In this article, I will share how to make easy homemade fertilizer for plants to keep both your indoor plants and outdoor garden happy and thriving!
Of course, store-bought fertilizer is readily available, but homemade plant fertilizers offer an affordable, eco-friendly, and effective alternative to synthetic or chemical fertilizers.
Homemade plant food is easy to make using household items such as Epsom salts, hydrogen peroxide kitchen scraps, and even old aquarium water!
Come on! Let’s get started!
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The Role of Plant Fertilizers
Plant fertilizer provides essential nutrients that promote plant growth, health, and productivity.
These nutrients play various roles in plant development and function, helping them thrive and produce flowers, fruits, or vegetables.
Fertilizers supply plants with the following benefits:
Fertilizers deliver the three primary macronutrients – nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) – which are crucial for plant growth and development. Otherwise known as the n-p-k ratio. (source)
Nitrogen supports foliage growth and overall plant health, phosphorus aids in root development, flowering, and fruiting, and potassium helps water and nutrient movement, disease resistance, and stem strength.
Besides macronutrients, fertilizers can provide essential micronutrients such as iron, manganese, zinc, copper, and boron.
These micronutrients play vital roles in various plant processes, including photosynthesis, enzymatic reactions, and metabolism.
Fertilizers can improve soil structure, nutrient availability, and microbial activity, essential for healthy plant growth.
Organic fertilizers, in particular, can help increase the organic matter content in the soil, promoting the development of beneficial microorganisms and improving water retention and aeration.
Fertilizers help plants grow more vigorously, improving outcomes for flowers, fruits, or vegetables.
By providing essential nutrients, fertilizers enable plants to reach their full potential and produce higher quality and larger harvests.
Enhanced stress tolerance
Well-fertilized plants are generally healthier and better able to tolerate environmental stresses such as drought, temperature extremes, and pests or diseases!
Homemade Fertilizer for Plants
1. Coffee Grounds for Houseplants
Coffee grounds are a wonderful natural fertilizer for plants! They are an excellent source of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, essential nutrients for plant growth.
Why use coffee grounds for houseplants?
- Coffee grounds are a great source of nitrogen.
- Coffee grounds help houseplants retain moisture.
- It’s good for the environment.
- Using coffee grounds as fertilizer is free!
How to Use Coffee Grounds for Houseplants
Sprinkle used coffee grounds around your plants or mix them into the soil.
This method works best for acid-loving plants like azaleas, roses, and blueberries, as coffee grounds can slightly acidify the soil.
Related article: How to use Coffee Grounds on Plants
2. Eggshells for Houseplants
Crushed egg shells provide plants with essential minerals—calcium carbonate, potassium, and phosphorus.
How to use eggshells on plants:
Rinse and crush eggshells, then sprinkle them around the base of your plants or mix them into the soil.
You can also make eggshell water by crushing the clean eggshells and pouring boiling water over them.
Let this soak overnight, and strain the shells out the next day. Pour the eggshell water right onto the soil.
3. Banana Peels for Houseplants
Banana peels are rich in potassium, an essential nutrient for flower and fruit development.
How to make fertilizer from banana peels
Bury small pieces of banana peels around the base of your plants, or create a banana peel tea by soaking peels in water for a few days before using the liquid to water your plants.
Steps to making fertilizer from banana peels:
Step one: Cut banana peels into small 1-inch pieces
Step two: Dry banana peel pieces. Lay them directly in the sun, or use an oven on the lowest temperature setting.
Step three: Add banana peels to your houseplants! Bury-dried banana peels in the soil.
4. Epsom Salts for Houseplants
Epsom salt contains magnesium and sulfate, which are crucial for photosynthesis and overall plant health. This homemade fertilizer is ideal for tomatoes, peppers, and roses.
How to use Epsom Salts on Houseplants
Use Epsom salt for indoor plants that have a magnesium deficiency.
If leaves turn yellow while the rest of the plant is green, your plant is most likely magnesium deficient.
To treat a house plant with a magnesium deficiency, mix one tablespoon of salt with a gallon of water and put this solution into a spray bottle.
Spraying the plant with the Epsom salt mixture is faster and safer than watering the plant with the mixture. You should see results within a few days.
Related article: Easy-Fast Growing Houseplants
Fish Tank Water
Aquarium water is full of nutrients from fish waste, making it a fantastic homemade fertilizer for your plants.
When changing your fish tank water, use the old water to water your garden or houseplants. This nutrient-rich water is especially beneficial for leafy greens and other fast-growing plants.
Compost tea is a liquid fertilizer made by steeping compost in water.
It is a nutrient-rich solution that contains beneficial microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and protozoa, which help improve soil structure, nutrient availability, and plant health.
Compost tea is an organic and sustainable alternative to chemical fertilizers, providing essential nutrients for plant growth and promoting a healthy soil ecosystem.
