Fertilizers From Your Trash (That Your Plants Will Love)

I don’t spend top dollar to feed my plants a top-notch meal. Kitchen scraps, fireplace ashes and even my husband’s pee (it’s easier to collect than mine) can add nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to your garden soil.

Here’s how to make your own fertilizer from things you’d otherwise throw away.

Compost is King: A cooking compost pile is a garden’s best friend. I have two piles, and they are a constant source of rich, friable soil. So long as it’s organic, you can add it to the pile — leaves, grass clippings and vegetable peels are the most popular compost pile ingredients. But there are many more household leftovers you can compost, which not only help you grow your soil, but reduce the waste you add to a landfill. Here are some:

  • Human hair
  • Nail clippings
  • Stale bread
  • Used tissues
  • Toilet paper holders
  • Chewing gum

Coffee Grinds: Add your morning grinds or leftover brew to your garden, which will appreciate the daily jolt of nitrogen. Coffee is slightly acidic, which is good for acid-loving plants like blueberries and azaleas. If you’re not a coffee drinker, your local coffeehouse will gladly donate its used grinds. My neighborhood Starbucks has been keeping me in coffee grinds for years.

Eggshells: They’re rich in calcium, which plant cells need to stay strong. I add a handful of washed, crushed shells to the holes where I plant my tomatoes and peppers: Goodbye blossom rot.

Human Urine: Don’t flush your perfectly good pee down the drain. Urine is nitrogen-rich and great for your plants, especially roses. Dilute pee with water, 20 oz. of water to 1 oz. of pee, before you sprinkle it around your plants.

Fish Bones and Shrimp Shells: Fish is rich in essential and micro nutrients your plants need to thrive. Collect fish bones, leftovers sardines and anchovies, even shrimp shells. Throw them into a 5-gallon drum, cover with water, seal with a lid, and let steep for a week. Voila! You’ve got a great, slow-release liquid fertilizer.

Fireplace Ash: Hardwood ash is loaded with calcium, potassium and phosphorous and, in small doses, is a great garden fertilizer that can raise the pH of your soil. That’s good for alkaline-loving plants like forsythia, lilacs and clematis. Ash also helps aerate the soil and discourages pests.

Banana Peels: Rich in potassium, banana peels help replace soil nutrients. Throw a peel or two in the hole before planting. Your roses will love you for it.

Image credit: Kessner Photography via Wikimedia

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Debbie Crowe
Debbie Croweabout a year ago

We have a compost pile, however, I didn't know to put some of these things in it.
We had a fireplace at out last house, but this one doesn't have one.
I really don't think my husband will volunteer his urine, but I will ask him!

william Miller
william Millerabout a year ago

compost is cool. Make tea from it to water your indoor plants

Edith B.
Edith B.about a year ago

Thanks for the tips

Elena T.
Elena Poensgenabout a year ago

Thank you :)

Julia H.
Past Member about a year ago

I have a big compost pile on my land and I love it. I use it for my raised bed garden and my plants are beautiful and ready to provide me with lots of great veggies to eat. As I eat them, their peelings go right back into the compost pile. Recycling at its finest!

However, I don't put gum, urine or news paper in my pile.

Fi T.
Fi T.about a year ago

We can always turn the used into something useful; treasure our resources

Nancy Gizuk
Nancy Gizukabout a year ago

I can get onboard with all of these but, the human urine one kinda gives me the oogies.

Francesca A-S
Past Member about a year ago

Some of these were quite surprising.

Francesca A-S
Past Member about a year ago

Thanks for sharing!

Barb Hansen
Barb Hansenabout a year ago