The Best Natural Fertilizers for Your Garden
Gardening is a labor of love. That’s true whether you’re planting crops for food or lovingly cultivating milkweed for monarch butterflies. You pour energy and care into the soil, but that isn’t always enough. You need great fertilizer, too! Plants need proper nourishment and food to grow, and best natural fertilizers provides both.
Of course, any great gardener wants to provide the best possible care. Natural fertilizers are the answer, and they’re simple enough to make at home. There’s no need to buy chemical-based fertilizers from your local gardening section or big box store when you can find practically everything you need around your property. Keep reading to learn about all the most effective natural fertilizers, how to make them, and their best uses!
Anyone adjacently familiar with the idea of gardening likely knows that manure is sometimes used in compost. It might not be the most elegant option out there, and it certainly brings the idea of getting your hands dirty to a whole new level, but there’s a reason so many farmers and gardeners swear by it. Manure is an incredibly effective fertilizer!
Even the EPA stands behind the effectiveness of manure as a fertilizer. It’s high in nutrients that plants require, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, and it increases the amount of organic matter present in the soil. Plenty of plants feed on organic matter and it keeps the soil healthy and functional.
Not all manure is equal, though, and you should only use manure from certain animals as fertilizer:
- Llamas and Alpacas
While it’s possible to use fresh manure as fertilizer, it’s better to compost it first. Fresh manure can be incredibly acidic, so you run the risk of burning your plants rather than helping them.
Perhaps the words “compost” and “tea” seem strange together, but compost tea is one of the most effective organic fertilizers out there! It’s easy to make, too, and your plants will thank you when they get a taste of it.
At Stoney Creek Farm, we love a good compost tea made with comfrey leaves. You can check out our guide to making comfrey tea for step-by-step instructions on making your own tea at home. We even sell comfrey plants at the farm if you’re quick enough to grab them when they’re around!
Compost tea works with traditional compost, too. Make sure you begin with compost that is complete and fully processed, meaning all the material is fully decomposed. These teas take a bit of time to steep, so plan ahead if you want your supply ready to go.
To use compost tea, mix it with clean water. Aim for a ratio of around 10% tea to 90% water, depending on your mixture. Water your plants and sit back to watch them grow!
Vermicomposting – One of the Best Natural Fertilizers
Vermicomposting, commonly called worm castings, is another method of composting. Vermicomposting relies on worms to do all the hard work. Essentially, you set up a worm bin and feed your worms a steady diet of scraps. The worms break down the scraps and give you processed, finished compost, along with worm castings. Worm castings are worm manure, which harkens back to the first item on this list.
If you’re interested in vermicomposting, you can purchase a worm kit or create your own DIY worm farm. Check out Stoney Creek Farm’s starter guide for vermicomposting if you’re ready to dive into the fascinating process of worm castings and vermicomposting.
Worm castings also work for compost tea, so vermicomposting allows you to combine several different ideas. It’s a versatile, efficient way of composting. Here are a few ideas of what to put into your worm bin for the best fertilizer.
- Kitchen scraps – Organic scraps, like vegetable peels and leftover fruit, are great for vermicomposting. Unless you’re a seasoned composter, avoid adding in meat or any particularly fatty, oily scraps.
- Coffee grounds
- Plain pasta
You can even get rid of paper with vermicomposting, as non-glossy paper (such as shredded printer paper) makes excellent bedding for the worms!
If you have a traditional lawn or grassy area, you can use your grass clippings and scraps as fertilizer. Just collect your grass clippings and spread about half an inch of clippings over your garden. It makes a fantastic, nitrogen-rich mulch with the added bonus of blocking weeds.
Since grass typically gets trimmed twice a month, grass clippings are a steady, sustainable fertilizer source for many households. However, only do this if you have an organic lawn and don’t use chemical pesticides or weed killers.
Does it seem counterintuitive to suggest spreading weeds around as fertilizer? After all, most people work to keep weeds out of their gardens. They have their uses, though, as long as you’re careful! Similar to grass clippings, weeds are high in nutrients like phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium – all things that your desirable plants need, too. The trick is keeping the seeds out of it.
If you want to use weeds as fertilizer, make weed tea! It works similarly to the comfrey tea mentioned earlier in the article. Gather your weeds, put them in a bucket that’s about two-thirds filled with water, and let them sit. In a couple of weeks, you’ll have a nutritious, delicious weed tea to pour over your plants.
Using weeds as fertilizer is a clever, eco-friendly way of using something that you’ll already have to deal with. Since weeds are so intent on growing in your garden, use them to water it!
Great fertilizer is worth its weight in gold. No matter what you’re growing in your garden, your plants need the right nutrients. With a bit of patience and a few supplies, you can try out any of the methods on this list. Mix and match techniques to see what works for you! For other gardening tips and homesteading ideas, follow Stoney Creek Farm on YouTube or join us for one of our many events and classes!