Composting as a Radical Act

Image from OK Jim's Eggroll Emporium.
To provide your gardens with life-giving nitrogen, forget about buying chemical fertilizers. There are endless composting options that will allow you to give your plants all the nourishment they need—without the nasty effects of chemical runoff choking the life out of estuaries, streams, and rivers.

Fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas. Image from ABC News.
Yesterday's explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas is akin to devastation wrought by pipes bursting during oil extraction or the disastrous side effects of fracking. In our manic attempts to artificially grow super-crops, live in unnecessary luxury, and pay more heed to money than common sense, we're causing untold damage to the Earth's ecosystems—and, inevitably, to ourselves. Anytime we pack hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate into a factory to make chemical fertilizer, we're putting lives at risk. Anytime we run pipelines to transfer oil, we're risking the health and well-being of animals, crops, and people.

But let's get off the soapbox and spend a few minutes exploring ways to take matters into our own hands.

Growing your own food removes your need for Big Agriculture. By creating your own beds of greens, veggies, and even fruit trees, you're taking yourself out of the monster machine that large-scale agriculture's become. So if you're making that move, why not ensure that in your small microcosm, the run-off from your backyard isn't going to contribute to any pollution or sickening runoff?

It's easy. We promise.

First, let's consider the two biggest culprits of unhealthy backyard gardening: pesticides and fertilizers. 

PESTICIDES: The EPA estimates that approximately 74 million pounds of pesticide active ingredients (7 percent of total conventional pesticide use in the United States) are used in homes and gardens each year. Pesticides are either applied by commercial pest control and landscape maintenance companies or by homeowners themselves. Studies have shown that pesticides can be extremely unsafe, particularly when they run off into waterways, which can cause short- and long-term damage to people and the environment. Pesticides can also inadvertently kill living things that they are not intended to. As a whole, pesticides do provide some benefits, but they are also known to harm the environment and the plants and animals that it contains. When a pesticide leaches through the soil where it is applied, it can end up in the water table. In waterways, millions of fish are killed by pesticides each year, and other aquatic life also suffers the consequences of pesticide-contaminated water. Pesticides are also known to add to air pollution as a result of pesticide drift, and some even play a role in harming the ozone layer and contributing to global warming. Additionally, pesticides have a resistance to breaking down over time, meaning that their effects can continue over a long period of time.

FERTILIZERS: (From Jerry Greenfield) Chemical fertilizers promote quick growth in plants, which can prevent them from developing a good root growth, strong stems, or nutritious fruits and vegetables. Plants will sprout quickly, but what you'll end up with will not be worth much. Chemical fertilizer is usually high in nitrogen salts, and if the nitrogen is absorbed by soil too quickly, it will end up dehydrating the plant, causing it to dry up and die. Chemicals in man-made fertilizers will harm and eventually kill the natural microbes found in your soil. These include beneficial insects, fungus, and bacteria naturally found in your soil. These "creatures" are all naturally occurring and necessary for healthy soil and plant growth. Obviously applying chemicals to your plants and soil will affect these organisms. Chemicals in synthetic fertilizers will eventually, and unavoidably, end up leaking into our environment's water supply. It will be consumed by wildlife and can have short- and long-term effects on them—just like it would if we were to ingest these chemicals. Finally, let's think about the fact that we are going to eat these plants. If we are saturating the soil they grow in with chemicals, and then feeding the plants and treating them with chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fungicides), how can we possibly think these fruits and vegetables are healthy for us to eat? What is the point of growing our own food if we're just going to poison it before eating it?

Composting as a Radical Act
Consider growing your own food your civic duty, and composting as your radical act. Done properly, you'll be creating your own closed-loop system that flies in the face of Big Ag. All you'll need to start a basic compost set-up are a small container in your kitchen to catch your food scraps, and a larger bin outside to store them. (Note: If you're in a city and/or don't have a yard, vermicompost is the way to go. You'll just need a large tupperware container under your sink to hold the worms. Done right, we promise that your guests—and pests like bugs/rats/mice—will never know the worms and food scraps are there! Click here for more information.)

