Feeding and Fertilisers

Replacing lost nutrients in the soil is essential. You might have no problem growing in your soil for the first few years but then ‘inexplicably’ struggle thereafter. Plants take nutrients from the soil to grow and we need to replace those.

Liquid feeds are a quick way of making up for the lack of nutrients in a soil. Here are a selection of methods for creating your own liquid feed.

  • Seaweed is full of minerals and trace elements and it is well worth using a lot of it in the garden. Soak seaweed in water for two weeks and dilute 1 part to 10 parts water and spray on the leaves of plants. It is possible to buy concentrated liquid seaweed and then dilute it 1:300 before spraying regularly. Seaweed can also be added to compost to boost is good properties.
  • To make a general booster for plant growth first soak a shovelful of animal manure in 10 litres of water for 14 days. Then dilute 1 part to 10 parts water before feeding to plants.
  • Soak nettles in water for 2 weeks to form a very smelly mixture which is rich in nitrates for plant growth. Dilute 1 part to 10 parts water and feed to plants. Use less than 3 times in a season.
  • Soak comfrey in water for 2 weeks and dilute 1 part to 10 parts water :- gives potassium, which is good for fruiting plants.
  • Soak valerian (pink flower found growing on walls) in water for 2 weeks and dilute 1 part to 10 parts water to provide extra phosphorus, which helps seedlings and roots grow more quickly and increases vegetable and fruit production.

There are several other fertilisers you can use to replace soil nutrients. And the good news is they’re mostly free.

  • Well-rotted manure.
    You know it’s well-rotted when it’s at least 6 months to a year old, is a uniform dark brown, has no smell and no distinguishable particles, like grass, in it. Manure is a great natural fertiliser that adds nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and more. It warms the soil and creates a beneficial environment for micro-organisms, and for decomposition.
  • Fresh Seaweed.
    Unlike manure, seaweed doesn’t need to compost before being used as a fertiliser. It’s full or trace nutrients and minerals and these exist in a state that is readily available to soil and plants even before it decomposes.
  • Compost.
    Decomposed organic matter is a complete feed for plants and soil. It completes the life cycle of all organic material, it benefits the environment in so many different ways and it’s really simple and easy to make.

There are, of course, many other fertilisers that you can buy: commercial liquid feeds, chicken manure pellets, powdered seaweed, but it’s a good idea to view these as supplementary feeds rather than being used to increase the overall fertility of your soil.

For more growing tips and resources visit www.giy.ie