Instead of using commercial fertilizers and plant food, why not use some scraps from your kitchen that would otherwise end up in the trash or compost bin to amend and improve your garden soil naturally? Inexpensive and easy, these are my favorite ways to get my garden ready for spring planting.
The better your soil and the more suited for planting, the more bountiful harvest and more lush blooms you will get. So making sure your garden soil includes the proper nutrients is critical to having a successful garden. Of course all these things can be added to your compost pile, but sine they each possess some really great nutrients for specific situations, why not spot apply them to your garden where they are most needed.
Banana peels are extremely high in potassium and also contain sulfur and phosphorus. Chopping up some peels and putting them around the base of your vegetable plants will help with root development, to increase the flower blooms on your plants, and therefore your fruit yield.
Chicken feathers are very nitrogen-rich. Collecting some feathers from around your coop and run (think during the molt season!) and adding them to your soil will provide the nitrogen necessary for nice green leaves and provides food for your plants. The leafy greens such as spinach, kale, broccoli and others are especially appreciate of high nitrogen levels in the soil.
Don't toss those coffee grounds! They contain nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, making them an excellent general fertilizer for your plants when you sprinkle them around the base of your plants or work them into the soil prior to planting.
Save your eggshells too. If you normally feed them to your chickens for the supplemental calcium they need to make strong shells on the eggs they lay, save some to use on your garden. Not only will adding some crushed eggshells to the hole when you plant tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables that require high calcium levels help to prevent blossom end rot, sprinkling some around the stems of your plants deters slugs.
Epsom salts are extremely high in magnesium which helps seed germination and the absorption of other nutrients. Mixing some Epsom salts into your garden soil will help your seeds sprout. Diluting the Epsom salts with water and spraying the mix onto plant leaves should result in greener leaves, bushier plants and more flowers.
Lobster or Shrimp Shells
Tossing your discarded shellfish shells in the garden not only adds nitrogen and phosphorus, they will make your acidic soil slightly more alkaline, which is more conducive to growing vegetables.
If you have a wood stove or fire pit, saving the ashes and scattering them on your garden will help to neutralize acidic soil and also add calcium to your soil. Depending on the types of wood burned, wood ash also can contain high levels of magnesium, potassium and phosphorus which are all beneficial to a garden.
So next time you're on your way to the trash bin or compost pile, think instead if what you're tossing out might work better to help feed your garden.
The information in this article is partially excerpted from my new book Gardening with Chickens (Voyageur Press, 2016) available now for pre-order from Amazon.com.
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