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Best free, organic fertilizer . . .

 
pollinator
Posts: 270
Location: Haiti
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This year, I've been fertilizing almost exclusively with diluted urine (though I find that a half cup of the full strength stuff works fine for my small trees). I've also heard of studies that got better results using urine WITH ash.

Any input on the best way to do this? Are they mixed together somehow? I know soaking ash in water leaves a good liquid for things like washing, but I'm not sure if that would sufficiently extract the potassium and other goodies, or if the solid chunks need to be in there?

I also got some composting worms from a friend and have experimented with mixing a handful of the castings directly into the urine water.

What other free or mostly free things have you successfully used for fertilizer? I'm considering mixing a small handful of our local sea salt into the liquid intended for the trees.

I've thought of setting up a weed tea bucket like David The Good demonstrates ( https://youtu.be/x4pMkLGWes0),  but haven't gotten that far.

I'm toying with dissolving eggshells in vinegar. Not sure if that's a huge advantage (to dissolve them, I mean)? Also, considered coffee grounds, but do they have that much added value when I'm using urine?

Very curious what others are using and any recommendations.
 
Posts: 224
Location: east and dfw texas
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I use weeds soak in water as long or short time ,make a useful quick tea.if you soak too long it goes sour and will burn plants if not diluted.
 
Priscilla Stilwell
pollinator
Posts: 270
Location: Haiti
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jimmy gallop wrote:I use weeds soak in water as long or short time ,make a useful quick tea.if you soak too long it goes sour and will burn plants if not diluted.



How long is "too long?" I don't mind diluting it though.
 
jimmy gallop
Posts: 224
Location: east and dfw texas
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you will know by the smell the longer you let it go the closer it gets to digested poop similar to cow.
anaerobic/aerobic stir or oxygenate and it's a better product
leaves also are good,each plant will have a different bacteria  
close to using mulch as water filters through it ,it picks up nutrients and the micro in the soil will pick up what they can use .
It's close to getting the drainage off a compost pile .
but to answer the to how long I put together a bucket full let it set a day strain and use then fill the bucket back up for tomorrow all the time adding to it as i can if i need it before tomorrow I'll use it. as a continuous cycle.        
 
jimmy gallop
Posts: 224
Location: east and dfw texas
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the term organic has a lot of different meanings too
 
steward & bricolagier
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Location: SW Missouri
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You don't need to dissolve eggshells, smash them up well,they'll do fine :) Adding vinegar would acidify the pH of where you toss them, and unless you are on serious alkaline soil, it would be too much. I use vinegar to kill weeds, not something to give plants you want.
 
pollinator
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Lots of questions. I'll tell you what has been my experience on my homestead.

Urine? Yes, a good fertilizer. I add it to my irrigation water, so it gets applied diluted. In my greenhouses, I water weekly. I apply 1 gallon of irrigation per square foot. Each greenhouse is 100 square feet, thus uses 100 gallons of water per week. I add 1 gallon of urine per 100 gallons of water. This appears to supply adequate nutrients to supplement the compost that got tilled in before the crop was planted.

In my outdoor gardens also get supplemented with urine, but at a different strength. I want the gardens to get 1 inch of water per week. I keep a rainguage to determine if they get that. If not, I irrigate to make up the difference. I add urine to the irrigation water if I'm using a pump and hose. If using a bucket, I simply pour a little into the bucket. If perchance I've been getting an inch of rainwater and thus don't need to irrigate, then I'll simply dribble a tad a urine down the garden rows if I need to empty the urine bottles.

Eggshells. No need to soak in vinegar unless you want to use it as a foliar spray. Simply dig them right into the soil or add them to a compost pile.

Ashes. I use them to supply potassium and minerals. I add them to my compost pile. But they could be simply sprinkled atop the soil and turned in via tilling, digging, or scratching. If there are charcoal chunks in with the ashes, I also add them to the soil.

Coffee grinds are an excellent soil conditioner. While they supply some nutrients, I have found them to be very advantageous for improving the soil tilth.

While I'll use some ocean water, I am careful not to over do it. If you live where there are heavy rains, much of the excess salt will leech out and end up several inches below the soil surface. But with less rain it will be up higher up in the soil and can interfere with plant growth. So I will use some ocean water during wet years but none during dry years. If I'm not expecting 30-40 inches of rain, then I don't use ocean water. And I don't use ocean water at all in the greenhouses, except what was used in the compost making process. The soil in the greenhouses never leeches, thus the excess salt can't be washed away.

Homemade compost is my number fertilizer. It's made out of every bit of free organic material I can get my hands on. I never throw away anything that could be added to the compost. While other people seem to hate weeds, I love them. They get made into compost.

I've never used weed tea, but that's another option for free fertilizer.

Worm castings are another great fertilizer. I don't keep composting worms because I simply take care of and feed the worms in my gardens. It's a lot less work for me that way.