First, let's go over the basics of compost. Here's a briefing on the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, gleaned from "Composting 101":


  All organic matter is made up of substantial amounts of carbon (C) combined with lesser amounts of nitrogen (N). The balance of these two elements in an organism is called the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (C:N ratio). For best performance, the compost pile, or more to the point the composting microorganisms, require the correct proportion of carbon for energy and nitrogen for protein production. Scientists (yes, there are compost scientists) have determined that the fastest way to produce fertile, sweet-smelling compost is to maintain a C:N ratio somewhere around 25 to 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen, or 25-30:1. If the C:N ratio is too high (excess carbon), decomposition slows down. If the C:N ratio is too low (excess nitrogen) you will end up with a stinky pile.

Below are the average C:N ratios for some common organic materials found in the compost bin. For our purposes, the materials containing high amounts of carbon are considered "browns," and materials containing high amounts of nitrogen are considered "greens."

Estimated Carbon-to-Nitrogen Ratios
Browns = High Carbon C:N
Ashes, wood 25:1
Cardboard, shredded 350:1
Corn stalks 75:1
Fruit waste 35:1
Leaves 60:1
Newspaper, shredded 175:1
Peanut shells 35:1
Pine needles 80:1
Sawdust 325:1
Straw 75:1
Wood chips 400:1
Greens = High Nitrogen C:N
Alfalfa 12:1
Clover 23:1
Coffee grounds 20:1
Food waste 20:1
Garden waste 30:1
Grass clippings 20:1
Hay 25:1
Manures 15:1
Seaweed 19:1
Vegetable scraps 25:1
Weeds 30:1

Note: Many ingredients used for composting do not have the ideal ratio of 25-30:1. As a result, most must be mixed to create "the perfect compost recipe." High C:N ratios may be lowered by adding grass clippings or manures. Low C:N ratios may be raised by adding paper, dry leaves or wood chips. 
Your Very Own Compost Bin
Your compost is going to act as a wonderful fertilizer for your plants. That, used in tandem with crop rotation and natural bug deterrents (and attractants!) will ensure a healthy garden for years to come. 
For in Your Kitchen
The most popular compost bins for inside come in plastic, ceramic, or metal. They generally have a charcoal filter to keep the food scraps aerated without smelling. You can also make your own (click here for instructions!), or use a sturdy snap-lock tupperware container that you empty out every day or so and rinse well. Here are a few images of standard kitchen compost containers:
Plastic bin from Great Green Gadgets.
 
Metal compost bin from Natural Home Merchandise.


Ceramic compost bin from st.houzz.com.
For Your Yard
Backyard compost can come in a heap, a bin, a barrel, a pallet cube, or can simply be put directly onto your garden beds (as we often do in our mulch gardens). Some of the most popular outdoor compost tumblers are plastic, which causes some concern for those concerned about toxins leeching out of the plastic as the compost heats up inside. There are no conclusive tests on the subject thus far—probably in part because compost doesn't get hotter than about 160 degrees—but for those of you who are weary, there are plenty of other options besides those plastic tumblers.
Wooden compost bins are readily available online (click here for some examples), but for significantly less you can make your own (check out these directives from Instructables). And for those of you out in the country, a simple wire-mesh enclosure will do the trick (to turn your compost every few months, just rake out the pile, move your stakes, and shovel out the black earth at the bottom). But you can also use old bureaus, old fencing, or any other design you can dream up. Most important is that you're able to turn the food scraps, and that they receive ample amount of aeration for good decomposition.
Share your compost design ideas with us at info@betterfarm.org.
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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Pre-Spring Houseplant Care

With spring planting just around the corner, we used this week to shake the dust from our houseplants with some transplanting into larger containers, trimming leaves back, and waking up some bulbs. In this blog we'll give you some simple DIY fertilizer recipes for your houseplants, and a quick run-down of what's going on inside at Better Farm.