Manure tea is a nutrient-dense liquid fertilizer made by soaking aged animal manure in water.
How to make manure tea fertilizer for outdoor gardens:
Fill a large bucket with water and add a shovel full of old manure. Allow the mixture to steep for several days, stirring occasionally.
Then, strain the liquid and use it to water your plants. Use well-aged waste to avoid burning your plants with excess nitrogen.
Manure tea is only recommended for outdoor plants!
Homemade fish fertilizer (for outdoors only!)
Homemade fish fertilizer, or fish emulsion, is an excellent way to provide essential nutrients to your vegetable garden while recycling fish parts.
Fish fertilizers are rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and trace minerals, promoting healthy plant growth.
I would recommend buying fish emulsion fertilizer. But if you want to make your own, here is a great resource on how to make homemade fish fertilizer for plants.
Believe it or not, Human hair can be an excellent fertilizer in your garden as it is a source of nutrients beneficial for plant growth.
Hair is made up of keratin, a protein that contains nitrogen, sulfur, and trace amounts of other elements.
When hair decomposes, these nutrients become available to plants, making it a natural, slow-release fertilizer.
Horsehair can be used as a plant fertilizer, similar to human hair.
Horsehair, like human hair, is composed primarily of keratin, a protein that contains nitrogen, sulfur, and trace amounts of other nutrients.
As the horse hair decomposes, it releases these nutrients into the soil, providing a natural, slow-release fertilizer for plants.
Green tea can be used as a plant fertilizer, containing various nutrients and beneficial compounds to support plant growth.
When used as a fertilizer, green tea provides several advantages:
Green tea is rich in nutrients, such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, which are essential for plant growth. Additionally, it contains trace amounts of other elements, like magnesium and zinc.
Green tea is known for its high antioxidant content, particularly catechins. These antioxidants can help protect plants from environmental stress and improve overall plant health.
Green tea can help improve soil structure by adding organic matter, supporting beneficial microorganisms, and enhancing plant nutrient availability.
The compounds found in green tea may also help repel some insects and pests, providing a natural alternative to chemical pesticides.
To use green tea as a fertilizer, follow these steps:
- Brew green tea: For a few minutes, prepare green tea by steeping green tea bags or loose leaves in hot water. Allow the tea to cool down to room temperature.
- Dilute the tea: To avoid potential harm to your plants from high concentrations of nutrients or compounds, dilute the green tea with water. A general guideline is to use a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio (one part green tea to one or two parts water).
- Apply the green tea: Water your plants with the diluted solution. You can also use it as a foliar spray by spraying the solution directly onto the leaves, which can help deter pests and provide nutrients through foliar absorption.
- Frequency: Apply the green tea fertilizer every few weeks to provide your plants with a continuous source of nutrients.
Green tea can be a valuable addition to your gardening routine, offering a natural, eco-friendly alternative to commercial fertilizers.
Remember that green tea alone may not provide all the nutrients your plants need, so it is essential to incorporate other fertilizing methods or organic matter to maintain a well-balanced, nutrient-rich soil.
Wood ashes can be used as a plant fertilizer, containing several beneficial nutrients for plant growth.
When burned, wood releases potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and trace amounts of other elements that remain in the ashes.
These nutrients can help improve soil and plant health when used appropriately.
Here’s a great article about how to use wood ashes for fertilizing plants and gardens
Molasses (Blackstrap Molasses)
Molasses can be used as an organic fertilizer and soil amendment for plants. It is rich in carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals that can support plant growth and soil health.
Using molasses in your garden can provide several benefits:
Feeds beneficial microorganisms: The carbohydrates in molasses serve as a food source for beneficial microorganisms in the soil, such as bacteria and fungi.
These microorganisms are crucial in breaking down organic matter and making plant nutrients available.
Enhances nutrient uptake: Molasses contains trace amounts of minerals, like calcium, magnesium, and iron, which can improve overall plant health. Additionally, the increased microbial activity in the soil can enhance plant nutrient uptake.
Improves soil: The presence of organic matter in molasses can help improve soil structure by promoting the formation of soil aggregates. This leads to better aeration, drainage, and water retention in the soil.
Natural pest deterrent: The sugars in molasses can help deter some pests, like aphids and mites, by making the plant leaves less palatable.
Using cooking water as a fertilizer is an eco-friendly way to recycle water and provide your plants with additional nutrients.
The water used to cook vegetables, pasta, or boiled eggs may contain traces of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that can benefit your plants.
Here’s how to use cooking water as a fertilizer:
- Allow the cooking water to cool: After cooking, let it cool to room temperature before using it on your plants, as hot water can harm their roots and leaves.
- Check for added salt or oils: If you add salt or oil to the cooking water, it is best not to use it on your plants, as these additives can cause damage to the plants or soil.
Instead, use only cooking water free of salt, oil, and other harmful additives.
