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10 Ways to Fertilize your Garden for Free

By the end of the summer, I always have a shock when I check how I’m doing with my gardening budget (I know, I know I should be keeping track of it the whole time but I forget). It’s ALWAYS over. I check to see where the money went and it’s disappointing. I’d rather be doing things like buying beautiful peonies, or tall blue delphiniums, not buying fertilizer. It’s like paying for the expensive waterproof drywall in your shower, you need it but you’d rather spend the money on the pretty faucet rather than the ugly orange waterproofing.

Well, I set out to figure out how to spend less on fertilizing my garden.

SIDE BENEFIT: They are ALL natural! NO chemicals! It's funny how often, the cheaper method turns out to be more sustainable too!

It started in my kitchen,

  1. Composting. This is the most easy and common way to fertilize. It’s stuff you are already throwing away. All your fruit and veggie scraps go in, egg shells and hair too. I have a fully enclosed black drum that we put our compost in. It doesn’t stink (until you open it) and doesn’t attract critters. You can use a Lomi, this is something I’d love to try but haven’t been able to justify the purchase…. Yet. I’d also love to build a few large boxes outside to compost as well. There are a myriad of options to compost.

  2. Making your own bone meal. I have a post here on how to do it. Use the leftover bones from your chicken or steak to make your plants happy!

  3. Banana water. All summer, I’ve had a jug of water sitting on the counter. My kids and husband know to to put their bananas in the water. After they soak for a few days, I use the water to fertilize and water my garden. I then throw the banana peels in the compost or just in the garden.

  4. Sauerkraut. This sounds weird, but a huge batch of my sauerkraut went mouldy. I didn’t know what to do with it so I dumped it into my garden. That summer, my plants looked better than ever! Ferment some things and add them to your garden. The microbiomes that are so good for your gut, turns out, they are great for your garden too!

Then I went outside:

  1. Willow Branch Rooting Hormone. I used soaked willow branches to create a rooting hormone.

  2. Seasoned wood chips for fertilizer. We had a few trees chopped down and we asked the arborist to dump the woodchips in a pile. We let the woodchips sit for a year, and we use it in our garden as filler as well as fertilizer. It’s important to let it season, like firewood, as unseasoned wood will DRAW nutrients from the soil, rather than adding to it.

  3. Leaves, grass etc. Things from your lawn can be used to add nutrition to your soil.

  4. Compost Tea. Let your clippings and weeds soak in water and use this fermented liquid to fertilize.

  5. Weeds. Not Weed. But weeds. A friend of mine said when she worked at a farm, they would weed the garden and let the weeds sit in the garden. They added protection from the sun and as they dried out, they added nutrients back to the soil.

  6. DON’T weed. Some weeds, like clover, dandelion, and comfrey are actually very beneficial to your soil. They are nitrogen fixing and are perfect for adding nutrition to your garden beds. When I need to make room for plants, I’ll pull up these beneficial weeds and keep them as mulch to help fertilize my garden. By the way, this is special permission to NOT weed your garden!

There you have it! You don’t have to spend a fortune for fertilizer OR add chemicals to your garden at all! Use these free fertilizers you likely already have.

One trick is to use a variety. I’m not scientific or exact (at anything!) but the combo of all of these methods has allowed me many years of beautiful gardens.

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