Plant fertilizer purchased from the local garden nursery often has chemicals that not only may harm your plants, but are not environmentally friendly. They don’t sound particularly edible either. In addition, they can be a bit pricey. For this reason, many gardeners are making plant food themselves using organic plant food recipes. Learn more about how to make your own plant fertilizer at home.
Plants take nutrition from soil, water and air and garden plants tend to deplete nutrients in soil. This is why we must replace them each year with plant fertilizer.
For many years, home gardeners and farmers used “free” manure to fertilize their crops. Manure can still be purchased to dig into the garden and/or compost at ¼- to ½-inch (0.5-1 cm.) layers.
Compost can be made at home out of leftover food items and other detritus and is virtually cost free. Composting, or even compost tea, may be all one needs for a successful crop. If, however, the soil is still nutrient lacking or if you are planting a more demanding vegetable garden, augmenting with another type of fertilizer may be advisable.
Manure tea is another great homemade food plant that you can easily create. While there are many of these tea recipes for making plant food from manure, most are quite simple and can be achieved with nothing more than the chosen manure, water and a bucket.
With a few simple and relatively inexpensive ingredients, it’s quite simple to make a batch of your own homemade plant food. The following are some examples, and as you will see, several of them can be made simply by ransacking your pantry.
Mix uniformly, in parts by volume:
Plus, for best results:
*For a more sustainable and less expensive option, you can substitute chemical-free grass clippings for the seed meal. Use about a half-inch-thick (1 cm.) layer of fresh clippings (six to seven 5-gallon (18 L.) bucketfuls per 100 square feet (30 m.)) chopped into the top 2 inches (5 cm.) of your soil with a hoe.
This plant food recipe is excellent for use on most any variety of plant, used every four to six weeks.
Combine with 1 gallon (4 L.) of water and store in an airtight container.
*1 tablespoon (14 ml.) of Epsom salts can also be combined with 1 gallon (4 L.) of water and put into a sprayer. Even simpler than the above recipe. Apply once a month.
As promised, there are quite a few items found commonly in your kitchen, or elsewhere around the house, that can be used as plant fertilizer.
Try any of the above homemade plant food ideas for a “green” solution to healthy, bountiful plants and gardens.
BEFORE USING ANY HOMEMADE MIX: It should be noted that anytime you use a home mix, you should always test it out on a small portion of the plant first to make sure that it will not harm the plant. Also, avoid using any bleach-based soaps or detergents on plants since this can be harmful. In addition, it is important that a home mixture never be applied to any plant on a hot or brightly sunny day, as this will quickly lead to burning of the plant and its ultimate demise.
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Did you ever wonder if you could make homemade plant food? Over the years our readers have submitted some of their tips for making their favorite homemade plant food. One of my personal favorites is to use Epsom salts. Did you know you can use Epsom salts in the garden too?
After you pick out the homemade plant food of your choice make sure to check out these amazing water globes that you can place in your houseplants and they will self water for up to 2 weeks! I need to get me some of these.
Epsom salt is a common fertilizer that can be used in your yard and garden. Right on the bag it says that you can sprinkle 2 tbsp. of Epsom salts around the base of tomatoes, roses, evergreens, azaleas, rhododendrons, and trees. It is also great for fertilizing indoor plants.
If the soil you are using is nutrient-deficient, or you have decided to plant something that is a little more demanding, using a fertilizer is advisable. But why spend a great deal of money on store-bought fertilizer when you can make it at home using just a few ingredients?
Easy and chemical-free alternatives are readily available and can be used as plant food and flower food while making your own organic plant food can also be hassle-free and fun. The first step requires good soil. In order to achieve this, you will need good compost. Compost is extremely simple to make and can be created at home using lawn clippings and leftover food scraps. In fact, it’s almost cost-free.
Asides from good soil, the key to a successful garden is essential nutrients. Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulfur and calcium are just a few of the macronutrients plants need to survive.
Additionally, having a basic knowledge of fertilizer is a must if you strive for productive plants. All fertilizers fall into one of two classes: natural/organic or chemical/synthetic.
Chemical or synthetic fertilizers are created using synthetic substances. These substances often contain highly concentrated forms of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N-P-K).
Although these fertilizers are quick acting, they do have their disadvantages – they’re unable to enhance the soil and, over time, they can devastate the positive organisms required for healthy soil. In the long run, these chemical-laden fertilizes can hinder plant growth.
Organic and natural fertilizers on the other hand contain ingredients such as cottonseed meal, alfalfa meal or fish emulsion, all of which provide nitrogen granite meal or kelp meal to provide potassium and rock phosphate or bone meal to provide phosphorus. One disadvantage of organic and natural fertilizers is that they get to work much slower.