- Strain the water (if necessary): If food particles are in the cooking water, strain them out using a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth.
These particles can attract pests or cause mold growth if used directly on your plants.
- Water your plants: Use the cooled, strained cooking water to water your plants. The nutrients in the cooking water can help support plant growth and improve overall plant health.
Pine needles can be used as a mulch or soil amendment for your garden plants, but their use as a natural fertilizer is limited due to their low nutrient content.
Pine needles decompose slowly, gradually releasing nutrients into the soil over time. However, they do offer some benefits when used in the garden:
Why you Should use Pine Needles in your Garden:
Pine needles have a slightly acidic pH, which makes them suitable as mulch for acid-loving plants like blueberries, rhododendrons, azaleas, and hydrangeas. The acidic mulch can help maintain an appropriate soil pH for these plants, ensuring they can absorb nutrients effectively.
Pine needles interlock as a mulch, which can help prevent soil erosion on slopes or in areas with heavy rainfall.
A layer of pine needle mulch can help suppress weed growth by blocking sunlight and making it difficult for weeds to germinate.
Pine needles can provide soil insulation, helping regulate temperature and moisture levels, which can benefit plant roots.
Pine needles decompose slowly, so they won’t need to be replaced as often as other mulches. This slow decomposition also means they won’t rob the soil of nitrogen like other high-carbon mulches.
Gelatin can be an excellent nitrogen source for houseplants and is super easy to make.
The benefits of using gelatin for houseplants don’t stop there, though. Not only is it a great source of nitrogen, but it also helps aerate clay soil, which can benefit some plants.
Additionally, gelatin helps retain water in the soil and prevents plant roots from drying out quickly.
This makes it an ideal choice for busy people who don’t always have time to water their houseplants.
Using gelatin, your plants will stay hydrated for more extended periods and require less frequent watering.
Gelatin Fertilizer Recipe for Houseplants
All you need to do is dissolve two tablespoons of unflavored gelatin powder into one cup of warm water.
Once the gelatin has dissolved, stir in one tablespoon of sugar and let it sit until it cools off.
Afterward, pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth and pour the liquid onto your houseplant’s soil.
Please stir it well to help the gelatin sink into the dirt, and let it sit for about an hour before watering your houseplant as usual.
Vinegar as a plant fertilizer is generally not recommended due to its acidity.
Vinegar, mainly white vinegar, is a diluted form of acetic acid, and when applied to plants or soil, it can lower the soil pH and harm plant roots.
While vinegar can be used as a natural herbicide to kill weeds, it is not suitable as a fertilizer for most plants.
This is because most plants require a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH (between 6.0 and 7.0), and adding vinegar can create an unfavorable environment for their growth.
However, some acid-loving plants like blueberries, azaleas, and rhododendrons thrive in more acidic soil conditions.
In such cases, diluted vinegar could be used cautiously to lower the soil pH if it’s too alkaline slightly.
To do this, mix one tablespoon of white vinegar with one gallon of water and use it to water the acid-loving plants.
Monitor the soil pH and the plants’ response to ensure they’re not adversely affected.
For most plants, it is better to use other organic fertilizers like compost, manure, or fish emulsion to provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth.
When to Fertilize Houseplants
Regularly fertilizing your plants to ensure they get the necessary nutrients is essential.
I recommend applying fertilizer every two weeks during the growing season and once a month during the winter.
I use a plant care app to help care for my houseplants and my outdoor garden.
Use a Plant Care App
Plant care apps have become increasingly popular among plant enthusiasts, offering several benefits that can help keep your plants healthy and thriving.
Key advantages of plant care apps include:
Accurate plant identification: Many plant care apps allow you to take a photo of your plant and get instant identification, which can be especially helpful if you’re unsure what plant you have.
This can be crucial when determining your plants’ proper care and watering needs.
Personalized care tips: Plant care apps can provide customized care tips based on your specific plant type and growing conditions. These tips may include information on watering schedules, sunlight requirements, and pest control.
Reminders and alerts: Many plant care apps allow you to set reminders for watering and other maintenance tasks, ensuring you never forget to care for your plants. Some apps even send notifications when it’s time to water or fertilize your plants.
Community support: Many plant care apps feature a community of plant lovers who can offer advice and support for growing and caring for your plants. This can be an excellent resource for beginners or those looking to expand their knowledge of plant care.
Sustainable gardening: Some plant care apps provide information on eco-friendly gardening practices, such as composting and natural pest control. This can help you reduce your environmental impact while still enjoying the benefits of gardening.
Related article: The Best Plant Care Apps!
Conclusion: Homemade Fertilizer for plants
Making homemade fertilizer for plants is a great way to ensure plants get all the nutrients they need to help them thrive while staying away from chemical fertilizers!
I hope this article inspired you to make your homemade fertilizer for your houseplant! Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Happy gardening! 🙂
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