DIY Plant Steroids
Here are some simple homemade fertilizer recipes for your houseplants:
  • Give houseplants your leftover, cold coffee. This works particularly well for ivy plants.
  • Once a month, you can water your houseplants with a mixture of: 1 tablespoon Epsom Salts, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. household ammonia, and 1 gallon of water.
  • Another method is to collect eggshells after baking and place them in a glass jar covered with water. Don't put the lid on tight. Let the eggshells sit for about a month and keep adding additional egg shells as you acquire them. Add more water if necessary. When you are ready to fertilize, dilute it (1 cup egg shell solution to 1 gallon plain water) and use it to water all of your plants. Or, mix finely crushed, rinsed eggshells into your potting soil to give your houseplants a good boost. The eggshells are a good substitute for bonemeal.
  • If you have a fish tank, when you change the water in the tank, use the water you take out to water your plants.
  • Once a month, pour room-temperature beer onto your plants.
  • A wonderful plant food is regular green tea. Dilute the tea with two gallons of water. You can use this every time you water.
  • Another homemade plant food recipe featuring beer is: 1 cup beer, 1 cup epsom salts, 1/2 cup ammonia, and 2 cups water. Use 1/2 oz. on each plant every two weeks. Great for all houseplants, especially orchids.
  • One last recipe is: 1 cup used coffee grounds, egg shells from 2 eggs (process in coffee grinder), 1/16 oz. ammonia, 1 cup water, 1/8 tsp. Epson salts. Stir together until well mixed. You can spoon this mixture around the base of most flowering plants, except for African Violets. Don't mix it into the soil, just let is sit on top if the soil. Apply this mixture monthly.
Bulbs
Bulbs are watered, edged in moss, and kept in a sunny location with much anticipation. This bulb was a Christmas gift from the Cohens in Ridgewood, N.J.
Bulbs given to us last fall from neighbor Al Streeter were stored in the basement all winter. Now four pots of bulbs are fully hydrated and enjoying sunnier days. Stay tuned for pics in the coming weeks!
 Air Purifiers and Vines
Leaves on this air purifier are trained up the hanger and will eventually run throughout the kitchen.

This Neon Pothos is a new addition (thanks to Amberlee Clement for bringing us several plants!) that will climb the library walls.

This pot is bursting with various kinds of ivy that will travel along library walls.

These jade and cactus plants are clippings from larger plants.

...another angle of the jade and cactus.
A succulent given to us by Jaci Collins
Teeming cactus plants

Hens and chicks.
Another jade plant.

A freshly re-potted plant that has been growing in leaps and bounds

Here's what we do during our pre-spring houseplant clean-up:
  • Overcrowded plants get bigger vessels in which to grow
  • Dusty leaves are wiped off
  • Fresh compost and soil is added to pots in need
  • Water from our aquaponics is used to give the plants a high dose of vitamins and minerals
  • Dead leaves are trimmed
  • Some plants are cut and those trimmings planted to establish new growth
1 Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Doing the Dirty Work of Better Farm

The author, cleaning out one of Better Farm's chicken coops. Photo/Lily Chiu
By Jackson Pittman
Here at Better Farm, we have a lot of things that stink. Stinky compost bins, the stinky dogs, and of course, stinky chickens. In fact, it's not that our chickens reek especially bad, its more that they leave a lot of droppings—and for a chicken, steering clear of its own excrement doesn't rate high on the priority list. Some of you may wonder why we have so many chickens when they produce so much more poop than eggs. Well, the answer is simple—and beautiful.
The chicken poop (as most gardeners would know) is excellent fertilizer! Once it is broken down, chicken manure has 4 times as much nitrogen, 11 times as much phosphorous, and 2.5 times as much potassium than horse manure (2.8 percent nitrogen,2.3 phosphorous, 1.7 potassium). While it's true that we don't want to put the dung directly onto the crops because the nitrogen and bacteria levels are so high it can damage or contaminate the vegetables we grow, we still have plenty of other things we can do with our vast amounts of chicken droppings (really... they poop a lot... it's 33 chickens).

