Love gardening? Then you’ll love THIS article!
(CollectiveAHA) When it comes to organic gardening, the options for all-natural fertilizers can often be scarce on the shelves at your average supply store. Those that do exist are more expensive and while they may say “organic” on the packaging, you really don’t know what’s in them. Fortunately, making your own natural organic fertilizers can be both easy and inexpensive, often using components which you already have lying around the house.
To get started, let’s take a look at the basic elements that make up a good fertilizer, as well as the trace nutrients needed for more specialized plant food.
1. The Fertilizer Formula
Unless you’re fairly new to gardening, you’ve likely seen the three numbers listed on the label of the majority of premixed fertilizers. If you aren’t familiar with what they mean, the numbers represent nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium or N – P – K. These vital nutrients are needed for strong aerial growth, root development, and overall plant health, respectively. A good way to remember N – P – K is by using the phrase “Up, down, and all around.” Knowing these three main components is essential to creating the perfect food for your garden.
2. Trace Nutrients
Just as humans need more than proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in their diets; plants cannot survive on N – P – K alone. There are thirteen additional chemical elements that contribute to the health and productivity of your garden.
Aside from the primary nutrients which we have already identified (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium), plants require three secondary minerals: calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), and Sulfur (S). During photosynthesis, plants use sunlight to break water and carbon dioxide down into hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), and carbon (C); the three non-mineral nutrients which they turn into food. Boron (B), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), chloride (Cl), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), and zinc (Zn) are the necessary micro-nutrients which a plant must obtain from the surrounding soil.
Which if any of these minerals you will need to include in your fertilizer depend largely upon your soil type. Acidic soils (low pH) such as those with high clay content tend to be lacking in macronutrients (N, P, K, Ca, Mg, and S) while alkaline soils (high pH) generally contain insufficient micronutrients (B, Cu, Fe, Cl, Mn, Mo, and Zn). Garden soil with a neutral pH between 6.0 and 6.5 generally contains adequate amounts of both sets of nutrients required to sustain healthy plants. If you need help gauging the quality of your soil, take a sample and have it tested.
3. Tomato Fertilizers
Of all of the plants in your garden, nothing loves calcium more than a tomato vine. Furthermore, because excessive leaf growth discourages blossoming and fruiting, these plants do best when offered a healthy amount of nitrogen early on. (Try using rabbit manure for a quick easy N-boost!) Then, once the vines are established, you should switch over to a fertilizer high in phosphorus and potassium, but low in nitrogen. Tomatoes also benefit greatly from magnesium, producing sweeter fruit when generously supplemented with this secondary mineral. Check out these recipes for growing more, bigger, and tastier tomatoes:
Secrets for Growing the World’s Sweetest, Tastiest Tomatoes
There are items in your home right now that make great tomato fertilizers. That’s right –items that you normally throw away can be used as an excellent homemade tomato fertilizer.
If you want to save a few dollars on buying tomato fertilizer and supply your tomatoes with the most organic fertilizer ever, just make it yourself!
Ingredients of the Homemade Tomato Fertilizer
Here’s what you’ll need to get started making your own homemade tomato fertilizer:
A good, high quality finished compost will be the base of our homemade tomato fertilizer.
Pet and Human Hair
(well we don’t need a picture for that one, don’t we)
Pet (cat, dog, ferret, guinea pig, etc) and human hair is a fantastic material for using in tomato fertilizer.
Hair contains keratin which is a valuable protein. Hair contains good levels of nitrogen, sulfate and small traces of other minerals. Hair takes time to break down, which makes it a good slow-release fertilizer.
Crushed Egg Shells
Crushed egg shells are fantastic to add to tomato fertilizer because they contain good amounts of calcium. Calcium can be important in preventing blossom end rot.
You want to bake saved egg shells in the oven for a few minutes to dry them out. This helps to crunch them up into very small pieces.
Used Tea and Coffee Grounds
Used tea and coffee grounds are a good source of potassium and phosphorus, and low-levels of nitrogen.
It’s a good idea to place the used grounds on a baking sheet and place in the oven for a few minutes to dry them out. It’s much easier to work with them when dried out.
If you have a fireplace do not throw those wood ashes away! Wood ash is a great source of potassium and other trace minerals.
Dried alfalfa leaves, or alfalfa pellets are a great organic additive for tomato fertilizer. Alfalfa contains a growth hormone and is commonly used on roses to promote growth and beautiful blooms. It can also be used on tomatoes as a superb fertilizer.
You can typically find alfalfa pellets at feed stores as feed for rabbits. Some pet stores may also carry it – just make sure it’s 100% alfalfa.
Speaking of rabbits, their manure is an excellent source of organic matter. Rabbit droppings is probably the best animal manure you can use.
One awesome advantage to using rabbit poo is it will not burn plants. Rabbit poo has a N-P-K rating of 2.4-1.4-.6 which means it has good levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, but low enough not to burn plants. But of course… if you can find one.
Recipe for Homemade Tomato Fertilizer
My recipe for homemade tomato fertilizer is not steeped in scientific methods and calculations. I want to keep it pretty simple where you can throw the fertilizer together in a hurry without needing a lab to do it.
I mentioned earlier that compost is the base for the tomato fertilizer, and it’s the component you will need the most.
To make about one gallon of the homemade tomato fertilizer you will need:
- one gallon, or larger, container such as a bucket
- 1/2 gallon of compost
- 2 cups of rabbit droppings
- 1/2 cup of human & pet hair, cut into small pieces
- 2 cups of dried alfalfa leaves or alfalfa pellets
- 1 cup of dried, crushed egg shells
- 1 cup of used, dried tea or coffee grounds
- 1 cup of wood ashes
First, place the 1/2 gallon of compost in the container, add the rabbit droppings and hair. Use a short wooden stake or something to stir the ingredients until they are well incorporated.
Add the alfalfa leaves (or pellets), the crushed egg shells, the coffee and tea grounds, and the wood ash. Mix ingredients again until well incorporated.
That’s it! Pretty simple, eh?
Using the Homemade Tomato Fertilizer
Once you have the homemade tomato fertilizer mixed up and ready to go there are many ways that you can use it. The way that I like to use it most is when transplanting the tomato seedlings into the vegetable garden.
Once I dig the hole for planting the tomato, I use the homemade tomato fertilizer mix to re-fill the hole, then water it in well. Doing this makes sure that all the organic goodies contained in the fertilizer reach where it’s needed most – at the roots of the tomato plant!.
I may make another batch of the homemade tomato fertilizer again a few months later, when the tomato plants begin setting fruit, to add as a side dressing to each tomato plant and water it in well.
You can also turn this recipe into a liquid tomato fertilizer by straining the ingredients in a bucket of water much like making compost tea. Use the liquid for weekly feedings of the tomato plants.
If you can’t find all of the ingredients that are listed in the recipe it’s no sweat! Use what you have and in any way that you want and you will be fine. The beauty of this fertilizer is everything in it is completely organic and natural, so you can’t mess it up!