‘Dear Garden Doctor,
I want to use natural fertiliser [sic] but don’t have the patience for a compost, do you have any ideas for other easy ways to give my plants a natural kick with organic fertiliser. I’ve heard that banana peels can be used in the garden from vegetable gardens to flowers, palm trees and even thrown in the tops of staghorn ferns. Do you have any other easy ideas for natural fertilisers that can be made from ordinary household scraps that would otherwise end up in the rubbish bin?
Rafa from Ubud’
Adding any sort of organic matter to the soil to will improve the nutritional content and vitality of the soil whilst also inviting worms and all sorts of other beneficial micro-organisms to move in. A living soil that is teeming with life will always show the results by producing a lush green garden. The easiest place to start is to re-use waste that you find within the garden.
All of the leaves that fall, the pruned offcuts, and the flowers that you deadhead contain vital nutrients that have been drawn up from deep within the soil. That’s why composting is so beneficial, it’s all about recycling the nutrients back into the soil. If you don’t have the patience for composting, then do it nature’s way and cycle the nutrients directly back into the soil.
Leaves and Garden Waste
Raking up old leaves and spreading them around the garden as a layer of mulch is one of the easiest and most effective ways to get started. Leaf mould or decaying leaf material is so simple, yet extremely beneficial. It’s one of the most readily available amendments you can add directly into your soil to improve it.
The benefits are twofold, not only will the soil benefit from the slow release of nutrients, it also retains moisture within the soil or can prevent moisture loss from evaporation if layered on as a mulch. Alternatively, you can dig it into the soil, where it will aerate the soil and improve drainage in combination with the action of worms, insects and microbes working to break it down.
When tidying up the garden recycle the garden off-cuts, making sure that they’re pest and disease free. Old dry palm fronds can be cut up and reincorporated into the soil. If your off-cuts are green, leave them in a pile out in the sun for a few days so that they dry up, turn brown and then can easily be shredded and reincorporated into the soil. Dead or dried up flowers can be pruned and scattered around the garden beds. Dried grass clippings are also one of the best nitrogen boosts you can give to your garden. Collect all garden waste, and cycle it back into the garden, it is full of the nutrients that have been sucked up from deep within the soil.
They are great for the compost, but can also be incorporated directly back into the soil, decomposing rapidly and releasing nutrients for your plants. Fruit peels such as banana peels, mango, papaya and avocado skins will decompose quickly when lightly dug into the soil, alternatively simply just throw them around the base of your plants and cover with a layer of soil and leaves. Peels will provide potassium, phosphorous and calcium as well as many other trace minerals which will promote root and flower development and overall plant health. If you are concerned about attracting pests or animals, dry the peels in the sun before adding them into the garden or liquefy the peels in a blender with water before pouring it on to your garden.
Coffee Grounds and Tea Leaves
Coffee grounds and tea leaves are a source of nitrogen for the garden. You can either scatter coffee grounds around the base of your plants or fork them into the soil. With the teabags I normally collect a few then tear the paper and throw them in a bucket with water and pour the onto the soil. Coffee grounds and used tea leaves will give nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and magnesium. The same goes for herbal teas, the green tea, rosehips or whatever sort that you drink can be poured out onto the garden or around your pot plants.
They consist of over 90% calcium carbonate and contain small amounts of other trace elements that make them a beneficial fertiliser. Collect them, wash and crush them, and then sprinkle them around the garden. They will add a hit of calcium and other minerals to the soil. Spread them around pot plants, your vegetable garden and outdoor trees. If you are growing an edible garden crushed egg shells sprinkled around plants will discourage snails and slugs, as they won’t crawl across the sharp jagged shell grit. Not only are you providing a natural fertiliser but also protecting your plants from slimy pests as well.
If you like boiled eggs, save the water until it cools and pour it on the garden as it will contain calcium and other minerals. Eggshells can also be used as seedling planters. With a pin make a few drainage holes in the bottom of an empty eggshell, add soil and then put them back into the old egg carton. Sow the seeds and care for them as you would any other seedlings. When they are ready to transplant into the garden, squeeze the shell gently to crack it and then place it in the ground. The roots will push through the cracks in the shell which will eventually decompose naturally, the best bit is… no transplant shock!
Starchy Rice Water and Other Sugars
When you wash your rice, instead of wasting the starchy water by pouring it down the sink, water it around your plants and flowers. Just make sure to pour it directly onto the soil and avoid getting it all over leaves and flowers. The starches will promote beneficial soil bacteria, whilst also adding nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous and other trace elements to the soil. Empty or near empty drink containers can also be used to water to the garden. If I go to the fridge and find the last remains of a milk or fruit juice container I fill it up with water to dilute the contents and then pour it straight onto the garden. Milk diluted with water is a well known fertiliser for the garden. The same goes for any drinks that have passed their use-by.
Simply dilute old containers with water and pour the contents around the garden. Even old bottles of soda can be rinsed and poured onto the garden, the microbes and plants will love the sugar hit. The added benefit is that you will have clean rinsed containers, instead of smelly sticky ones filling up the rubbish bin.
On a final note, the napkins, paper towels etc used at meal time are also thrown into the compost along with the old newspapers – the worms absolutely love that stuff. Who would’ve thought that trash could be so useful in the garden!
Copyright © 2017 Dr. Kris
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