Welcome to This Is How We Do It, a new series wherein we’ll be discussing projects both inside the home and out and explaining, you know, how we do it.
I planted my garden at the beginning of summer, when it was just starting to get hot more than occasionally. Were we ever so young! The yard of my apartment was blessed with a compost container, so I was able to plant my baby vegetables with lots of compost to help them grow strong and healthy. Now that my plants are grown, they need more plant food, and I want to feed it to them without disturbing their root systems by shoveling around in there. The solution: liquid fertilizer! I could buy Miracle-Gro, or I could make some easily (and organically) at home. There’s more than one way to do this, but I made what’s called “compost tea,” or liquid fertilizer derived from compost. It’s just stupid easy, I promise.
1. Find a bucket or other large container, and fill it halfway or so with compost.
It’s okay if it’s not all totally decomposed/composted or if there are still chunks of vegetable matter, just shovel it all in there.
2. Fill the rest of the container with clean water.
You can cover the bucket with a lid at this point if you wish; it’s not a big deal whether you cover it or not, it will just smell a little less like compost if you do.
3. Let the “tea” sit for a few weeks, stirring frequently.
Most instructions call for about three weeks, although if your compost is really A+ material and is already very nutritionally rich, you could do less time. It should be stirred frequently, once a day if you can, to introduce oxygen into the mixture, which will help the microbes you need.
4. Dilute and feed to your plants!
The liquid in your container should now be fully functional liquid fertilizer! You can strain the liquid through a mesh or an old t-shirt to separate out the plant matter. Dilute the liquid with water at a ratio of about 1 part fertilizer to 9 parts clean water, and use to water your plants. It should be a light translucent brown, not unlike a glass of iced tea. You can re-use the plant matter with more liquid to create more fertilizer. Your plants will thank you.
If you don’t have any compost to work with (here’s an easy way to get started!) you can use grass clippings or leftover vegetable and plant matter instead. While not technically a fertilizer, you can also use Epsom salt as an additive either to the soil or in the form of a spray for tomato and pepper plants; you can dissolve two tablespoons of Epsom salts in one gallon of water and use the resulting liquid as often as once a month.