The three main ingredients in fertilizer are the three most beneficial ingredients for your plants. N-P-K each play a very important part in the growth and health of your garden.
Nitrogen: This nutrient is responsible for leafy growth and tall stems.
Phosphorus: Helps to promote energetic flowering and a strong and healthy root system.
Potassium: Aids with protein production, plant growth, disease resistance, plant durability, insect resistance and effective water use. If your plant is showing yellow leaves, it’s likely it’s lacking in potassium.
One simple rule that applies to the use of all fertilizers is ‘less is more’. Too strong a concentration or too much product can be extremely harmful to your plants. If you over-feed your plants, they may suffer from fertilizer burn – look out for withering leaves with brown, curled edges as this is the common sign that a plant is over-fed.
Why didn't I know about this sooner?!
I think we can all agree that gardening is hard work! Whether you’re growing a vegetable garden or tending to your flower pots, maintaining your precious plants is a pretty demanding part-time job. After all that hard work, it can be frustrating when your plants aren’t quite as big or beautiful as you’d like them to be!
I tend to get really excited about my garden when it finally starts feeling like spring. My fingers are just itching to get out in my garden and start . Continue Reading
The right plant fertilizer can help give your plants a much-needed boost, but store-bought fertilizers can be expensive. So how do your feed your plants without emptying your wallet? The answer is actually pretty simple – make your own plant fertilizer at home!
Today I’ll be sharing a homemade plant fertilizer that’s easy to make and extremely inexpensive. In fact, the ingredients are common enough that you might already have them in your kitchen cupboards!
You only need a few simple ingredients to make this fertilizer. First is epsom salt, which is a great source of magnesium for plants. Magnesium is crucial for photosynthesis, and it also helps plants to absorb other important minerals. The second ingredient is baking soda, which acts as a natural fungicide to help protect plants from lethal diseases. The final ingredient in this recipe is household ammonia. It may seem counterintuitive to put ammonia on your plants, but ammonia is actually a great source of nitrogen. Nitrogen is essential for lush, leafy growth for your plants.
These 3 ingredients are very inexpensive to buy, and you only need a dash of each to make your homemade plant fertilizer. You can feed your plants for just a few cents worth of materials – it really is a no-brainer for any gardener. Here’s how to make it at home!
My daughter Britta has definitely emerged as the gardening guru in our family. Today she's sharing with us her homemade organic fungicide that is just . Continue Reading
Start by heating about 1/2 cup of water in your microwave or on your stovetop. Add the epsom salt and baking soda to the hot water, and stir until dissolved.
Next, pour the dissolved epsom salt and baking soda into a large bowl or container. Then pour the rest of the water (at room temperature) into the container, along with the ammonia.
Finally, pour the mixture into your watering can, and use it to water your flowers and plants. Repeat the process once per month to keep your plants happy and well-fed!
I believe we should all love the place we call home and the life we live there. Since 2011, I've been dedicated to making One Good Thing by Jillee a reliable and trustworthy resource for modern homemakers navigating the everyday challenges of running a household. Join me as I share homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make life easier so you can enjoy it more!
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The type of bone you choose will determine how nutritious your ultimate mixture is. You can choose from turkey bones, beef bones, chicken bones, and pork bones. Beef bones work best. Turkey bones are equally effective. Chicken bones are easier to handle.
Use a knife or scraper to eliminate traces of meat, grime and other residues from the surface of bones. This is important because the fatty deposition can retard the decay of the bones when they turn into dust later on. Consequently, your plants won’t be able to acquire the full complement of nutrients that they could. For a more thorough clean-up, boil the bones for an hour. This will remove fat and dismantle the bone marrow for effective release of nutrients.
Keep the bones in an oven preheated to a temperature of 284 degrees or higher. This will dry them out completely to make the grinding process easier and also ensure that any pathogen are effectively killed. If you don’t have an oven, consider steaming the bones in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes instead. Allow them to dry out before proceeding further.
Bones are among the toughest things in the world. That is why you have to smash them with a mallet to fragment them into pieces before the actual grinding process. Fragmentation will simplify and shorten the grinding process.
Toss the bone pieces into a grinder or grind them using a mortar and pestle until they’re not transformed into fine bone dust.
Make sure you know the nutrient composition of your soil. That way you’ll understand how much water and bone meal to mix to prepare the liquid bone meal fertilizer. If the calcium and phosphorus levels are high in your soil, add just a teaspoon or two of bone meal to regular fertilizer. Otherwise, increase the quantity if the soil is deficient in these minerals.