At this time of year, when the garden isn't producing nearly as many vegetables as it does at its peak, there's plenty of open space that we're mulching with hay and cardboard (the cardboard is to keep weeds from popping up, and the hay is to get broken down by the snow and turn to fresh soil). Since we have our chickens pooping on hay, on top of cardboard, it's ridiculously easy to find a nice empty spot that could used some extra insulation and let the fertile chicken manure get broken down with the hay over the winter to make the soil all the richer. This is our current technique, but there are plenty of other uses for the chicken poop we have in such abundance. So this is the short list of chicken manure uses that I (as the farm intern) was surprised and interested by:

  •  Biogas!! Whaaat! It's crazy, right?... The same chicken poop that can easily gross out the inexperienced onlooker can be converted to natural fuel? This innovative process is done by mixing the droppings with a by-product of ethanol production to produce a powerful biogas, but the real magic of it is done simply by the bacteria living in the poop! It's just three simple steps... Stage one: One bacteria type reduces the manure to fatty acids. Stage two: Another bacteria type reduces the fatty acids to acetic acid. Stage three: The third bacteria type turns the acetic acid into bio-methane gas. Incredible, right? Bio-methane gas out of poop through the natural cycle of anaerobic bacteria... life is beautiful.
  • Bio-Oil?!? Let's leave this one to the expert's explanation: "First, the manure needs to be dried so it can be burned... That makes it possible to move to the next step: rapidly heating the mixture in a bubbling, fluidized bed reactor that has no oxygen. It's a process called fast pyrolysis. The process thermochemically breaks the molecular bonds in the mixture. It produces charcoal that can be used to enrich soil. And it produces vapors that are condensed to a thick, dark bio-oil." Wow... all that from chicken poop. I'm practically speechless. Although this process doesn't sound like something we're ready to do at Better Farmyet, it really changes the way you see the manure, and the way we treat dispose of our waste.
  • Chicken Manure TEA?!?!? Not the kind you can drink! During the growing season, the compost pile can get full pretty quickly and when there's tons of chicken poop it can be nice to find a more direct use for it without having to way for it to decompose. Now there are many ways to make fertilizer, but this one in particular is nice because it creates a liquid you can spray your crops with to give them nutrients! To make fertilizer tea, scoop the chicken manure into a burlap bag. Then, throw a rock into the bag to weigh it down and place the whole thing into a 35-gallon garbage can. Fill the garbage can with water and let it sit for about three weeks. Once the three weeks are over, you will have nutrient-rich chicken manure fertilizer tea as the water becomes infused with the nutrients from the chicken manure. You can use this fertilizer tea to water your plants to give them a vitamin boost. 
Well, that about wraps up our summary on the fun side of poop. I hope you guys enjoyed it as much as I enjoy it twice a week! Remember, all waste has a purpose! 

All photography by Lily Chiu
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Chemistry of Gardening

Image from Moon Co's blog.
By Penelope Leggett, Better Farm Intern
Many gardeners know that fertilizer can assist in plant growth and produce production; but what is the fertilizer actually doing for your plants and landscape?

Fertilizers contain the three essential micro-nutrients for most plants: nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. The need for these minerals makes the use of fertilizer popular—but the production and use of inorganic fertilizer can harm the environment. To have healthier plants and maintain an eco-friendly garden, there are simple solutions to getting these essential nutrients to your plants.

Nitrogen
Illustration from Landscape for Life.

Nitrogen makes up part of the chlorophyll molecules in plants, making it extremely important to the process of photosynthesis (the means by which a plant transforms potential energy into energy). When encouraging leafy growth over flower production it is best to add nitrogen to the soil.

You can spot a nitrogen deficiency by the exhibition of stunted growth of plants and yellowed leaves.

To add nitrogen organically:
1. Use old water from a fish tank to water plants to add nitrogen
2. Use manure
3. Compost old coffee grounds and use on plants (Use with discretion as coffee grounds can be acidic)
4. Many plants, such as alfalfa and soy beans, are nitrogen-fixing. So by planting these nitrogen-fixing plants in low-nitrogen soils, levels of nitrogen can be replenished.

Potassium
Potassium deficiency graphic from Pigeonpea.
Potassium assists in many basic plant cell functions, making it necessary for any healthy plant. If the edges of leaves are brown and/or wilted, chances are good you've got a potassium deficiency.

