There are so many people out there who think they can’t keep a plant alive because they just don’t have the time, attention, and yes even magic, to tend to it. The truth is, most of these people are over-watering and over-fertilizing their plants to death and this will keep happening until they one day happen to forget about a plant and then find it again sometime later to discover it thriving in their neglect. That is the amazing thing about nature, it really doesn’t need much in the way of human intervention.
That being said, plants in your care can benefit from some extra love from time to time. For my outdoor plants, I really don’t do much for fertilizer since they receive compost and mulch in the spring. If that’s not enough, then that’s a sign that there is something sick with the ecology of my garden and that’s a whole other issue. However for my indoor potted plants and for the hanging baskets on my porch especially, some fertilizer every now and again will do them a world of good.
Did you know that chemical fertilizers (the same stuff you buy at the garden center) are poisonous to human health and polluting to our water supply? The nitrogen seeps into the ground and gets into our water supply, eventually running out into the Gulf of Mexico. This in turn has caused an “ocean dead zone” in the gulf.
The other issue I have had with chemical fertilizers is in my experience most of the time you will end up killing the plant. The other issue that happens is that shortly after fertilizing you will find an explosion of aphids and other pests swarming said plant. Aphids LOVE plants with unnaturally high nitrogen levels. Now to deal with that, that same company can sell you a chemical pesticide. See my article on how to create safe organic pesticide. Quite the racket, isn’t it?
Have you ever noticed that as you walk along in the woods that you don’t really see diseased plants or bug-bitten leaves or any of the problems you see in your garden? That is because the forest is a system in perfect harmony. There are no fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides other than those naturally occurring. Organic matter falls to the forest floor, decomposes and is absorbed by other plants. Those healthy well-fed plants are then strong enough to fight off any disease or pest. We can learn so much about gardening just from observing this perfect system, this savage garden.
Like the forest, the best tools of the garden are free and readily available to you. If you make your own beans or steam veggies, you can start giving the left over bean-water to your plants. The same is true with spaghetti water, just make sure you didn’t add any salt to the water!
I saw banana peels as fertilizer alluded to on Pinterest so I decided to give that a try this summer as well. Simply take your discarded banana peel and toss it in your blender with water and blend it up as smooth as you can. I do one banana blender for each hanging basket. It is working very well!
Like people, you’re going to have the healthiest plants if you feed them a variety of food sources. So, don’t just feed them bean water or just banana peels. Give them a variety of veggie-waters. Some things to avoid however are: poop from your pets, things with salt, or grease and oil.
Of course if you really want to up your game, you need to start composting. Just composting will probably cut down your weekly trash haul by half. In my household we are down to just one bag of trash per week and that’s purely due to composting everything: food scraps, leftovers that have gone bad, a paper towel used to scoop up cat throw-up, weeds from the garden, the cardboard tube at the end of the toilet paper roll, etc. We even have a separate compost just for our compostable cat litter. That’s a whole other level though and I encourage you to do research before you start composting pet poop.
All this organic matter then gets piled up outside and over the course of a season is turned into the most nutritious soil you can imagine. I’ve heard of people mixing compost with water and then using the compost-water to water their plants. In my experience that just clogs up my watering can, but you can simply take a scoop of compost and add it to any flower baskets or what have you. HOWEVER if the compost is still hot (it generates heat during the decomposing process) do not use it yet as this heat can hurt your plants. Be patient and wait until your compost is well-rotted and soil-like.
So, not only are you growing beautiful plants, helping the environment by not using chemical fertilizers, but you are also saving money in the process! All of these fertilizers are free and would have otherwise just been poured down the sink or thrown in the trash. People often complain about how expensive gardening is as a hobby, but I am finding that with some time and patience and community from other gardeners, it’s quite possible to get the expense down to zero. Give it a try and let me know what you think!