Mix the bone meal into the water in a pot over medium heat. The heat allows the water to absorb more of the bone meal than it would otherwise. Continue mixing until no bone meal settles as sediment, then set the pot aside so your liquid bone meal fertilizer can cool down.
Monitor the soil after every application to track changes over time. Determine the calcium and phosphorus levels in your soil to understand and adjust the quantity of bone meal in every fertilizer dose accordingly.
We’ll start off with a really easy recipe that involves coffee grounds. If you drink coffee, you most likely have coffee grounds leftover that you toss. These coffee grounds have a high level of nitrogen that will increase your soil’s acidity. To make it, all you have to do is mix the coffee grounds in with the soil. Concentrate on the area directly around your plant’s base. This works wonderfully for magnolias, hydrangeas, roses, and vegetables .
Coffee grounds you could use to boost the soil’s nutrients surrounding your plants.
Depending on the rate of application and the size of your vegetable garden, you may find yourself purchasing large quantities of fertilizer. But before you head to the garden center, did you know that there are plenty of fertilizer recipes—regular and organic—that you can make at home? And believe it or not, some of them are reasonable to make yourself.
Regular (also known as chemical, conventional, or synthetic) fertilizers will supply necessary nutrients to plants, but they are not as beneficial to the soil itself. In fact, over time synthetic fertilizers may even harm soil quality by reducing the growth of microbes or overwhelming soil with acid or salt.
Organic fertilizers are created from organic ingredients and should not be confused with “all-natural” fertilizer, which can include non-organic materials that are considered “safe” for organic gardening since they are not synthesized. Organic fertilizers encourage soil microbes, earthworms, and other flora more so than synthetic fertilizers do.
All may come in granular or liquid formula: granular fertilizer will last 1-9 months (check the packaging), while liquid will last only 1-2 weeks. Granular fertilizer can also come in a “slow-release” formula that will release a steady flow of nutrients over 2-9 months due to a special coating. Previously just synthetic fertilizer was available as a slow-release formula, but products that use organic coating are popping up. These release nutrients as the coating decomposes.
Beginner gardeners can easily create these organic recipes organic ingredients are safe when mixed together and more accessible than those used in regular fertilizer recipes.
Add your choice of ingredient to a 5-gallon bucket and strain after steeping for three days. Use no more than once every two weeks:
1/3 bucket of dried chicken manure with wood shavings (dilute 1:1 with water)
1/3 bucket of seaweed
2/3 bucket of fresh grass clippings (dilute 1:1 with water)
Urine can be used immediately after diluting 1:20 with water
To ensure a 1-2-1 mix of essential nutrients Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium, try this mixture:
2 parts blood meal
2 parts fish meal
3 parts bonemeal
6 parts rock phosphate or colloidal phosphate
1 part kelp meal
6 parts greensand
If you want a 3-0.5.0-2.5 mix, try:
4 parts alfalfa meal
1.5 parts phosphate
0.5 part lime
A (stinky) fertilizer for your leafy greens, brussel sprouts, beets, and broccoli:
Add 1 part fish to 2 parts water in an airtight container. Place in a remote sunny spot. Stir every two days and apply in two weeks. Fish parts may include: guts, bones, heads, leftovers, sardines. A great source of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, and amino acids.
For a nitrogen-rich, potassium-rich recipe that includes calcium carbonate, mix dirty, untreated fish water tank with fireplace ash. Three notes of caution: Be sure to remove your fish first! Do not use saltwater. Avoid using around acid-loving plants or in alkaline soil.
Lastly, here’s an organic fertilizer recipe that will cover 100 square feet:
8 cups alfalfa meal
6 cups blood meal
6 cups bone meal
4 cups greensand
1.5 cups kelp meal
8 cups soybean meal
We suggest only veteran gardeners use these recipes, as not only can some ingredients be a challenge to purchase, but mixing the wrong chemicals can be quite dangerous.
