Grow Q&A: Composting

Dear Dan, What is a good homemade fertilizer? – FreeTexas2012

Dear FT12,
The best homemade fertilizer is compost, and especially aerated compost tea. For practically no cost at all, you can recycle your food scraps, lawn clippings and fallen leaves into a mild but incredibly versatile organic plant food that also protects them from pests and molds.

Start a compost pile outside with three times as much carbon-rich materials (“browns” such as dry leaves, hay or shredded newspaper) as nitrogen-rich materials (“greens” such as fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and egg shells). Keep the pile moist, but not soaked. The rotting process heats the mix and eventually, with some occasional turning, decomposes it into rich and crumbly dark brown compost which can be used mixed into soil or as a mulch for top-dressing.

Even better, you can take some cured compost and steep it overnight using cheesecloth in a bucket filled with water and aerated by a simple oxygen pump from the aquarium section of the pet store. After 24 hours, the oxygen “feeds” the compost tea and millions of beneficial microbes turn into billions. Dilute this slurry until it’s the color of weak iced tea and use it to foliar feed your leaves and as a soil drench for your pot plants: They’ll love it!

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