Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Free fertilizers

On our beach walk today I noticed that we once again have seaweed - for some reason it disappears during the dry season - I must remember that and stock up next time!   It started raining but I couldn't stop myself and was running around dragging bunches of seaweed back to the car.  I like to think I looked like a mermaid emerging from the deep bringing armloads of pure gold, but that would actually take a bit more imagination.  I certainly felt as though I had struck gold!
The asparagus is now mulched with seaweed and some new shoots are appearing. Yummy - time to start harvesting them now!
The other thing I have been wanting to do for a long time is make comfrey juice. I do already use the leaves as mulch and add them to the compost. Glen, who gardens in a community plot in England has posted some very interesting reports on comfrey.  Find him on kitchen gardens - link to the right. Loosely following his instructions I have a pot of comfrey leaves which is going to drip down into the lower bucket.

Evidently one of the problems can be flies laying eggs and turning it into a maggoty mess so I used some leftover veil fabric from my daughters wedding to fly proof the container. ( I knew that would come in useful sometime!) The main thing is that this need to rot aerobically and this will allow a free flow of air. I have heard different reports of how bad this smells, but I am sure that if it is bad my hubby will ask me "what is in that bucket, are you a making that horrible weed tea again? "

Just thinking about it, I do use quite a few "strange" techniques in fertilizing my garden organically.  I have built up quite nice rich soil in the 2 years I have been building this garden, so I am sure some of them work! I would say that my motto would be lots of different additives in small quantities added often. 
Some of the "free" things I do:
1. Compost - hot - I have a bin and all kitchen scraps go into the bin, I keep adding to it, but do mix it up once or twice a week.   I probably don't get all the way down to the bottom every time, but I can feel a lot of heat in it.  I don't add manure - just don't like the idea! I don't add weeds that have seeds.  I do add comfrey leaves, pigeon pea leaves and lemongrass which are supposedly accelerators.  I would say that my compost consists of  20% household peelings eggshells etc.  40%  cuttings  and green leaves.  40% shredded dry leaves and cardboard.  I mostly keep an eye on it and if it seems a bit wet, I will just add some shredded newspaper or cardboard.  I keep extra cardboard on my paths so it is nice and soggy and doesn't mat up when I add it.  If it seems dry then I cut some green leaves and add them, and stir it up - mostly all it needs to get activated again is a good stir.   Every couple of weeks I will drag a couple of bucketfuls of compost out of the bottom of the bin.  If it is not quite broken down enough I might turn it back into the top again.  In the tropics material breaks down so quickly that you don't really want to wait too long before using the compost.  I read this information about a year ago and  I feel that helped my garden immensely.  So I am continually adding compost as mulch.  I do get quite a few weeds, but they are easy to pull up - mostly passion fruit, pawpaw and tomato.   Sometimes I let them grow too.
2. Compost cold:  I also have a old wheelie bin in which I have added layers of garden waste - green and brown layers, this does not get mixed, or added to, and hopefully will eventually create compost all by itself.
3. Leaf mould: In another wheelie bin I have extra leaves since at times the lychee tree sheds more leaves than my little compost bin can handle.  Initially I filled the bin, wet it down and left it, and it has now reduced in volume by a half.  I didn't want to mix new with old, so the next lot of leaves that I collected I placed in garbage bags and placed just on top of the older leaves.  Those can be lifted out to access the older leaves in the bottom.  This process supposedly takes a couple of years.
4.  Fish and shellfish:   Whenever I have a fish carcass or prawn heads and shells I bury them in the garden.  I also first discovered this from Kitchen gardeners International.   I don't have a dog, but I cant say that it even attracts rodents - I normally just bury the whole packet wrapped in butcher paper about a foot or two deep.
5. Seaweed: I gather seaweed quite often and add to the compost, and also use as mulch on the asparagus.  I think it is too salty for most other crops, although I did use quite a sizable layer of it when building up my original vegetable garden lasagna style.  
6.  Weed tea:  When weeding I will place all the weeds in a bucket with a little water added and cover to let rot.  This does smell pretty bad, but diluted with water I use as a foliar feed and feel I am not "wasting" the nutrients that the weeds have stolen from my garden.  I cover the bucket so that I don't get flies and midges, but am not sure that is the right way - it might be better to incorporate some air, so this application needs a little more research.
7.  Crusher dust:  I occasionally add a little crusher dust to the ground as I feel this adds minerals  and also keeps the sandy soil from getting compacted in heavy rain.


  1. Thanks for this post! I have been trying to make my own compost for a while by simply pile all the garden clippings under the hedge bush. They seem so hard to break down, especially I keep adding the new ones. Your post gives me lots of ideas! Hmmm, our family all loves the seafood, until today I have not used any of those wastes in my garden yet. I got to try doing that!

  2. No wonder your garden is so healthy. Great advice on so many ways to make fertilisers.

  3. What a terrible end my veil fabric has come to!
    (and what's worse, you probably think using it in a garden is elevating it's status! ) :)
    I prefer your photos of the pretty flower results over your discussion of the smelly ways they get that way! :)

  4. Ami, the thing I like most about that method is that you dont have it all in your garbage bin stinking up the neighbourhood!
    Thanks Missy, I am always on the lookout for more ideas.
    Mary, well it did look prettier on you! Ok I will look for some more flowers :)

  5. LOL! Your daughter's comment is so funny. Very useful purpose for that fabric, though. Who ever thought of using seaweed as fertilizer/mulch? Not me! And I've never thought of fish, though back in school, we all learned that's how the Indians taught the Pilgrims to grow corn. Hmmm...

    I've never been that serious with my composting, just adding leaves and sticks and moss directly to beds, throwing yard waste into a very unofficial compost heap, and (like Ami said above) throwing the excess under a hedge. The garden is so tiny, that I can't bear to add real compost bins to it.

  6. Very creative, aren't you?!?! I'm impressed. I've attempted composting but don't stick with it due to lack of space and such. However, I add to the soil directly...such as your fish compost. I also use pine needles as mulch (I am surrounded by pine trees) and let the leaves lie in the garden beds. I also purchase "bunny blessings" and composted horse manure on occasion. I'm envious of your seaweed. I'm going to comb the shores for it now...great idea. Why didn't I think of it?!?!

  7. Floridagirl,
    yes, isnt she just the best! I love thinking outside the box, and of course using anything I dont have to pay for.... My compost bin takes up hardly any space and is really very effective, and tidy.
    I loved using pine needles - they made great long lasting and good looking mulch, but I have also heard that they can make the soil quite acidic, so keep an eye on that.

  8. That's really a nice idea and you did it. I'm so impressed with you. And also would like to share with you that Beehive composter also is one of the most essential beehive materials that should be taken into consideration. Bee droppings can also be useful as natural fertilizer for your garden soil. So it is advisable to purchase your composter that is beneficial and practical to use.

  9. I'm just catching up on several weeks of your recent blog posts and just wanted to say that I found this one especially helpful. Thanks! -Jean


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