1 ounce iron (III) nitrate nonahydrate
½ tablespoon copper (II) nitrate x2.5 H2O
½ tablespoon ounce manganese (II) sulfate monohydrate
½ teaspoon ounce zinc sulfate heptahydrate
pinch of chromium (III) nitrate
pinch of cobalt(II) nitrate hexahydrate
½ teaspoon nitric acid 70%
Dilute in water to make 1 quart
3 tablespoons sodium silicate, 42 degrees syrup
1 tablespoon sodium tetraborate decahydrate
pinch of sodium molybdate dihydrate
⅓ tablespoon EDTA free acid,
1 tablespoon sodium hydroxide
Two-part Veggie mix:
Mix 1: Calcium, Nitrogen, Phosphorous, some Potassium
7.5 ounces calcium nitrate tetrahydrate (completely predissolved)
2 ounces potassium dihydrogen phosphate (completely predissolved)
Dilute in water to make 1 quart
Mix 2: Potassium, Magnesium, Sulfur
3 ounces potassium sulfate
6.5 ounces epsom salt
¾ ounce morpholinoethanesulfonic acid
An excellent site for understanding the best uses for liquid fertilizer and methods to make them at home. Liquid fertilizers are especially useful in soil-less growing environments such as peat-based or container-based plants.
Liquid fertilizer is also beneficial when attempting to grow cold-intolerant crops in not-so-perfect temperatures. A temporary Nitrogen deficiency occurs until soil temperatures reach about 50 degrees Fahrenheit and may inhibit early plant growth liquid fertilizer may help.
Written by Steve Solomon, former owner of the Territorial Seed Company, and posted on the same site as above, this article provides information on a “Complete Organic Fertilizer” which works well in most food gardens.
Not only is the recipe and ingredient description supplied, but application directions are also provided based on the type and demand of vegetables. Make sure you check out the “caution” sections to understand the implications for using this type of organic fertilizer.
And here’s another take on the “Complete Organic Fertilizer.” The recipe on this site was allegedly Steve Solomon’s original recipe, which has since changed. Gardener Travis Saling published the original recipe, which he believes is more beneficial to gardeners, especially those in the Pacific Northwest.
The major change? The original recipe used lime instead of gypsum, which Travis does not recommend due to its calcium content. Judge for yourself!
Here’s a scholarly take on synthetic fertilizer types and parts for the DIYer. Professors at Virginia Tech explain the main components of fertilizer, nutrient requirements of your plants, quantity of fertilizer to apply, and application method and timing. This article is comprehensive, yet simple enough for even beginner gardeners to follow.
A wonderful collection of fertilizer recipes maintained by Gil Carandang, President of the Independent Inspectors Association of the Philippines. A few of our favorites include the Grow Fertilizer (a plant growth formula rich in nutrients, enzymes, and hormones) the Ginger-Garlic Extract (boosts plant immune system and helps fight insects and fungal infections) and the Homemade Fish Fertilizer (which promotes plant growth through Nitrogen and supplies nutrients to soil microbes).
Designed with beginner gardeners in mind. Amy Whitney from Atlanta Veggies provides a great introduction to fertilizers, including what the ratio numbers stand for, and how to create a fertilizer for your vegetable garden. This short tutorial video focuses on a 10-10-10 mix (you will learn what that means).
Who doesn’t love “totally awesome” urine? Phil Nauta from Smiling Gardener poses this uncomfortable question, but insists healthy urine is a garden’s best friend. Explore this 11-1.0-2.5 homemade fertilizer—as well as an herbal tea fertilizer—through his interesting and humorous video. So, go “start peeing in your garden!”
A catchy jingle gets you in the mood to learn about about organic fertilizer ingredients. This is a ten-minute in-depth video that not only lists organic fertilizer ingredients, but also explains them: composition, feel, and nutritional properties. Trust the Invisible Gardener from Malibu, California (don’t panic: it’s organic!).
Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of SusanA Secretariat
Jack Rooney says
How much lime is safe to use in a compost bin. I weighed out 200gram packages and gave them yest a lite dusting app one third of the bag. Is the amout ok. The bin has lots of orange peels as
My wife love oranges
Fertilizer tea is one of the easiest ways to make a significant change in your garden, and its so easy! Heres my own recipe – http://bit.ly/1F53uCa
nice site! Thank you for the Fertilizer tea recipe! I need to make friends with the neighborhood chicken owners!
Can you help? How do I granulate an organic grass cuttings liquid fertilizer?
Steve Easterby says
Synthetic fertilizers can result in acidification over time, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Western American soils tend to be alkaline, so more acid is better. Also, organic fertilizers, especially compost and manure, can introduce more salts than synthetic fertilizers. Finally, long term studies show synthetic fertilizer use leads to BETTER soil microorganism activity, because microbes feed on root exudates. Synthetic fertilizer use = better plant growth = better microbial growth. Don’t believe all the organic hype.
I had a soil test for my lawn and the suggestion said that the pH is balanced, but they recommend fertilizer at a 1-1-2 ratio. They added a small detail of .75 lbs of N per 1000 sq ft. What ingredients should I blend together to reach this? I have 32000 sq ft of turf. Also I have a broadcast spreader.