Free and Natural Fertilizers for your Garden
Most garden stores will try to have you believe that you need expensive chemicals to have a beautiful, healthy garden and lawn. These chemicals can be harmful to kids, pets and your drinking water, along with rivers, lakes, and streams. Thinking of these chemicals in my drinking water or in the fish I caught in the local lake makes me cringe and look elsewhere for alternatives that are natural and don’t cause harm to the environment. The following four fertilizers are my most used favorites for my garden:
Blood meal can be found at almost any garden supply store. It’s rich in nitrogen, which is a staple for healthy plant growth, regardless of the type of plant you have. I use blood meal, along with bone meal (see the next section for more details on a bone meal) mixed into the soil when I add plants to my garden. For established plants, I’ll mix the blood meal into the top layer of soil in the spring to give my plants a little jolt to promote strong new growth going into the summer.
In addition to being a natural fertilizer, blood meal can act as a natural deterrent for rabbits, deer, and other animals that sees your garden as a tasty snack. Since blood meal is made from blood (a by-product from meat processing), it’s completely natural and safe to use in your garden.
As with blood meal, bone meal can also be found at most garden stores (normally on the same shelf as blood meal). Bone meal is made from ground bones (another by-product of meat processing) and is a rich source of phosphorus and calcium, which both act as a natural fertilizer that releases slowly into your soil. As stated above, I use this with blood meal to create a mineral-rich fertilizer for my plants.
Epsom salt can be found almost anywhere with over the counter cold/flu medications. It’s not only good for your body, but also for your garden. The name, Epsom salt, is a little misleading. It’s not really salt at all, but a naturally occurring mineral that contains magnesium and sulfate, which help promote healthy growth in plants. Epsom salt has been shown to help prevent yellowing of leaves and aiding plants in the production of chlorophyll, therefore keeping your plants a brilliant green color. The magnesium in the Epsom salt is also a great fertilizer to your lawn, giving you a bright green lawn without the chemicals or having to pay for the pros to come in.
In addition to this, Epsom salt also works well in tomato gardens. The nutrients in the salt not only help keep your plants green (as previously mentioned) but also keeps your tomatoes from splitting. Sprinkle about ½ cup per plant around each plant and then water, causing the salt to release the nutrients into your soil.
Furthermore, if you have issues with garden pests (grub worms, inchworms, and other bug larvae), mix Epsom salt with water and spray the mixture onto your fruit-bearing trees. You don’t need much: about 2 teaspoons of salt per gallon of water. For grub worms, sprinkle Epsom salt around the base of your plants. The minerals in the Epsom salt will cause the worms to dry up before they can cause damage to your plants.
Simple wood ash from a bonfire can act as a wonderful fertilizer for your garden. However, one cautionary note I’ve been told is you need to ensure your ash is clean – don’t use ash from treated wood, painted or stained wood, or from non-natural materials (such as plastic). These materials can leave behind toxins in the ash that can cause damage to your plants and your soil. Clean wood ash contains lime and potassium. These nutrients help to increase the ph balance in acidic soils – neutralizing the soil for non-acidic plants. Wood ash also helps to keep pests such as snails and slugs at bay. The ash pulls the moisture out of these creatures as long as the ash remains dry. When it gets wet, it no longer works as pest control.
Please keep in mind though, while ash is a free and easily renewable fertilizer, too much of it can harm your plants as it changes the ph balance of the soil and should never be used around plants that thrive in acidic soil. When you add it to your soil, keep it light. About ½ inch or less layer of ash added to the soil is about all you need and you don’t need to add it very often. I usually add it about once in the summer, about when the pests come out.