Fertilizing with items from home/free.

Natural and Mostly Free Fertilizers

It’s Spring so we have a lot of garden work to do.  During the winter months, I was thinking about gardening, of course.  I began to research How to Fertilize your garden naturally and found a lot of good information.  Growing our herbs and veggies as naturally and organically as possible is what many of us want.  This might help you too.

Plants need three things to survive and thrive: Potassium, Phosphorus, and Nitrogen. While store bought chemical fertilizers typically have these nutrients, you can also provide them to your plants without the harsh chemicals by just making them yourself, and most of them can be made with things that you already have on hand and will probably just throw out.

There are many different all-natural fertilizers that you can use in your garden or with potting soil. Some of these fertilizers can be made or collected at home using common items from your pantry or your backyard. 

So here we go…..

1. Grass Clippings

If you haven’t had chemicals on your lawn you can collect your grass clippings to use on your gardens. Half an inch to an inch of grass clippings makes a great weed-blocking mulch, and it is also rich in nitrogen, which is an essential nutrient for most plants.

You can also add clippings to your compost pile.

Composting involves mixing grass clippings and other plant materials with a small amount of soil containing microorganisms that decompose organic matter. Grass clippings are excellent additions to a compost pile because of their high nitrogen content.

Grass clippings should not be the only compost material. As with mulches, a thick layer of grass clippings in a compost pile will lead to bad odors from anaerobic decomposition. Mix them with dry materials such as leaves or straw.

2. Weeds

Just like grass clippings, many of the weeds that you’ll find in your gardens are very high in nitrogen and will make an excellent fertilizer. The problem is, once you’ve pulled the weeds, you certainly won’t want to put them back in the garden because any seeds will sprout and make new weeds. The solution? Make weed tea. To do this, fill a five-gallon bucket no more than 1/4 full with weeds that you’ve pulled. Then fill the bucket the rest of the way with water, and let the weeds soak for a week or two. Once the water turns nice and brown (like tea), pour this weed tea on your gardens.

3. Kitchen Scraps

Put your kitchen scraps to work.  I keep a baggie (there are commercial scrap holders on the market) and put my veggie and fruit wastes in the baggie.  I typically have a mesh cone in my raised beds to add the kitchen scraps to regularly.  They decompose adding nutrients constantly.

4. Manure

This is one of my favorites.  Sometimes we have available manure on the farm, but I have also purchased rabbit manure in bulk from breeders.  You can find manure for sale. The rabbit manure is not hot. So this can be used immediately.

Manure comes from a variety of sources — cows, horses, chickens, and even bats. Each type of manure is high in nitrogen and other nutrients, but you’ll need to use it carefully. Raw manure is highly acidic and may have more nutrients than your plants need, so too much can burn your plants. It’s best to use composted manure. Since it is less nutrient-dense and acidic, you can use more of it to improve your soil’s water retention without risking your plants. You won’t have to wait long—manure quickly turns to a perfect odor-free soil amendment.

Manure has been used for centuries as well for fertilizing and you can use manure from any farm animal that you may have. If you don’t have farm animals, your neighbors will probably be glad to give you some manure from their animals. You can make a manure tea.  You’ll want a shovel full and the manure should be pretty well aged, so nothing from the same day that you plan to make the tea. Put the manure in a pillowcase or burlap sack and then soak the bag in a five gallon bucket of water for about two weeks. Just dilute the tea with water by half and use it to water your plants. Not only does this help to add essential nutrients, you also get the benefits of manure without actually having to smell fresh manure on your plants.

5. Tree Leaves

Rather than bagging up the fall leaves and putting them out on your curb, collect them for your gardens instead. Leaves are rich with trace minerals, they attract earthworms, they retain moisture, and they’ll help make heavy soils lighter. You can use leaves in two ways: Either till them into your soil (or mix crushed leaves into potting soil), or use them as a mulch to both fertilize your plants and keep weeds down.

In our gardens I always let the leaves from the fall stay in my gardens until spring.  They are the perfect mulch protector over the winter.

6. Coffee Grounds – adds nitrogen adding acidity to the soil

Lots of plants, such as blueberries, rhododendron, roses, and tomatoes, thrive best in acidic soil. Here are other plants that will benefit – veggies, hydrangea, magnolias. Recycle your coffee grounds to help acidify your soil. There are a couple of ways to do this— you can either top dress by sprinkling the used grounds over the surface of the soil this will perk those plants right up. or you can make “coffee” or “coffee tea” to pour on your gardens. Soak up to six cups of used coffee grounds for up to a week to make garden coffee, then use it to water your acid-loving plants.

