Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How To Make Free Fertilizer From Your Weedy Garden

In our area we are not allowed to use chemical herbicides and pesticides in our gardens.  I have noticed that the cloying, toxic odours emanating from the fertilizer aisles in the big stores have diminished somewhat, but surprisingly, they are still selling some stuff. To whom I wonder? People who live further afield, in the more pristine areas of our community perchance? ick.

Several years ago our bio-dynamic son introduced me to the idea of making my own fertilizers by soaking the vital rejected plants in my garden, the weeds. Imagine harnessing the power from these pernicious little flora freaks… some of them (like bindweed) are almost impossible to stamp out entirely. What is their secret? It certainly seems that they have a desire to have Plant World Dominance. I have a big pail of weed tea brewing out in my backyard and my husband found some great paint strainer bags so that I will (in a week or so) just strain off the fermenting weedy brew and apply to my various hungry plants. Here is a great article worth reading:

How to Make Free Fertilizer From Weeds


Supercharge your plants and save money by making one of nature’s best free fertilizers: weed tea!
When you recycle your weeds into fertilizer, you return to the soil a powerful array of nutrients that will give your garden a kind of naturally superior boost that can’t be had with most commercial fertilizers. You will also notice a dramatic improvement in the flavor of garden vegetables that have been given doses of this ‘green gold’ weed tea during the growing season. As a bonus, it has been noted that plants given weed tea seem to have more disease and insect resistance than plants that were fertilized with chemicals.

Weeds spend their entire lives mining valuable minerals and many other kinds of vital nutrients from the soil. You can tap into this large reservoir of free fertilizer by making a tea of chopped weeds and water. This simple brew serves as an excellent liquid fertilizer for root or foliar feeding. As a bonus, some weeds even offer insect repellent protection!

You might be surprised to learn that some weeds have more nutritional value than the average green leafy vegetable, such as spinach or kale. For instance, a common weed called Lamb’s Quarter contains triple the amount of calcium, almost double the amount of beta-carotene, more than double of minerals as kale or spinach. (By the way, Lamb’s Quarter is delicious to eat, but you’ll probably never find it in a supermarket. Because it is so delicate, it can’t easily stand up to the rigors of the commercial food chain.)

There are three easy ways to extract nature’s goodness from weeds: 1) as a liquid fertilizer (either as a cooked or cold brewed tea), 2) or as a mulch, or 3) buried into the soil.
If the weeds are in the seed stage, you may want to consider making liquid fertilizer (see the next heading), rather than using them as mulch to prevent unwanted weeds from sprouting in your garden.

MULCHING WITH WEEDS


When you pull or cut weeds that have not yet gone to seed, you can simply lay them on top of the ground to serve as a mulch that will provide a small but steady trickle of nutrients. Mulches are a valuable addition to your garden because they will add nutrients to the soil and help conserve ground moisture.

At the end of the growing season, mulches can be turned into the soil, to act as a powerful soil conditioner. In just a few seasons, repeated applications of mulch can help turn the poorest soil into ‘black gold’ that will outperform anything you can buy for your garden.

HOW TO MAKE WEED TEA

Recipe A – Regular strength


This is a quick stovetop recipe that does not smell bad, and can be made indoors. (The other recipes smell kind of barn-yardy, and should be made outside.)

You can use either fresh or dried weeds.

‘Suntea’ directions: For every big handful of weeds add 2 or 3 cups of water in a glass jar and set out into the sun for a day or two (use more water if making it from fresh, less if making it from dried.)
Stovetop directions: Bring the weeds and water barely to a boil. Remove from heat and cover. Allow to cool, and to soak for a few hours, then strain.

To use: Dilute one part tea to four parts of water. If using as a foliar spray, add 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon genuine soap (not dish detergent!). A few thin shavings off Ivory soap bar, dissolved in a bit of water will work. This will help the liquid to stay on the leaves better. A little goes a long way; more is not better. This stickum is not needed if using the brew as a root fertilizer.

Recipe B – Super concentrated fertilizer


This brew is super concentrated and should be diluted at the rate of 1 part weed juice to 10 parts water. For a stronger fertilizer, try a dilution rate of 1/3 bucket of weed juice to 2/3 bucket of water. Pour as needed over the root zone of your growing plants, then water as usual to assist in bringing the nutrients to the roots.

For foliar (leaf) feeding, make sure that the color of the solution is no darker than weak tea, and do not apply it to vegetables about to be harvested.

Although weed tea can be made at any time of the year, the best time to harvest weeds for fertilizer is in in the springtime, or just before the plants go into full flower. This is when the nutritional content is at its peak.

  • For roughly each pound of fresh weeds, add 8 cups of water into a container with a lid, such as a bucket. 
  • Allow to sit outside for about two to four weeks (longer in colder weather). 
  • About once a week, stir well. Hold yer nose, ’cause fermenting weeds can be quite smelly. 
  • Do not touch this concentrated liquid fertilizer with your hands! Wear gloves. This concentrate will stain, and is difficult to remove from skin and clothing.

Don’t wait too long to use your liquid fertilizer. After a time, the green brew will begin to change color to grey, brown, black and maybe even white. When it has changed color, it has been too decomposed to use as high powered fertilizer, but it will make an excellent addition to the compost pile.

If you brew this from nettles, you can make a good aphid spray if dilute it at double strength: 1 cup nettle juice to 5 cups water.

Recipe C – Perpetual supply of fertilizer
This brew is a perpetual, ongoing one. Once made it can be renewed so that it is always available, without having to wait for the brew to ‘finish’. Dilute at the rate given for Recipe B.

Put your greens in a sack, with a strong cord tied around the closed neck. Drop it into a bucket of water. Allow to ferment as outlined in Recipe B. After some of this liquid fertilizer has been used up, add more water and another fresh sack of greens. Repeating this process ensures you’ll have a continuous supply of ‘green gold’.

WHICH WEEDS AND PLANTS MAKE THE BEST FERTILIZERS?


It is best that you include a variety of plants in the brew, if you can. This way you create a broad spectrum of nutrients for your garden. Too much of one nutrient can create a deficiency in another, just like with ‘people vitamins’.

Although any plant will work well in making your own fertilizers, there are some plants that really shine as particularly nutrient-rich boosters. Here are a few of my personal favorites. In another post, I’ll tell you why these plants deserve a closer look!

  • Nettles
  • Comfrey
  • Yellow Dock
  • Burdock
  • Horsetail
  • Chickweed
  • Alfalfa (not a weed, but one of the most nutrient rich plants I know of)

This article may be reprinted by you for noncommercial use, if the following credit is given:
This article is an excerpt from Mrs. Tightwad’s Handbook #5: QUICK SUBSTITUTES and EASY FORMULAS FOR OVER 100 “CAN’T-DO-WITHOUT” ITEMS. For more information, see the left sidebar on this site: http://purecajunsunshine.blogspot.com/




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