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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Cath B
Cath B7 months ago

ps. dont let the boys just pee in the plant pots. It is too strong and will kill the plants! Ash from the fire can always go straight onto the rose bushes. They love it.
I have asked to be cremated and spread on the biggest public rose garden. Then I feel I will have added much more to life in giving the roses a great feed. True. ;-)
Maybe the ashes had better be mixed with some compost before spreading it. It will look better.

Cath B
Cath B7 months ago

Dont forget the vacuum bag. It has everything in it that is compost material. I moved into a house and it had to be vacuumed so many times I had to get a friend in to help. I had so much asthma. I dont know how many bags of dirt etc came out - but she buried every one into her compost heap. I was envious the next year when she had this amazing new earth full of worms and was growing amazing veggies. I wont ever forget that event. It was as if the carpets had never been vacuumed in their life. They didnt need replacing in the end, but just goes to show how dirty carpets are to have in your home if you dont have a powerful vac.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe3 years 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 Miller3 years ago

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

Edith B.
Edith B3 years ago

Thanks for the tips

Elena T.
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you :)

Julia H.
Past Member 3 years 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.
Past Member 3 years ago

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

Nancy Gizuk
Nancy Gizuk3 years ago

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

Francesca A-S
Past Member 3 years ago

Some of these were quite surprising.