7. Eggshells

If you’ve ever used lime on your garden, then you know it comes with lots of benefits —  it helps  lower the acidity of soil for plants that don’t like acid, and it provides plants with lots of calcium, which is an essential nutrient. Lime itself is an all-natural fertilizer that you can buy at the garden center, but if you’d rather save some money, there is a cheaper way to get the same benefits. Simply wash out the eggshells from your kitchen, save them, and crush them to use in your garden. It turns out that eggshells are 93% calcium carbonate, which is the scientific name for lime.

The shells contain a lot of calcium which helps with cellular growth in your plants. Calcium deficient soil can lead to blossom end rot on tomatoes and various other garden catastrophes. This egg shell fertilizer will help to end that. Just crush up used egg shells and then bury them in the soil. Or, you can make a spray with egg shells and a gallon of water. Boil the shells in the water for just a few minutes and then leave overnight. Strain the shells and add the water to a spray bottle to spray directly onto your soil.

8. Banana Peels

We eat bananas for their potassium, and roses love potassium too. Simply bury peels in a hole alongside the rose bush so they can compost naturally. As the rose grows, bury the peels into the soil’s top layer. Both of these approaches will provide much-needed potassium for the plant’s proper growth

We all know that bananas are rich in potassium. They also contain calcium and phosphorous and are perfect for fertilizing flowering plants, fruit trees and plants. You can just bury banana peels in the soil at the base of your plants and allow them to decompose. You could also freeze your overripe bananas and then bury those next to your plants. Or, make a spray by soaking banana peels in water for three days and then spray your plants or seedlings to add the needed nutrients. This is also a great recipe for houseplants.

9. Comfrey

What is brilliant about comfrey is that it contains high levels of all the essential nutrients for plant growth: Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK) together with many other trace elements.  Comfrey out-performs manure, compost and many liquid feeds for concentration of nutrients.  It produces these from a deep root system extending right into the subsoil that most edible plants cannot access.  It also has an ideal Carbon:Nitrogen ratio which means that it does not hamper absorption of nitrogen by plants. When cutting comfrey it is advisable to use gloves as the hairs on the stems can irritate skin.

There are many great ways to use comfrey around the garden:

  • Mulch: Leaves can be cut and left to wilt for a couple of days before piling them around hungry plants such as potatoes and tomatoes as a thick mulch.
  • Dig in: Wilted leaves can be dug into ground that is being prepared for a new crop and will break down to give an excellent feed.
  • Liquid Fertilizer: Comfrey leaves can be crammed into a large container with a hole in the bottom with a small container underneath to catch the thick black liquid which will be produced in a few weeks.  Weighing the comfrey down with an old brick will help this process and some people add rainwater but this does make the resulting ‘comfrey tea’ smell awful!  Once produced, the liquid should be diluted 15:1 with water before using it as a leaf feed for plants such as tomatoes.
  •   Potting Soil: Comfrey leaves can be shredded and mixed with leaf-mold to produce a balanced soil for plants in pots, although it is a little strong for young seedlings.
  •   Compost Activator: Adding high-nitrogen sources is a great way to boost ‘hot-composting’ if you have the right balance of green and brown shredded material.  Comfrey, being high in nitrogen, is ideal for this and should be well combined with the whole mixture rather than adding it as a layer.

I grow comfrey, which is a beautiful perennial plant with lovely flowers, and always use the waste from the dead leaves in the fall in my gardens.  The medicinal benefits are fantastic too!

10. Epsom Salt

If you prefer something a bit simple you can mix Epsom Salt with water for a good fertilizer, too. You can find Epsom salt at many stores and it’s really inexpensive. It’s also a great source of magnesium and sulfur and is especially good for roses and tomatoes. This is a no-fail fertilizer. You just can’t get this one wrong. Just add a tablespoon of salt to a gallon of water and use this to feed your indoor and outdoor plants.

11. Aquarium Water

Aquarium water contains (obviously) fish waste from the bottom of the tank, which makes a great plant fertilizer. So instead of throwing that water out the backdoor when you’re cleaning your aquarium, give it to your garden plants. Just be sure you use “fresh” water and not water from a saltwater tank. That would be BAD…really bad. Also be aware of the smell and stick to using this on your ornamental outdoor plants. For veggie gardeners willing to spend a small amount, there’s a commercial product called fish emulsion that’s extremely effective and affordable as well. Then again, you could always go fishing! Another favorite of mine!! I do use the fish emulsion and have great success.

