Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Garden update, and making free organic fertilizer

First I'll tell you about the garden. These are the candy weeks, as we get close to solstice. Things just grow so incredibly fast it can feel like science fiction. The potatoes and tomatoes both are starting to flower, the broccoli is unstoppable, the raspberries are loaded with ripening fruit, the garlic is getting scapey. 

I'm keeping an eye on the circle garden, and pulling Bishop's weed sprouts daily. I've planted a bunch of new things that seem happy. This is the one spot I have growing conditions other than part shade/shade, and I'm a little trigger happy about making it count. I have chamomile and hyssop and rudbeckia and amaranth and cupid's dart and avens and creeping phlox and lavender. And so many others. So exciting to watch it all fill in. 

So that's the garden news. Now, for the fertilizer story.

When I was a kid, my dad kept a 50-gallon steel drum on a sawhorse in which he made cow manure tea, to use as fertilizer. Let it steep for a few weeks or a few days, decant into a watering can, and presto. So the theory went. Maybe the system was pressed into service regularly when I was too young to remember, but in my recollections now the thing served more as a leaf trap, mosquito breeding ground, and curiosity than a fertilizer brewery.

This spring, I wanted to make some fertilizer for my fruit trees-- to give them a boost-- and figured there had to be an easier way. Turns out, there is. For about six weeks, I've been making two small batches a week, and this is it: take an empty five-gallon bucket, fill it two-thirds full with grass clippings, and add water to the brim. Let it sit three days. Pour off into another bucket, or a watering can, leaving the soggy mess of grass behind. Water plants. The end.

Here now, I present to you, the proof of the pudding. Tomato one, on left, was given fertilizer a week ago. Tomato two was given fertilizer two weeks ago. A five-gallon batch of fertilizer was enough to water 30 out of 34 tomato plants, you see, so four plants had to wait another week to get their nitrogen fix. 

The day I walked out to the garden, looked at the tomato plants, and realized what was going on, I was in a state of semi-shock. Like, I expected the fertilizer to work, but not like a box of Miracle Gro! Why on earth would anybody buy that stuff, when just about everyone has grass clippings, and an old bucket, and water. 

I'm sure the fertilizer would work on anything, not just vegetables and fruit trees. Be careful applying it, as it can "burn" tender new leaves if applied directly. I unscrew the sprinkler top from my watering can, so I can deliver the fertilizer right to the roots of each plant. 

And by the way, I got my fertilizer recipe from this Mother Earth News article right here. Enjoy!

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Stephanie Carty said...

Excellent. Our elderly neighbor has been piling all his grass clippings near my garden, every day, for weeks. I used some to mulch my squash plants... but he mows his lawn EVERY DAY... I can't keep up with all the grass he's leaving me. Good to know I can use those clippings for something else!

Kristina Strain said...

Well, making fertilizer won't use up a TON of grass clippings-- unless you're making a ton of fertilizer. I vote for double-triple mulching those squashes! Seems I can never get enough grass clipping mulch for my garden, despite our monstrous lawn.

Becky said...

Smart, smart, smart!

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