To add potassium organically:
1. Coffee ground fertilizer
2. Using old banana peels in fertilizer

Phosphorus
Phosphorous deficiency on leaves. Photo from the University of Montana.
Phosphorus helps support a healthy root system in plants and encourages flower/fruit development. Phosphorus is also relatively difficult for plants to absorb, so it is hard to add too much to soil. If flowers or fruit production is desired, adding phosphorus to the your garden can help.

Phosphorus deficiency appears through a lack of buds, purple leaves or veins, and premature falling of flowers and fruit.

To add phosphorus organically:
1. Use decomposing wood or ash from fireplace.
2. Limestone also has a high-amount of phosphorus that could be added to soil.

Got a great gardening tip or question? Send it our way at info@betterfarm.org. For more information about our sustainability internships, click here.

Free, Homemade Liquid Fertilizers

Liquid Fertilizers
Illustration/Elayne Sears
By Barbara Pleasant for Mother Earth News
Homemade liquid fertilizers made from free, natural ingredients — such as grass clippings, seaweed, chicken manure and human urine — can give your plants the quick boost of nutrients they need to grow stronger and be more productive.

Many organic gardeners keep a bottle of liquid fish fertilizer on hand to feed young seedlings, plants growing in containers and any garden crop that needs a nutrient boost. But liquid, fish-based fertilizers are often pricey, plus we’re supporting an unsustainable fishing industry by buying them. So, what’s a good alternative?

MOTHER EARTH NEWS commissioned Will Brinton — who holds a doctorate in Environmental Science and is president of Woods End Laboratories in Mt. Vernon, Maine — to develop some water-based, homemade fertilizer recipes using free, natural ingredients, such as grass clippings, seaweed, chicken manure and human urine. His results are summarized on our chart of Homemade Fertilizer Tea Recipes.

Why and When to Use Liquids
Liquid fertilizers are faster-acting than seed meals and other solid organic products, so liquids are your best choice for several purposes. As soon as seedlings have used up the nutrients provided by the sprouted seeds, they benefit from small amounts of fertilizer. This is especially true if you’re using a soil-less seed starting mix (such as a peat-based mix), which helps prevent damping-off but provides a scant supply of nutrients. Seedlings don’t need much in the way of nutrients, but if they noticeably darken in color after you feed them with a liquid fertilizer, that’s evidence they had a need that has been satisfied. Liquid fertilizers are also essential to success with container-grown plants, which depend entirely on their growers for moisture and nutrients. Container-grown plants do best with frequent light feedings of liquid fertilizers, which are immediately distributed throughout the constricted growing area of the containers.

Out in the garden, liquid fertilizers can be invaluable if you’re growing cold-tolerant crops that start growing when soil temperatures are low for example, overwintered spinach or strawberries coaxed into early growth beneath row covers. Nitrogen held in the soil is difficult for plants to take up until soil temperatures rise above 50 degrees Fahrenheit or so, meaning plants can experience a slow start because of a temporary nutrient deficit in late winter and early spring. The more you push the spring season by using cloches and row covers to grow early crops of lettuce, broccoli or cabbage in cold soil, the more it will be worth your time to use liquid fertilizers to provide a boost until the soil warms up.

Water-soluble homemade fertilizers are short-acting but should be applied no more than every two weeks, usually as a thorough soaking. Because they are short-acting, liquid fertilizers are easier to regulate compared with longer-acting dry organic fertilizers, though I like using both. With an abundant supply of liquid fertilizer to use as backup, you can use a light hand when mixing solid organic fertilizer into the soil prior to planting.

Remember: If you mix too much nitrogen-rich fertilizer into the soil, you can’t take it back. As soil temperatures rise, more and more nitrogen will be released, and you can end up with monstrous plants that don’t produce well. In comparison, you can apply your short-acting liquid fertilizers just when plants need them — sweet corn in full silk, peppers loaded with green fruits — with little risk of overdoing it. Late in the season, liquid fertilizers are ideal for rejuvenating long-living plants, such as chard and tomatoes, which will often make a dramatic comeback if given a couple of drenchings.