12. Wood Ash

Wood ash from fireplaces makes a great plant food on the cheap. Wood ashes contain potassium and calcium carbonate so it would make a nice option, which you can apply by simply having it sprinkled onto your soil. Just be sure the ashes that you’ll be using have no charcoal or lighter fluid which can be harmful to your plants. Fireplace ash fertilizer can even jolt your grass back to life. If you have a few spots dying out, simply apply a small bit.

Do you know your matters? Brown and Green?

If you are considering your gardens, and want to go more sustainable, lets make sure you know what makes up brown and green matter. If you are making raised beds, in ground beds, lasagna gardening, Hugelkultur, or Keyhole gardens the matters, matter.

Let me start by saying, I am not a science major and the process is definitely science, but I will share some of the things I have learned and been successful with.

Green matter provides nitrogen and Brown matter provides carbon.  The ratio of each is the important factor.  I have learned that in a keyhole garden that is 6 feet in diameter and 4 feet tall the ratio of browns to green is 3:1 (see http://www.debtolman.com) .  So a keyhole garden is what I will discuss here but a C:N ratio can be used in all of the gardening methods above.

I want to let you know what brown and green matter is.  Typically, we all have the products in our life, our home or in our community in excess.  Using these excess Matters, put in the right mixture, will create beautiful nutrition rich soil.

At the farm this year we are changing a lot of our in-ground gardens to keyhole gardens.  This will set our growing season back a bit this springtime, but I know once the keyhole gardens are finished our yield will be excellent, there will be no weeding and the heavy rains will not drown us out.

Want to attend our Keyhole garden class? Go here to sign up.
https://www.facebook.com/CJFarmsTexas/

So begin collecting items for your own keyhole garden. Here is a list of what those things are:

Brown matter:
*Dry yellow, brown leaves or dead grass
*Dead woody stalks or plants
*Any paper and wood products, newspaper, programs, twigs, paper trash
*Dryer lint, vacuum cleaner waste
*Wood ash from fireplaces (not a lot)
*100% cotton, wool or silk
*Pine needles
*Sawdust
*Cardboard (lots and lots of cardboard)

Green matter:
*Freshly cut green leaves and grass clippings
*livestock Manure (rabbit is my favorite)
*Kitchen scraps like vegetables, melon rinds, fruit, fruit pits, corncobs, cut flowers, nut shells, shells from shellfish
*Egg shells, coffee grounds
*Hair/fur
*Pet bedding
*Weeds freshly pulled but foliage only – no roots
**No proteins or fats

Herbal Teas – Tasty and Beneficial

The more I garden and learn about herbs, the more I want to know.  I enjoy learning about herbs, spices and plants of all kinds.  Once this box got opened for me, there is no closing it.  It continually spills over and over again with more and more information. A beautiful spilling of floral, culinary, medicinal informational delight. Today I want to share a little information on Making Herbal Teas or more correctly; making an infusion.  An herbal tea is called a ( tinsanes =  /tɪ-zahn).  In reality, it is not a tea without one of the tea plants Camelia Sinensis leaves in it.  Instead they are infusions made from leaves, bark, roots, berries, seeds, and spices. I will continue to refer to them here as Herbal Teas or Teas.

Here is where the difference between herbs and spices kind of get thrown together.  As many spices are added to herbal teas too.  Some of those spices are cinnamon, ginger, turmeric which have been found as extremely beneficial for our health. The difference between and herb and a spice: Herbs come from the leafy and green part of the plant. Spices are parts of the plant other than the leafy bit such as the root, stem, bulb, bark or seeds. Examples of herbs include basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, parsley and mint. Examples of spices include coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and turmeric.

Herbal teas can be as simple or complex as you want them to be.  Sometimes there is nothing better than a simple hot cup of steeped lemon grass.  This herb is a mild sweet citrus flavor that I find soft, pleasant and calming.

Most herbal teas are much more complex combining herbs and spices for flavor and health benefits.  Teas for fighting colds and flu, which by the way, really do make a difference!  Teas for cardiovascular health, blood pressure improvement, general immune system building.  Whatever flavor combinations you have or make to enjoy each and every component will have positive health properties.

