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Free fertilizer

Sep 19, 2010

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 of 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. 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 intentionally 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. (It is the wet season) 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 where they are 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. I started that to see if it does better added all in one go without adding and taking away from the bin.

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, added a little water 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.

All in all I think that my gardening hobby is not an expensive persuit since I get so much fertlizer for free and save seeds, and propogate by cuttings. A winning deal all around!


Well, your article is very informative. I am thinking of having my own garden. Since I start to be a full time mother I guess I have enough time to spend gardening. Thanks to your article and will help me a lot. I hope to see more articles in your site that will help me in my new found hobby, thanks.
You have so many different types of compost, fish and shellfish, seaweed,leaf mould, weed tea etc.In the end do you mix them all up and feed your veggies.If you use saparately ,on different vegetables,can you tell us which one is most boostfull and is the best compost.
H Salma, I think what seems to work the best for me is to add little bits of different things every so often. I think when everything is added at once it is too much for the plants to absorb. I dont like to buy in anything extra and my system makes use of what is already there.
Hi Gillian It all sounds good to me. Is the crusher dust based on limestone? Will it increase the pH of the soil. I never check the acidity of my soil, though i know i should. My only concern with adding home made compost is the tendency to make the soil acidic. I compensate for this by giving the brassica bed a really good liming in the roatation. I have found that when i think the soil is too acidic the leaves have a reddish appearance. This is often noticeable in houseplants as well. I am not certain if that is true or not. Maybe someone else knows. I do add Dolodust [Ground Magnesian Limestone] to my compost to try to keep the stuff 'sweet'. I think i have heard you say that you use Dolodust as well. I think a lid on the weed tea is a good idea. If the weeds are sat in water then they are going to stink due to the anaerobic bacteria, and a lid will keep the smell from becoming a nuisance. I don,t think it can be improved without the removal of the water. I have found that weed tea is quite a good activator, especially in the winter when there are fewer green things to put on the heap. Anyway, good luck and keep up the good work. Glenn
Interesting Glen about the acidity - I have one of those little "poke in the dirt" PH testers, and my soil is always between 6.5 and 7 which as I understand it is perfect for most plants. I will keep a check on it though. The crusher dust does have some limestone in it so I suppose that is regulating it all. I have never added any lime, but also not sure how accurate the little meter is. I also heard an interesting talk about how crusher dust helps the keep electricity in the soils. couldnt explain it, but it sounds good! so far the comfrey is not smelling - not sure if it needs to be compressed? I noticed you said you put a weight on top, whereas mine is just covering the top.
I peeked inside my bucket to find wonderful rich compost liquid - and either my nose is not working or it doesnt smell at all. I emptied that out into my old seaweed fertilizer jug, labelled it comfrey tea and filled up the bucket with more leaves. It seems that in my climate I can fill up a bucket every three weeks and that is how long it takes to drip through! I just trimmed all the outside leaves of the comfrey plants.
Hi Gillian, I loved your story in the newsletter and it is great to read what you can do up there in Qld. I also am doing most of these things but I have never thought to bury the fish waste etc. I do throw mussel and oyster shells etc out into wild parts of the garden but from now on everything fishy is going underground, preferably near a fruit tree, I reckon. Thanks. I do love this new newsletter style where we can see what's happening all over the world, in KG Land! Today I am going to sow amaranth and sunflowers. Forecast to be a sunny 20C day with NO wind...... I forgot I was coming to live in the roaring 40's!!!
Hi Kate, I guess living in the colder parts has its advantages too - mmmm yummy mussels and oysters! I still cant say that I like this site as well as the old one - like your comment did not show up as a new one!, so I could easily have missed it. The amaranth seeds that you sent me came up, but have been decimated by bugs, and now I noticed that the ones I more recently sowed are coming up again and dont seem bothered by bugs so maybe this is the right season for them. Sounds as though you need some windbreaks - I dont suppose pigeon peas will grow there?
An excellent report Gillian. We always here about the importance of diversity, with fertilizer from so many diverse sources it's not a surprise that your PH is good and soil so fertile.

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