Homemade Garden Amendments
Your local home supply store carries a dizzying array of garden soil amendments, but it is possible to supply many of your garden’s needs from things that you or your neighbors are currently throwing out.
Bone meal—supplies calcium, nitrogen and phosphorus. Clean meat and fat from bones (poultry are easiest to process) and bake at 400F for about an hour or until bones are thoroughly dry and brittle. Allow to cool. Place in a heavy fabric bag or between two old towels and, while wearing eye protection, smash with a hammer until pieces are no bigger than 1”. Pulse in your blender until they are about the consistency of corn meal. Add to compost or sprinkle directly around bottom of plants.
Egg shells—calcium and slug deterrent. Allow to dry thoroughly and pulse in blender until they are confetti-sized (for slug deterrent) or meal-like (the finer, the quicker the calcium boost). Place on surface of soil around slug favorites or in planting holes for tomatoes or other calcium-needy plants.
Aquarium water—supplies nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus. If you have fish, don’t dump the dirty water down the drain! Some gardeners have noted even 2x increases in their garden productivity after beginning to use aquarium water. Apply straight or diluted.
Fireplace ashes—supplies phosphorous, magnesium, potassium and calcium. Sprinkle lightly around plants to kill slugs, fertilize and raise soil pH, or add to compost pile. Avoid use if your soil is very alkaline.
Weed tea—supplies nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and trace elements. Fill a 5-gallon bucket with weeds from your yard and garden and then add water to within 2-3” of the top. Cover. Stir daily for two weeks. Strain through a piece of burlap or old window screen. Apply to garden diluted 1:10 with water. For more information, see: http://theprepperproject.com/weed-tea-free-fertilizer/
Dry leaves— supply nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and trace elements. Run your lawn mower over leaves in the Fall to shred. Leaves may be added to compost, tilled or raked into the soil or used as a mulch.
Vegetable scraps and waste—various nutrients. Save peelings, tops and spoiled vegetables and fruits from your kitchen and add them to your compost piles or till into soil in the fall to break down over winter. The smaller the pieces, the quicker they breakdown.
Whey—provides nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and other minerals. Whey is the leftover liquid from making cheese or yogurt. Mix 1:1 with water and apply 1 gallon per 10 square feet of garden space.
Coffee grounds—supplies nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium and copper; kills slugs; deters fire ants and feeds earthworms. While you may not have an abundance of leftover coffee grounds, your neighbors or local coffee shop might. Some shops have company policies about saving grounds for gardeners, so ask. We have gotten them in bags, or you can supply your own bucket for collection if you prefer. Sprinkle on surface, rake or till lightly into soil at about ½” per application.