Most of us are familiar with the magic of compost as a mulch, soil amendment and plant food. Composting simply requires warm temperatures, moisture, aeration and organic material. It is one of the best ways to compliment a natural landscape and continue the carbon nitrogen cycle that makes up most of life. Compost also offers an accessible source of nutrients to plants but there are many other items in the average home that can enhance plant growth and fertilize crops. Even something as simple as using your aquarium fresh water after tank changes, can add nutrients from the fish waste and algae that tend to form in tanks. Making a homemade fertilizer is easy once you know some of the basic ingredients.
The things we eat are basically composed of natural ingredients. Good cooks keep a pantry or larder stocked with the basic building blocks of meals. Many of these building blocks have the potential to escalate plant growth and boost bumper crops. Molasses seems to increase microbes in soil. It is as simple to use as mixing 3 tablespoons of molasses in 1 gallon of water. Water your plants as usual. Use your banana peels in newly dug rose beds to release potassium for bigger blooms. Egg shells are rich in calcium carbonate and can help fend off blossom end rot. Washed, crushed and worked into the soil, these usual "discards" are important nutrient powerhouses that also increase soil tilth. Coffee grounds are another throw away item that still has life in it yet. Coffee increases the acidity of soil which plants like azaleas, blueberries and roses, love. Green tea has antioxident properties and as a diluted watering solution can increase plant resistance to disease. White distilled vinegar is another enhancement for plants like roses. Water with 1 teaspoon per gallon of water.
Another way to recycle kitchen items is by using a vermicomposting system. These can be purchased or they are easy to make yourself. Vermicomposting relies upon red worms or wigglers. These small worms break down food scraps fairly quickly and release castings, which are rich in organic nutrients. The key to keeping an odor free worm bin is to make sure your food scraps are cut up no larger than 1 inch. This promotes quicker breakdown. The worm castings are useful mixed with potting soil or worked into the garden bed. They can also make a formidable tea to use as a foliar spray or soil drench.
There are other places in the home other than the kitchen to look for fertilizer ingredients. Epsom salts are mostly magnesium with some sulfur. The magnesium is one of the basic micro-nutrients necessary for photosynthesis and sulfur accelerates root growth and assists with the formation of chlorophyll. This common muscle soak is easy to use by mixing 1 tablespoon of the salts with 1 gallon of water. Almost any plant will react enthusiastically to an application of this mixture. Borax is another common household item. It is a stain fighter and laundry booster. In large amounts borax, which has high levels of boron, can be dangerous to plants. In large garden beds, a minute amount of boron will enhance plant germination and growth. The recipe to use relies upon our old friend Epsom salts and some dolomite lime. Mix 10 pounds of lime, 2 ounces of Borax and 8 ounces of Epsom salts. Apply at a rate of 1 ounce per foot in the garden bed prior to planting. The entire recipe treats 225 square feet of soil.Don't dispose of your fireplace ash. Store it until spring and then make a soil drench to enhance soil pH. The ash is a good source of lime, potassium and trace elements. It can be worked in in its dry state or soaked and strained as a tea. Do not use it around acid loving plants.
Items outside the home are also beneficial as fertilizers. If you are lucky enough to keep chickens or know someone who does, use the manure directly worked into the soil or make a manure tea by soaking the solids for a week and then straining them out. You can also use horse or cow manure but this is best composted and aged before applying around plants. Grass clippings are full of nitrogen, one of the main nutrients for plant growth. Grass tea enhances green leafy growth and promotes vigorous plants. Even weeds can outlive their "enemy" status and redeem themselves. Allow them to dry and then weight them down in a bucket of water for a few weeks. Stir frequently. Drain away the weeds and add them to a compost pile and use the water as a foliar feed for any plant. They release nitrogen and other nutrients into the water for a dose of needed energy for the plants you do want to keep.
There are many recipes for combining these natural fertilizers into a powerful plant punch. One for the lawn which is accessible and easy to use is made up of beer, ammonia and baby shampoo ( the non-antibacterial type). Beer give soil microbes needed food, while ammonia adds nitrogen. The baby shampoo enhances absorption. Use 1 bottle of beer and 1 cup each ammonia and shampoo. Apply to the lawn with a hose end sprayer every 2 weeks in spring. This will encourage green, lush growth and a healthy turf. More recipes are available online or in the many natural and organic gardening books.