Getting plants installed in the garden space is just the first step. New gardeners soon discover that plants, like people, get hungry.
Good thing is they like a lot of cheap or easy to get things, like manure or compost. Some people prefer to buy fertilizer, which is fine. But your kitchen and yard also hold the keys to improving soil fertility.
It isn’t uncommon that there are good compostable materials coming out of your household.
Many things at home are good for dirt improvement or soil nutrition.
I make a lot of coffee grounds. I usually use the French Press or the pour over technique for my cups so collecting the grounds is very simple. Coffee grounds are great for adding in nitrogen. I’ve also had evidence that some seeds will sprout and grow straight from the spent coffee grounds. I’ve primarily used it for peppers and tomatoes for seed starting.
The kicker being that coffee grounds add some acidity to your soil. Only a certain percentage should be used along with other soil amendments.
When I’m not drinking coffee, it is various teas. I buy loose-leaf teas which are just the leaves, no additives. These are good to dump directly into the garden and I treat them the same as I do leaf mulch.
Different teas are derived from different plants so in terms of ratios added you need to know what you are adding. Make sure there aren’t any weird additives to the tea and go for plain leaf.
The usual tea from the camellia sinesis plant leans slightly acidic, lot of the other tea varieties are more neutral. Chamomile, lavender, mint and a lot of other teas are friendly compostables.
This house has tons of bananas. They go great in smoothies and are nice for general snacking. Banana peels make a good additive all on their own as they add calcium, phosphorus, and potassium.
How I use them is usually soak them in water for many hours. I then pour the water over the garden plants I think need it. It is good when they are flowering and setting up for fruit.
Then I put the whole banana into my compost pile filled with worms.
Eggshells are also a usual thing people have around as a waste product. If you cook your morning eggs or French toast or if you bake anything, chances are you have eggshells.
Something that needs to become a steady habit is having the eggshells added to the compost.
The shells have a lot of calcium and act a lot like lime and help neutralize acids. When buried around tomato plants they help reduce blossom end rot and perk up the overall health of the plant.
When the snow is melted up here the grass ends up mowed near every week. Since the electric mower has a bag that can attach to it the clippings are easily saved.
Clippings are high nitrogen from grass and whatever nutrient load you have from whatever yard weeds might be present. In any case, the clippings make a great mulch. None of our clippings are wasted so it all is going back into our growing beds.
Epsom salt is another item that comes up often on garden sites. The bags of this stuff are cheap and it gives a good boost to magnesium and sulfur which are both especially good for perky green leaves.
Tomatoes, peppers, and various solanums seem to love a bit of the stuff.
I usually sprinkle it around, but another popular method is diluting a teaspoon amount to a gallon of water. People use this water to pour over their plants.
Every now and then you might end up with rotten or expired milk. Instead of pouring it down the drain you can mix a 1 cup of milk to 4 cups water and use it in the garden.
Milk will give you calcium, protein, sugar and vitamin B, which aids the overall growth of the plant.
Another common mainstay is the firepit. After a burn you will end up with a huge pile of ashes.
Ash can go directly into the soil and adds to the acidity a little. You also get some calcium carbonate and potassium.
Every year when fall hits you have families who bag up and grow away tons of leaves. Leaf mulch was how I was able to get my first garden up and running cheaply because I collected bags and bags of leaves and allowed them to compost into this dark rich leaf mulch.
My first yard had awful soil which was mostly this red brick clay with very little spring or fluff. With all the leaf mulch and compost added over the yard became a food producing machine that was light and easy to work.
Compost is the mainstay of any small or serious farm. You need to constantly feed the garden and what better to use than composted materials. All my compost is technically being further processed by worms.
Every season will bring in many huge bags worth of leaves, I have the grass clippings and weeds, junk mail, cardboard, and the endless supply of scraps from the kitchen not worth turning into broth. I turn it into a good soil additive instead.
It is a great way to fertilize for mostly free. You may opt to get special containers or tools though that is optional. I personally like this inexpensive compost cage to hold my leaves and kitchen waste outside. It makes my designated spot a lot cleaner and keeps the leaves held in place.
A lot of things can be used for cheap fertilizers. Many things considered trash is very valuable for beefing up garden soil.
Plants need three essential nutrients to grow: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K).
Nitrogen- green plant growth.
Phosphorus- flower and fruit-bearing.
Potassium- growth of whole plant.
Micronutrients include things like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sulfur are just a few other ones.
Some other things of note is that plants are affected by acidity of soil and often a soil tester is nice to have on hand that can tell you a wide range of information about your dirt.