If you are harvesting food from your garden every few days then you are removing nutrients from the natural system and these need to be replaced.
Buying manure or other organic substances that will replace these nutrients can become an expensive exercise if you are trying to keep any kind of area in full productivity.
Ideally the sustainable way to replenish these nutrients is to use waste products from your garden and household .
The most common method of recycling nutrients is to compost and return this to the soil – this is a great long term strategy, but if I need a quick fix I use fertiliser tea that I have made myself.
What are fertiliser teas? Fertiliser teas are liquid fertilisers that you can make at home from everyday products and can be applied to your plants to enhance their growth. They can be made from just about any organic matter – weeds, compost, and organic kitchen waste – that you have around your home.
Why make and use them? Firstly liquid fertilising is a great way to get an instant result, because the nutrients in the organic matter is broken down and dissolved in to the liquid it can be taken up by the plants root very quickly, benefiting the plants straight away.
It also helps save money as well as helping the environment.
Fertiliser teas are a very inexpensive way to increase the nutrient level of your soils and promote plant growth – you are using waste material from your property that has generally cost you nothing.
You are also helping the environment by not putting organic waste material into landfill and by reducing your purchasing of products that are usually packaged in plastic and use a lot of transport (fossil fuels) to get these commercial products to your backyard. Both plastic and fossil fuels are made from non-renewable resources and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
So what do I do:
Firstly gather what you need:
• One larger watertight container with a close fitting lid (about 35L)
• A small material bag
• Organic matter
• Watering can
Container – I use a recycled plastic garbage bin.
Bag – I generally use hessian sand bags but old pillow cases, stockings, or flour bags work just as well. It must be of a reasonably close weave so the decaying organic matter does move into the surrounding liquid. If it does then the resulting tea will clog up the rose on your watering can.
Organic matter – any organic matter will break down to release its nutrients, but some organic matters are richer in nutrients then others. I like to use fairly nutrient rich materials such as chicken manure, green leafy weeds, comfrey and spent legume plant material.
How to do it:
• Fill a hessian bag with your choice of organic material. Tie it closed.
• Place it in the container.
• Cover with water.
• Leave it for a month (it will be very smelly by this time)
• Discard the bag full of organic matter – I usually add it to my compost heap as it takes very little time to completely breakdown. Be warned if you leave the bag in the water for longer than a month the bag can collapse as you try to remove it. Very messy!
• Dilute 10:1 (1 litre of the tea to a 9 litre watering can of water)
• Apply to plants.
The tea concentrate can be stored in recycled containers in a cool dark spot for use for up to 12 months. This allows you to be able to make different mixes with the same equipment.
I also have some favourite recipes for when I want specific plant growth.
To encourage leaf growth I use a high nitrogen mix of 1 part chicken manure to 2 parts green fleshy weeds or legumes. This is great on leafy green such as silver beet, spinach and lettuce.
To encourage root production, general plant health and flower and fruit I use a high potassium mix of 2 parts comfrey leaves, 2 parts seaweed (if you can get it easily, otherwise use more comfrey) and one part banana skins.
I use a ½ strength mix on newly planted seedlings, full strength on plants where I what to promote flowers and fruit on either annual vegetables or my fruit trees and full strength on plants that I want to boost their overall health.
Or a combination of both on plants where I what to encourage good leaf production to develop a good sized plant before it sets flower and fruit.
An example of this is with Tomatoes, where I apply high nitrogen mix once a week for six weeks,nothing for a couple of weeks, then start apply a high potassium mix to promote the production of flower and fruit.The result is good strong large plants that have lots of leaf area to support lots of fruit, which + a Great Harvest.
So why not have a go at making your own fertiliser teas, it is a great way to save money, help the environment and have fabulously healthy organic plants and produce.
For more information on starting your productive backyard, check out the website.
If you have questions about your new garden and your plantings, you can always ask me questions via my Facebook Page, Pinterest or Instagram!
Happy Gardening Kathy