[Music] Taking steps to develop a good
starting soil should be every gardener’s priority and when it comes to feeding your plants, nothing beats organic homemade compost. Good compost contains the ideal range of
nutrients which are released slowly into the ground as
the plants need them. But there are times when feeding our
plants can give them a real boost: when they are fruiting, if they being affected
by poor weather or pests, or, crucially, if they are in containers. How you feed them and what you feed them with is important, especially if you garden organically. Many of us will prefer not to use
commercial non-organic fertilizers and opt for organic ones instead. But there is a way of making your own organic fertilizers for virtually no cost. We’ll take you through the key steps. Plants require three main elements for good health: Nitrogen, labeled with an N, is for
green leafy growth; Phosphorus (P) is for healthy root and shoot growth; and Potassium, labeled with a K, is for
flowering, fruiting and general hardiness. Commercial fertilizers, both organic and non-organic, provide these elements in precise
amounts. Just look carefully at the label to find the N:P:K ratio. A balanced fertilizer will have an equal ratio – such as this one – Whereas a specialist product such as this one for feeding tomatoes or
strawberries will have a higher potassium content. There are several different organic fertilizers which you can make yourself. Comfrey is the wonder plant of the
home-made fertilizer world. It grows prolifically in places that many
other plants wouldn’t and it contains high levels of all the
essential nutrients for plant growth and a number of trace elements. There are different varieties of comfrey, but the best one to plant is Bocking 14, which doesn’t self-seed so it won’t invade your garden. A popular way to use comfrey is to make a
liquid fertilizer. Harvest a large bag of leaves (it’s advisable to wear gloves as the
hairy leaves can cause a rash) squash them into a large container,
preferably with a lid to keep in the smell, and weigh them down. Leave for a few weeks
and pour off the liquid into a clearly labeled container, keeping it out of the reach of children. When required dilute 15 to 1 with rainwater. Using a watering can to water your
plants, aim towards the soil, not the leaves or stems, as fertilizers can cause scorching of
foliage. Stinging nettles are high in nitrogen and can also be used in the same way as
comfrey to make a liquid feed. You’ll definitely need gloves for this
plant! After harvesting them, make sure you scrunch them up before weighing them down in a container. Dilute the liquid as before with rainwater so it looks like a weak tea solution. Grass clippings can be easily added to a
compost pile but in large quantities often make a
slimy mess. They’re high in nitrogen and potassium and could be used as a mulch on your
vegetable plot. As with adding them to the compost pile, they are best used in thin layers. Use dry clippings in layers which barely cover the surface of the soil applied after a light weeding. Wood ash contains useful amounts of potassium and other trace elements depending on the wood burnt. Younger wood is better. It can be added in small quantities to
the compost heap where it can be blended with other
materials. It’s advisable to add it to the soil in autumn or winter so the remaining compounds can break
down without causing harm to your plants. Wood ash is alkaline, so avoid using it
around plants which prefer acidic soil, such as raspberries, or where potatoes will be grown as alkaline conditions can encourage potato scab. When you’ve made your own fertilizer, it’s tempting to use all of that homegrown
goodness and add it liberally to your plot. This should be avoided, as it will often
do more harm than good. Too much nitrogen in particular can
cause lots of soft, leafy growth which is prone to aphid attack. Timing is also important – it’s best add small, regular quantities when your plants need it, such as when they are flowering or
fruiting, rather than single large applications. Our Grow Guides show detailed information on
how to grow healthy plants. If you grow in containers, feeding is
particularly important as plants can quickly exhaust the
nutrients in the growing medium. It’s a good idea to add generous
quantities of nutrient-rich compost in the autumn, top up with mulches throughout the
season which will slowly release nutrients, and to use liquid feeds for your fruiting
crops. Making your own fertilizers is not only
good value for money, and in most cases free, but it’s also
sustainable – using plants from your plot to feed
your own veggies. What other organic ways do you use to feed
your plants? Share your ideas with us by leaving
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