Natural fertiliser: The ‘best’ leftover foods to help your plants thrive & save you money

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When it comes to fertilising your garden, for those with freshly green thumbs, knowing what works best can be confusing. That was certainly the case for Shannon Keary, @diaryofaladygardener on Instagram and the voice behind the Diaries of a Lady Gardener podcast. However, she soon realised that you don’t need to spend loads of money on chemical fertilisers in order to see your garden thrive.

In fact, Ms Keary discovered that you could have everything you need in your kitchen – and you might even be throwing away useful items without realising.

She told “I’ve been growing on my allotment for just over three years now and I started off with an array of fruits and vegetables, falling completely in love with gardening in my early 20s.

“Last year I discovered the magic of growing cut flowers and aspire to one day be a flower farmer.

“Having been completely baffled by fertilisers for the first couple of years of growing, I was a complete beginner when I took on my plot. I’ve spent the last year exploring homemade alternatives.

“I’d always used organic solutions, but after studying my RHS level 2 in Principles of Horticulture and learning so much from guests on my podcast, I wanted to take on the challenge of making my own fertiliser from what’s essentially wasted resources.”

Ms Keary is currently experimenting with a couple of different methods of making her own fertiliser, including overseeing her own worm farm, making her own compost from food scraps and plant debris, and trying out an in-kitchen bokashi.

So far, all of her trials have been “easier than anticipated”.

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But the ease of making your own fertiliser is not the only draw, according to Ms Keary.

She said: “It’s really satisfying knowing exactly what you’re putting into the soil rather than picking something off the shelf that you don’t completely understand.

“It has really helped me to learn more about soil and plant nutrition first hand.

“Most of the time it can be really cost-effective, and yield better results than many products you buy straight off the shelf.

“And finally, it’s a great way to combat your food waste and really help to reduce the amount you’re sending to landfill or other places that you have no idea what is happening to your waste.”

Before deciding which leftover foods you are going to use, Ms Keary recommends getting to know your plants.

She explained: “Most leafy green plants benefit from fertilisers which are high in nitrogen, but plants like tomatoes and pumpkins will need a feed which is high in phosphorus and potassium during the main flower and fruit growing season.

“It’s worth getting to know your plants’ needs, and what your homemade fertilisers are primed to offer as a little knowledge goes a long way when it comes to the harvest.

“Ultimately, the best way to learn is to just give it a go and see how you get on.”

Which foods are best for creating natural fertiliser?

As you might imagine, from her experience, Ms Keary has discovered that plants thrive when given organic fertilisers.

She explained: “I’d always suggest unprocessed natural foods: fruit, veg and plant debris like leaves are obvious choices, but the method you’re choosing to make natural fertiliser may answer this question for you.”

For example, if you choose to use a worm farm, the expert advises avoiding any foods which are “too acidic”.

The bokashi, on the other hand, can make use of “pretty much anything”.

Ms Keary added: “I personally chose to keep my compost heap vegan but not everyone does, do a little bit of research and figure out what method is going to suit your lifestyle and food habits best.”

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