Creating a Sustainable Farm

At the edge of a sparsely developed neighborhood in Milton, Florida, you’ll find Ray and Wanda Davis’ “Clear Creek Farm.” When they decided to retire from their original careers, they thought it would be fun to try their hand at farming as a way to maintain activity and to grow their own food. Their 30 acre property, just west of a Naval Aviation Training base and backing up to a land preserve, has hills, flood plains, hardwood and pine forest areas and is bisected by Clear Creek as it winds its way to the Blackwater River.
From the property description, you can imagine, there are lots of ecosystems, but level fertile ground is missing. Ray and Wanda accepted these challenges to create their version of a Sustainable Farm. Here are some of the techniques they use.
One of the first problems to be addressed was controlling run-off and erosion. They created a series of terraces and concrete drainage streams, including a pool. Square foot garden beds and narrow long beds were built on the terraces.  Trees cut down on the farm as they cleared areas were milled into lumber that they use to make the long beds. Tree height determined the bed length.

Clear Creek Farm1

To extend the growing season and protect some delicate plants during the winter months, they have built high tunnel (hoop houses). Ray also has some hydroponic lettuce beds where he grows individual lettuce plants in a nutrient rich liquid supported by styrofoam.
All plant material that is left after harvesting is tossed into compost bins built from throw away pallets lined with hardware cloth and tied together with zip-ties. They use straw and shredded paper as the carbon component and toss in a shovel full of manure to keep it “hot.”

Solar panels installed on the farm buildings generate electricity for farm use as well. As a result of their hard work, farm tours, plant sales and consultations provide additional income. Now that’s sustainable.

Sustainable Farm


Billie Nicholson, editor
May 2015

Raised Bed Gardening

Robert and Billie Nicholson

Getting to the Root of the Problem

We have been enjoying raised bed gardening for years and have had great success growing a wide variety of healthy, delicious and cost effective fresh vegetables. We use artificial soil as described below. This works great, so great that everything wants to be in the soil, including roots from other nearby trees, shrubs, etc. Our solution was to build a raised square foot garden so that nearby roots are not aware of our rich soil. Other advantages include not stooping to tend the plants and those with disabilities can sit in a wheelchair to continue the pleasures of gardening. Also when building the raised portion of your growing bed you can adjust the length of the legs to accommodate the slope of your property. We can build a few beds at our lake house and not have our veggies tumbling into the lake.

Our raised garden bed table was made from pressure treated lumber and placed on cement blocks. To keep the chemicals used to preserve the wood frame isolated from our soil we installed a plastic barrier, plastic composite decking and ground cloth before placing our plastic composite garden kit (4’x8’) on top. We secured the garden kit to the table with metal braces and 3 ½ inch #10 stainless steel screws.  The finishing touch was to place strips of ground cloth at right angles inside the garden bed to prevent soil from washing through the cracks as the unit ages.

Raised Bed Gardening

Raised Bed Gardening

For The Growing Medium:
We buy our growing medium from the local farm store and get a better price.
1/3 – (4 cu foot bail) – Peat Moss
1/3 – (4 cu foot bag) – Vermiculite
1/3 blend of the following:
– Composted cow manure
– Composted chicken manure
– Composted mushroom


Start by opening the peat moss and break it up into small pieces in the bed. Add vermiculite and mix well. Open other bags and mix well working out lumps. Mix all growing medium dry. When finished mixing, water in the growing medium well (about one hour), test bed by checking bottom for dampness. If the bottom is dry, water until damp. This soil mixture has its good & bad issues. Good: Very rich mixture & great 1st year yields with no weed seeds. Bad: Very rich mixture so that every root in the area wants to invade the rich soil.

This rich bed is so delicious that garden worms will come to live. If you see worms in the yard pick them up and place into your new raised bed garden to speed up the worming process. We buy garden worms every 5 years or so. This year we ordered 1000 worms from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. They come with homecoming instructions. Go to

NEVER step into your raised bed, as this will compact the soil and impede the great things to come. Reach in from either side to do your gardening work.

You are now ready to plant. Remember that this method of growing will yield bigger plants than you are used to seeing, so be careful to not plant your new seedlings too close together. More information is found at

Raised Bed Gardening

Photos Rusty Buggy Enterprises, Inc.

