Closed on Statutory Holidays. All recycling is monitored. Please bring materials clean, dry and sorted.

Free Store: Fall/Winter Hours  October 1st to March 30th.

Mondays 10 am – 2 pm and Thursdays 1 - 5 pm 

Please respect signs. Drop donations during open hours. Clean, usable clothing and household items only.  Please, no food, garbage, recycling, TV’s, soft foam, batteries, electrical devices, mattresses or hazardous materials, ie: chemicals, fluorescent light tubes, prescription/non-prescription drugs, or pills in general. There are recycling programs on Vancouver island for many of these materials.

Recycle BC Website: www.recyclebc.ca/what-can-i-recycle

Return-It Beverage Depot: Open 24/7. Front left of the Free Store. No refundable glass (ie: beer, wine, hard liquor) bottles, please take these to the nearest Return-It Beverage depot yourself.  Yes to aluminum beer, cider, pop cans, coconut water cans, boxed wine cartons (leave them intact) and tetra juice packs, including (rinsed) milk and milk substitute containers. Please leave the caps on and push the straws in and do not crush containers. Labels can be left on.

 

If you have any questions, comments, suggestions for me and the qRD Let’s Talk Trash team, please get in touch. jennyv [at] lasqueti [dot] ca or 8601

 

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