Thursday, August 28, 2014

Natural Garden Helpers

Natural Garden Helpers

                One of the biggest items that surfaces with growing foods successfully is what to use for fertilizer for plant and product growth that is also safe. There are literally hundreds of fertilizers that can be purchased on the market, but there are numerous natural fertilizers that you can use for your gardens from spring through fall that work, are safe, and are extremely cost effective.

                The first readily available fertilizer that I wish to suggest is using weeds. That’s right, I said WEEDS! Nettles in particular are high in nitrogen, a vital component to any fruit or vegetable that you plan on growing in your garden. To use nettles effectively, you can incorporate them into the soil in a couple of different ways. You can cut them off at their base and till them into the soil or you can make a liquid solution with them. The solution is quite easy as you simply fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of water and then grind up nettles and fill the bucket until it is nearly full making sure that all nettles are immersed. Place a cover on it for 2-3 days, remove the nettles, and then water your plants as you would regularly.

                The next consideration for natural plant food is eggshells. Eggshells offer calcium that helps with plant growth, decreases the possibility of blossom rot, and it can be used as a deterrent for pests like slugs. To use as a plant food, eggshells can be washed immediately after cracked and then dried. After they are dried, they can be powdered in a coffee grinder and then applied/worked into the soil. I have found it especially helpful to use this method for tomatoes and have noticed significant changes in plant quality. Just crushing the shells and sprinkling around any garden plants can help deter slugs as the jagged edges on the shells cut these pests. Start with a tablespoon of eggshells and add more if the plants are not responding.

                Believe it or not, those coffee grounds that you continue to toss out each day after you are finished with your cup, are actually worth saving. Like nettles, coffee grounds are high in nitrogen. They can be sprinkled around the base of plants and allowed to be absorbed when it rains or when you water them. They  can also be worked directly into the soil. One of my favorite applications with coffee grounds is to combine them with powdered eggshells as you then get a powerful combo of nitrogen and calcium. Like eggshells, I would start with 1 tablespoon and increase as needed.
                The last item that I like to use in my garden is fish entrails. Although it can be kind of nasty at times, the entrails that I use from fish incorporates bone meal and promotes earthworms to work through the soil. Worms help with aeration and transform the fish entrails into usable plant food. I prefer to use fish that I have caught myself and then bury them at least a foot down on the side of the plant. I can honestly say that every plant I have ever taken this approach with has flourished. One squash plant has already produced 14 fruits this summer and has numerous others on the way! If you are unable to catch fish and plant them in your garden, fish emulsion formulas are available on the open market that should have a similar effect. 

                The main thing that I wanted to present as part of this blog is the fact that you have many natural fertilizers at your disposal if you choose to take the extra time to use them. You can decrease your financial costs, reuse products that you once discarded, and you can actually promote a healthier overall system in your garden as you will know exactly what you are putting into your respective system as fertilizer.

Mark Maule
Health and Wellness Instructor


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