Billie Nicholson, editor
April 2015

Starting Seeds and Caring for Seedlings

edited from presentation by Jason Matyas of Seeds for Generations

If you’re getting the gardening itch, now is the time to start getting plans together. Depending on where you live, the ground may still be frozen or covered with snow right now, but before you know it, spring will be here. The official vernal equinox is 20 March, 2015 in the northern hemisphere. This means night and day are nearly the same length, 12 hours, all over the world. This is also the day the sun crosses the celestial equator from south to north.

Growing your own food requires some advanced planning. When you start thinking about a garden there are some constraints to keep in mind. First is garden space. How much do you have, how many types of plants will you want to fit into your garden space and then how many of a given type will you plant? Two other considerations to think about are how long is your growing season and how long will it take for the types of plants you’ve selected to reach harvest maturity? Often we want to get a jump start on the growing season by starting seedlings inside. Where do you start?  Here are some thoughts to keep in mind.

Plants need soil, water and light. Growing plants inside, you will be responsible for all three. In an indoor environment temperature will be important. Some plants need higher temperatures in order to germinate. Warming mats can help this. The amount of light is important, too, to avoid tall, spindly (weak) plants. Water needs to be consistent but not too much. Place your seedling trays next to a south facing window or set up commercial/fluorescent shop lights whose distance from the plants can be adjusted as plants get taller. Use a timer to control length of time, set it for 16 hours of light. If you don’t have enough window space for your trays, build a stand.

When you are getting seeds, you need to know how much space you will have in your garden and calculate how many seeds of each variety you need to plant. Study the planting guide printed on each seed packet. Take your total garden space, determine the required plant spacing, multiply by the number of plants and by the row spacing suggested. The reason you need to do this: so you don’t start more seedlings than the space you have available.

You will need trays like the “1020” ones sealed on the bottom to collect water run off. To this you’ll add planting cells to hold individual plants. Growing medium can be made by mixing 4 parts of compost, screen sifted to remove sticks and other large debris, 1 part pearlite, 1 part vermiculite and 2 parts sphagnum peat moss or coir (shredded coconut shell). Once seeds are planted, keep the soil moist by watering from the bottom. Check regularly for dryness; don’t over water.

As seedlings grow, keep track of them. Help plants get used to the outside by setting them outside in a sheltered location for a few hours during the day. Gradually increase sun exposure and decrease protection from cold at night. Be aware of when the last frost will occur in your area. Don’t plant in the garden until this date or later.

Gardening by the Moon

Planting a garden using the phases of the moon is a method of cultivation as old as agriculture itself. For centuries, farming records show a reliance on using the proper phase of the moon for timing planting, crop maintenance and harvesting.  Astrology and it’s symbolic figures were used as guides for many parts of everyday life including planting, harvesting, raising, butchering meats, and even marrying. The Farmer’s Almanac, still published today, includes these directions along with a long range weather forecast and suggestions for other life activities. This old style knowledge provides a schedule for planting that we can use just as gardeners in days passed. Today it is referred to as “Biodynamic Gardening.” 1
As the moon revolves around the earth the sun’s light creates a changing shape or phase of the moon as seen from earth. The earth’s gravity is affected by both the sun, moon and planets. The ocean tides are highest during a full moon, when the sun and moon are lined up with the earth.  Our forefathers believed that as the moon draws the tides, it also draws upon all water, causing moisture to swell up in the earth promoting growth. This is the best time to plant.

Moon phases

Gardening By Moon Phases

  1. New moon to first quarter – This is the time to plant above ground crops; those you can see. Examples are cabbage, celery, broccoli, brussels sprouts, asparagus, grains, leeks, celery, lettuce, spinach, parsley, cauliflower.
  2. First quarter to full moon – At this time you would plant above ground crops that you can see that have seed within a fruit or pod, and flowers. Examples are tomatoes, peppers, beans, melons, cucumbers, beans, squash.
  3. Full moon to last quarter – This is when you plant root crops, bulbs, perennials and biennials. The idea is that these plants need strong roots. Examples are onion, turnips, garlic, carrots, beets and radishes.
  4. Last quarter to new moon – If you have to plant during this time, it must be in a fruitful sign such as Scorpio, Pisces, Cancer, Taurus, Libra or Capricorn. If you need to weed, or cultivate, do it in a barren sign like Virgo, Leo, Aquarius, Gemini, Sagittarius or Aries. Harvest in Aquarius, Gemini, Leo, Aries, or Sagittarius. 2