Mulch. Everyone seems to overlook mulch when they talk about soil fertilizer. Mulch itself gradually  breaks down because it is being consumed by soil life. That's good, because the nutrients get moved down into the soil and become available for the plants. Plus mulch shelters the soil, keeping it moist and cool so that soil life forms can thrive. It's the soil life that converts the organic additives into compounds available to the plants, it's not the organic materials by themselves. So it's very important to have a thriving mass of soil life. I keep my soil surface covered with mulch. I seldom have soil exposed to the sun. But I live in Hawaii where I don't have to deal with cold soil. So in cold areas one may not wish to have a constant mulch.

While compost is my main free fertilizer, it doesn't have to be done that way. Organic material could simply be dug into the soil. You could plant a cover crop and then dig it in when it grows big enough. Or you could dig in chopped weeds, kitchen waste, waste fruits, or whatever. I find that digging in stuff works faster for fertilizer than simply using the chop& drop method. Chop & drop works, but it is slower.

Human manure is also a consideration, but it has to be handled safely to prevent problems.
 
Priscilla Stilwell
pollinator
Posts: 270
Location: Haiti
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Thanks for all the input! Here's a bit more details on my situation:

Living in Haiti, coming from a lifetime (several decades) of gardening in Wisconsin and Minnesota, so I'm learning things all over again.

The soil here is clay and void of most nutrients and organic material. We are in a valley and get the runoff of the higher elevations, but that basically just adds silt and clay with the tiniest bit of waves of leaves that get blown off in storms.

Only recently we're starting to get large enough trees to support colonies of birds that are eating the bugs and spreading their own fertility . . . Along with miscellaneous seeds. Most of the area is baron and only under some of the larger trees are weeds, grass, and ground covers taking hold.

We do have a large supply of Jathropa which I've chopped a lot for makeshift shades over seedlings (chop them and throw them whole over the planted area. The leaves stay green for more than 2 months because of the water content) as well as for mulch.

I had a compost pile but then when I saw it reducing so quickly, and realizing much of the nutrients were leaving right below and in the immediate vicinity of the pile (which was in the garden, so no loss), I spread it out. I nixed the narrow hills and deep irrigation canals that the locals "helped" dig for me (they just assumed that's what I wanted, since that's how ALL Haitian gardens are prepared), and went to a meter wide or so, with access paths between.

Kitchen scraps get buried in a trench over a scoop of sawdust (which is a miracle for this hard clay soil), then covered with other carbon material, sprinkled with some goat manure and old ash and charcoal powder, and buried with native soil to keep critters out. I've just finished trenching my second (and last of the current garden space) bed like that. The first one, I trenched like that, layered with sugarcane scraps and chopped Jathropa and then put a layer of local soil on top with some goat manure and compost mixed in, and planted into it. It's been super dry but a few seeds took hold. I really didn't do much for watering other than the first few weeks. I'll see how it goes.

On top of the trench I pour the water and coffee grounds from rinsing the pot I boil coffee in (I don't have an actual coffee pot), and I also pour urine and any other kitchen-derived liquids like what comes from boiling pasta or veggies.

I've also buried fish and chicken pieces from dinner prep, right into the trenches. I bury shallow so it leaves a stink for a few days, but I deal with it because of the end result!

I don't do much about weeds other than if they are directly in my way, because I need SOMETHING on the soil. I have become nuts with adding every bit of organic material, I have people donating egg cartons, cardboard boxes, unclaimed cardstock certificates (just today), dried up papaya trees, and more! Haha. I'm glad they are interested in my different methods.

The fertility should be greatly increased by the end of the year. We don't have native earthworms here now because it's so hot and dry and there's no place for them to hide, but that should change as I get the soil covered with several inches of organic material. We DO have a ton of ants that help aerate the soil and do cleanup . . . And they also ensure I keep moving, or they bite my toes.

So my worms are hopefully going to add more fertility soon. I need to actual split them so I can facilitate reproduction and therefore faster poop accumulation! :) I just keep them in a 5 gallon bucket with no holes. They seem happy.

We have a large brackish lake about a 15 minute hike away that washes enormous amount of lake weed onto the shoreline, about 18 inches deep or so, and 10-20 meters wide. I am working out an easy harvesting and transportation method. I might be hiring local kids to do that (child labor is not illegal here. Haha). They bring me coconut hulls and goat manure and such.

So that's the majority of what I'm doing. I have pretty much unlimited sawdust/shavings from a friend's business, so I'm working out ways to balance with nitrogen and other nutrients so that it will benefit and not kill stuff.
 
gardener
Posts: 533
Location: N. California
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I let my egg shells dry a few days, then I put them in a coffee grinder.  It makes it a fine powder, and I add that to the food for my worm bin.  If you don't have a coffee grinder, I think a blender, or mortar and pestle, of just smash them by hand, but the key is to let them dry out.
 
Priscilla Stilwell
pollinator
Posts: 270
Location: Haiti
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Thanks Jen. I put them in a plastic container and use a glass bottle to smash them (just push and rotate!) Works pretty well, and the worms haven't complained yet! :)
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