7 Organic Fertilizers You Might be Throwing Away

Buying organic fertilizer can be pricey.  Did you know that there are ingredients you may be throwing away that can be used to fertilize your garden for free? We’ve put together a list of seven free ingredients that can be taken from the trash and converted to organic soil improvement treasure.

GRASS CLIPPINGS

Did you know that if you mow your grass and don’t pick up the clippings you can actually fertilize your lawn?  If you don’t like the way your grass looks when you do this, wait 24 hours.  Clippings sink down into your grass and begin breaking down within a few days.  If that method sounds reprehensible to you, hold on to your grass clippings for your garden.  Grass clippings can serve two purposes:

1.) they prevent weeds and

2.) they conserve moisture.  These are two things that store bought fertilizers can’t do.

You might be wondering how grass clippings measure up on the N-P-K scale (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium).  The answer depends on how old the grass clippings are.  Fresh clippings can be 5% nitrogen, while older clippings are more like 2%.

Careful! If you have treated your lawn with any herbicides, do not collect and use the grass clippings until at least a month later.

Banana Peels

Banana peels are something everyone throws away. The peels are rich in potassium, phosphorous and calcium.  The peels can be buried whole or cut up into chunks and buried at the base of a plant.  They can also be soaked in water for 48 hours.  Just pour the banana juice directly to your plants.   If you choose to plant them, they should be planted no deeper than four inches.  The peels can also be dried out and ground up into fertilizer.

 

WOOD ASH

Ash from your fireplace is very rich in potassium and can raise the PH level of your soil because they are highly alkaline.  It makes for a good substitute for garden lime.   If you are a really hard core gardener, did you know that mixing urine with wood ash is an ideal fertilizer? National Geographic reports that it could increase your garden’s productivity by five times. If you want to stick with using pure ash, it works very well spread over your lawn.  The application should be no more than 20 pounds for 1000 square feet of grass.

EGG SHELLS

Egg shells are a great way to add calcium to your soil.  They can be added directly to your compost pile, if you compost.  Alternatively, you can put crushed shells at the bottom of the hole before you plant something new.  This works especially well for tomato plants.  Egg shells have a secondary benefit, the deter slugs and snails.  If you find your plants are being eaten up by mollusks, sprinkle crushed up egg shells around the base of your plant.

 

FISH WASTE

This free source of fertilizer may require a bit more ingenuity than the others listed, but it’s pretty cool.  You can actually grow plants without soil in the water from your fish tank.  It’s called aquaponics.  If you want to learn more about how to do it read this article:  Transform Fish Waste Into Food.

COFFEE GROUNDS

Coffee is something many of us drink every day, but it can also be great for your soil.  Even if you don’t drink coffee your local coffee shop may save their grounds for you.  Just ask them if you can take grounds away;  they may have a system in place to help you out.

Coffee grounds are an excellent source of nitrogen.  Grounds can either be spread directly onto the soil or mixed into your compost pile.  If they are spread on top of the soil, they can act as a moisture barrier like peat moss.  If you add them to compost, the ideal compost recipe is 1/3 leaves, 1/3 coffee grounds and 1/3 grass clippings.

COOKING WATER

It may not surprise you to know that when you boil or steam vegetables many of the nutrients left in the pan can be good for  your plants.  A few rules of thumb to stick to:

1.) Don’t use water that has sodium or sugar added to it

2.) Use the water as soon as it has cooled and 3.) Don’t use water that has been used to cook starchy vegetables like potatoes.