Our Moon zooms around the Zodiac wheel while visiting each of the 12 signs in only 28 and a quarter days, thus having to change into a different astrological sign every 2-3 days. With the understanding that each of our 12 signs are categorized into the 4 elements of fire, earth, air and water- this is the basis of how one can determine what sign the Moon is passing through is the best one to plant under to make sure that a successful harvest will be the end result. Moon phase gardening has been around a long time. It is worth trying if you haven’t yet.    Learn More

Billie Nicholson, Editor
January 2015




Our January 2015 issue of “Every Needful Thing”  also includes:

The Motivation Factor

The Magic of the Side by Stephen D. Palmer

9 Simple Tips to Prevent Antibiotic Resistance by Gaye Levy

How Many Plastic Bags Do You Use?

and from Our Solar Chef – Vegetarian Chickpea Curry Pie

Don’t miss our January Special on case lots of fuel disks for your Cube Stove

Growing Your Own Food All Year

As the summer season draws to a close, many gardeners wish for a longer growing season. Never fear, the answers are here. There are several things that the everyday gardener can do to extend the growing season for our gardens. As the weather cools, it is time to select new seeds or slips to plant that can tolerate cooler temperatures. Just as in the spring we planted lettuce, radishes, beets and carrots, the same pattern can be repeated in the fall. In addition, you can add more cold tolerant vegetables that will produce leaves and roots to eat. These can be divided into temperature tolerances, for example:

  • growing your own food all year

    Low temperature tolerant plants that can grow outside but are very sensitive to frost

    • lettuce
    • chickory, endive, escarole
    • broccoli
    • cauliflower
    • parsley, cilantro
    • radishes, celery, bok choy
  •     Medium cold tolerant plants can grow outside but it helps to cover them as the temperature
    Grow Your Own Food All Year


    • Chinese cabbage, sorrel
    • rutabaga
    • collards, kale, spinach
    • beets
    • carrots
    • parsnips
    • snow peas
  • High cold tolerant may survive uncovered but can be protected by
    Grow Your Own Food All Year

    row cover

    • turnips
    • Brussels sprouts
    • cabbage



The most important factor is knowing when to plant in the fall. As the weather gets cooler and day length decreases, plant growth slows down and will eventually come to a stop when the day length gets below 10 hours. In much of the US, land north of the 30º latitude has day length shorter than 10 hours between mid-November and mid-January. Check your location here. Your goal is to get plants to maturity before that day length happens. If you get them nearly mature, they will hold in the ground until you harvest them. Review the maturation date on the seed packets and plant those seeds within a time that will work. You can vary planting days to stretch your harvest. Pay attention as the night temperature begins to drop. Cover plants that are most delicate upon threats of frost. Find your average frost dates here.

There are several techniques to protect plants as the temperatures drop.

  1. Plant your garden in a south facing field. These beds will get more sun exposure and soil will retain heat longer each day.
  2. Protect from wind. Wind can cause more damage than cold. Planting near a protective wall, fence or hedge can raise the air  temperature several degrees
  3. Plant in cold frames. These boxes are constructed with slanted walls and designed to have a topGrowing Your Own Food All Year cover of plastic or glass. The top can be raised during the day and during watering but replaced at night when temperatures may drop to the frost level.  There are many ways to build cold frames, but the idea is to create a warm place for plants to continue growing. See  “The Cold Frame Handbook”  to get plans and more details.
  4. Grow Your Own Food All YearUse row covers. Made from wire or 1/2” PVC electrical conduit pipe bent into the ground. A 10’ pipe can be bent to cover a 5-6’ bed. Use sand bags to secure at each hoop or insert a small piece of rebar in each end . Cover with spun fabric which is light weight, translucent, and breathable. This will provide wind protection and increase ground temperatures 5-10º F. Fabric that is made to 1 oz thickness allows 70% sunlight through. You can double this cover in real cold weather. Be sure to take it off during the warmest part of the day. Get precise construction directions here.
  5. Greenhouses are the final answer for those gardeners who feel the need for dirty fingers all year
    Grow Your Own Food All Year

    long. The sky is the limit for greenhouse kits. They can range in size from table-top starter boxes to arboretums. They can be attached or free standing. A greenhouse should be large enough to walk into. The frame cover can be plastic sheets, vinyl panels or glass inserts. You will need a source of water, vents and perhaps a fan to make it most useful. Here is an extensive article on “Choosing the Best Greenhouse Kit” . In locations that have harsh winters, use row  covers in the green house.