Grow some Stevia plant’s to use as a natural sweetener.  This plant’s leaves are seriously sweet right off of the plant. Use your culinary Thyme, Sage, Rosemary, Lavender and so many more for brewing your favorite herbal delight.  Steep the leaves, roots, bark or flowers in hot water (not boiling) for 15 minutes to ensure all of the flavor and nutritional oils have been brought out.  Then enjoy it hot or cold, either way is great.

One more thing to make mention for you to consider – most all true Herbal Teas are caffeine free. The plant, Camelia Sinensis, has caffeine.

You can blend your own as easy as harvesting the plants you have or using dried herbs from your pantry.  Grab your tea ball or tea bags and get started.  Whatever your reason, to have an herb garden, to enjoy herbal teas for flavor or for health and wellness; there is much to enjoy.  If you have never tried an herbal tea, consider starting today.

We keep organic blended teas made and ready to go at the farm store here at C & J Farms.   Some of the herbal teas we carry are – Happy Tummy Tea, Cold and Flu Tea (this is so effective!!), Lemon Tea, Red Rooibos Tea, Earl Grey with Coneflower (this has caffiene), Blues Tea and more.  We offer lists of ingredients in each tea, tea kitchen accessories and a great conversation on herbs, spices and herbal teas.

If you want to know more about what we carry you will have to come by the store,give us a call, or contact us via our email.  We will be happy to help you find an herbal tea delight to suit what you might be looking for.

lemon honey in lemon grass tea 2

Peaches, Pork and Sage with Gravy

Did you know Sage is a perennial plant?  It prefers cool weather and thrives but will survive even in Texas hot summers.  It is one of my favorite herbs.   The flowers make beautiful cut flowers in the summer time.

I was at the Farmers Market yesterday and there were fresh peaches everywhere and the scent was heavy in the air.  I picked up some to work on a few new Jam recipes but couldn’t resist them this morning.  They had made my kitchen fragrant.

We slept in so I was late getting started with preparing food to eat.  I decided this would be the main meal of the day.

Boneless pork chops were already thawed in the fridge, peaches were fragrant and I was looking at the rain revived sage in my garden out the window.

Ingredients:

4 Boneless pork chops
½ cup of cooking oil (your preference)
1 cup of flour
2 cup of milk
1 ½ tablespoon of fresh chopped sage (optional, you can use C & J Farms dried Sage instead)
Sage Square
2 tablespoon of C & J Farms Scarborough Fair (Sage, Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme) a bit extra as you go.
1 ripe peach
1 tablespoon C & J Farms Salt & Black Pepper mix

pork peaches sage 1

Put 1 cup milk in a bowl for dredging the pork chops.
Put 1 cup of flour in a bowl for dredging .  Add one 1 tablespoon of C & J Farms Scarborough Fair seasoning to the flour and stir it in.
Seasoning the pork chops on both sides with C & J Farms Salt & Pepper then add more Scarborough Fair on top of the chops. Now put each pork chop in the milk then in the seasoned flour. Set aside.

pork peaches sage 3

Put the oil in the skillet and get the oil hot at a medium high.  Once the oil is hot put the pork chops in and let them get a good crispy brown.  Approx. 2 minutes before turning. (You don’t want to over cook because the chops will get tough.) Then turn again another 2 to 3 minutes. Check for browning and doneness. Remove the chops cover and keep warm.

pork peaches sage 5

Once done set aside some of the oil from cooking the chops (about 1 to 2 teaspoons) in a small skillet.

While the chops are browning, slice up your peaches. Set aside.
pork peaches sage 6

Now the Sage Gravy:

In the oil the chops were cooked in (should be about 2 tablespoons in the pan, if not add some oil).  Begin to whisk in the seasoned flour mixture (you want this to still have Scarborough Fair seasoning in it) from the pork chop dredge, approx. 2 tablespoons. Add 2 cups of milk. 1 cup from the dredge and add one more cup.  Whisk the gravy and cook until thickened adding the fresh cut sage and a little salt and pepper (to taste) at the end. Remove from heat. Cover and keep warm.

Now sauté the sliced peaches in the skillet with the oil from the pork chops adding a bit more fresh chopped sage when they are soft. Once done, (this only takes about 1 to 2 minutes) add them on top of the pork chops.

pork peaches sage 7

Scramble the eggs in the same skillet.  Plate everything up and enjoy.