When learning techniques on how to maintain my garden, one thing I knew I needed to learn about was fertilizer. Fertilizers help keep your garden soil nutrient-rich and balanced for optimal plant growth. Seems easy enough to head over to the hardware store and just buy some, right? Sure, if you want to shell out a ton of money.
The whole reason I started my garden was to save money by growing my own produce. Between pots and soil, I had already spent $70 dollars. With fertilizers running anywhere from $10 to $30 and up, keeping my soil nutrient-rich for the entire spring, summer, and fall would probably drive up the total cost of my garden significantly. Plus some of those fertilizers, especially the cheaper ones, contained chemicals I couldn’t pronounce.
People have had gardens for hundreds of years before chemicals, so obviously there has to be other ways to go about keeping my garden fertilized. After talking with a few garden experts and consulting a few books, as well as Internet resources, I discovered some natural household garden fertilizers:
- Used Coffee Grounds
Coffee grounds are regarded as one of the best free fertilizers, and I couldn’t agree more. The grounds add acidity to the soil, attract earthworms to aerate the soil, deter snails and slugs, and provide vital nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and nitrogen. You can set the grounds on a baking sheet in the sun to dry out, then sprinkle in your garden. I like to slightly till the soil prior to adding the coffee to make sure the nutrients reach the plant roots. If you don’t drink coffee, save the grounds from the pot at work or stop at the local coffee shop and see if they will save them for you.
When planting your vegetables or fruit into the ground in the spring, take some crushed eggshells and sprinkle them in the hole. Throughout the garden season, also spread crushed eggshells around the plants. The shells provide calcium to help the plants grow.
- Grass Clippings
When properly applied, grass clippings can replenish nitrogen in your garden soil. Make sure to till the soil as you add the clippings to the garden. If you just throw them on top of the soil, the grass decomposes quickly and may smell a little funky. You can also use the grass clippings to start your own compost pile to make homemade fertilizer.
- Wood Ash
If you have a fire pit in the backyard or a fireplace, the ash can reduce overly-acidic soil by adding potassium and magnesium to the soil. What’s important to note though is if you want to use wood ash in your garden, be sure the wood is untreated and is stain-free. Treated wood contains dangerous chemicals which can kill your plants. Using a hardwood, like oak, will also provide more ash than a softer wood. Use wood ash sparingly though—too much can hurt your garden!
You can make a small compost pile by simply throwing old kitchen scraps, grass clippings, leaves, tea bags, or any other nonchemical-based product into some kind of container. You can make a small compost bin for your house, or even apartment if you have a balcony, with a plastic organizer tub. The important thing is to drill holes around the bin to aerate the compost so it decomposes faster. Each day make sure to stir up the compost as well.
Even if you don’t have direct access to one of these natural fertilizers, you will probably know someone who is either a coffee nut or obsessed with mowing their lawn. The best part about all of these fertilizers is that they don’t cost anything or even if they do it’s a few dollars. Researching natural fertilizers helped save me a ton of money on my garden this year and have kept my plants going strong this summer without artificial chemicals.
Consider using these household natural garden fertilizers and feel good about the fact that you are doing things naturally and saving money in the process.