Making Your Own
To explore the art of making fertilizer tea, Brinton began by trying various ways to mix and steep grass clippings, seaweed and dried chicken manure (roughly 33 percent manure mixed with 66 percent wood shavings). The best procedure he found was to mix materials with water at the ratios shown in the Homemade Fertilizer Tea Recipes chart, and allow the teas to sit for three days at room temperature, giving them a good shake or stir once a day.

“By the third day, most of the soluble nutrients will have oozed out into the water solution,” Brinton says. Stopping at three days also prevents fermentation, which you want to avoid. Fermented materials will smell bad, and their pH can change rapidly, so it’s important to stick with three-day mixtures and then use them within a day or two. Brinton also studied human urine, which is much more concentrated than grass, manure or seaweed teas, and doesn’t need to be steeped.

The lab analyzed the four extracts for nutrient and salt content. Salts are present in most fertilizers, but an excess of salts can damage soil and plant roots. Brinton found that chloride and sodium salts were so high in urine that they needed to be diluted with water at a 20:1 ratio before being used on plants. In comparison, the seaweed extract could be used straight, and the grass clipping and chicken manure extracts needed only a 1:1 dilution with water to become plant-worthy. Read the full report from Woods End Laboratories.

As a general guideline, most vegetables use the three major plant nutrients — nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium — in a ratio of roughly 3-1-2: three parts nitrogen, one part phosphorus and two parts potassium. This means that an N-P-K ratio of 3-1-2 is more “balanced” in meeting plants’ needs than 1-1-1, the ratio many gardeners assume is best. Because liquid fertilizers are a short-term, supplemental nutrient supply secondary to the riches released by organic matter and microbes, they don’t need to be precisely balanced. The teas made from grass clippings and urine come closest to providing the optimum 3-1-2 ratio.

Nitrogen helps plants grow new stems and leaves. Phosphorus is essential for vigorous rooting, and is usually in good supply in organically enriched soils. Potassium is the “buzz” nutrient that energizes plants’ pumping mechanisms, orchestrating the opening and closing of leaf stomata and regulating water distribution among cells. The grass clipping and poultry manure teas are rich in potassium, which should make for sturdy plants with strong stems when used to feed young seedlings. Blending some grass or manure tea with a little nitrogen-rich urine would give you a fertilizer to promote strong growth in established plants. I like to add a few handfuls of stinging nettles, comfrey, lamb’s-quarters or other available weeds to various mixtures, which probably helps raise the micronutrient content of my homemade concoctions in addition to providing plenty of potassium.

On the practical end of liquid-fertilizer making, you may need to use a colander to remove some of the grass clippings before you can pour off the extract. If you haven’t completely used a batch of fertilizer within two or three days, pour it out beneath perennials or dump it into your composter.
It’s important to relieve drought stress before doling out liquid fertilizer. Watering before you fertilize helps protect plants from taking up too many salts. Also keep in mind that continuous evaporation in containers favors the buildup of salts. By midsummer, a patio pot planted with petunias or herbs that are regularly fed with any liquid fertilizer may show a white crust of accumulated salts inside the rim. Several thorough drenchings with water will wash these away, making it safe to continue feeding the plants with liquid fertilizers.

There is no doubt human urine can be a valuable fertilizer for garden plants. The average adult produces about 1 1/2 quarts of urine per day. Diluted 1:20 with water, this would make about 7 gallons of high-nitrogen liquid fertilizer, so a family of four could produce enough high-nitrogen fertilizer for an average garden and lawn. As Brinton suggests, when we think of N-P-K, we should also think N-Pee-OK!

Maybe it’s all the diapers I’ve changed, but I don’t like minding pails of pee. In winter at my house, we have a bucket of sawdust stationed on the deck to help us capture this valuable resource, and we keep a designated bale of hay out in the garden for urine deposits. If you do the same, you can use the urine-enriched sawdust and the hay from “pee bales” as nutrient-rich mulches in your garden.
Whatever materials and methods you choose, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the simplicity of making your own no-cost liquid fertilizers.

Longtime MOTHER EARTH NEWS contributing editor Barbara Pleasant provides authoritative reporting on topics essential to helping you grow your own food as sustainably as possible.

Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.