Billie Nicholson, editor
September 2014


Additional articles in the September 2014 newsletter include:

Home Security Checklist

Emergency Preparedness for people with disabilities

Introducing the UV Paqlite

Solar Moroccan Style Meatballs from our Solar Chef

Be Disaster Aware

Leadership: Restoring order during catastrophic chaos

Creating a Sustainable Garden

By Billie Nicholson as Presented by Cindy Conner

SoilWhat is Soil?

Wearing her hand-made vest of many colors, Cindy Conner of Ashland, VA, talked about the things gardeners need to consider to make a garden that will sustain itself. Soil is much more than dirt. It consists of inorganic materials from rocks; organic material from dead and decayed plant life; biological systems – consisting of bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa and other microscopic animals like round worms and earthworms; and air and water occupying the spaces between the soil components. Soil is a world of its own, whose components work together to support plants not just for anchorage, but also to provide nutrients enabling plants to grow, conduct photosynthesis and create food for us to eat and oxygen for us to breathe. In order for plants to continue to grow successfully, the soil they grow in needs to be continually nourished as well.

“Part of the cycle of life many try to ignore is microorganisms.  Without them, we would cease to exist.  Microbes are necessary for our food to be transformed into nutrients that our body can use.  If things are not working well in your gut, your body becomes unbalanced, causing havoc throughout. … In my studies of nutrition and of the soil, I’ve come to realize that the same thing going on in our gut with the microbes, is going on in the soil.  When the right balance of microorganisms is present, plants thrive.  Healthy soil produces healthy plants, which feed healthy people.  We are what we eat.  We are a people of the earth.  When we get our nutrients from REAL food, they come with the enzymes and co-nutrients, in proper proportion, necessary for assimilation in our bodies.” HomePlaceEarth

Soil Needs Food, too

To keep our gardens healthy and productive, we need to feed the soil. This does not mean, just add chemical fertilizers. We need to replenish the compost – organic materials in the soil. Making your own compost pile consisting of raw food scraps, non-edible plant parts, like older outside leaves on cabbage, tea and coffee grounds, egg shells and animal manure will replenish nourishing material. Another way to help this is to grow cover crops in part of your garden beds as a crop rotation. Cover crops are grown specifically to feed the soil. Some of these may also provide food for people as well, if you allow the plants to grow to maturity making fruit or seeds. Not all areas in the world produce gardens year-round. In these areas cover crops are grown during the winter. According to  GROW BIOINTENSIVE® researchers, 60% of your garden space should be in cover crops/compost all the time.

How does this work? The cover plants will be grown, cutdown and left or turned under the soil to decompose in place as the roots and green matter breakdown returning the nutrients to be used again by other plants. You can even use the old plants you have grown in other parts of your garden. When plants like lettuce go to flower, they are no longer edible. Just pull those plants and toss them into the composting bed. Why have a separate place requiring extra time and energy to move? Just make it in an existing garden bed. This was an “AHA” moment for me.

What can you plant and when?  Cindy has a handout with suggested plants for fall, spring  and summer cover plantings. These cover crops do not require the bed to be fallow for an entire year. Some crops like buckwheat work when you need something to fill a bed for about a month between main crops. Some plants, like cereal rye can be cut and then transplanted into about two weeks later. The plant material can be moved or left as mulch to keep down weeds and hold moisture.

     An important note: If you use herbicides on your lawn, do not add these clippings to your composting beds. The herbicides of today do not decompose during the composting process. These herbicides, designed to kill broad leaf plants producing weed free lawns, can damage your garden plants. Even manure from an animal fed on herbicide treated hay will still contain active herbicides.

Additional Articles in this month’s issue:

Billie Nicholson, Editor
May 2014

Gardening with Epsom Salt

Billie Nicholson

      epsom saltDid your grand parents use Epsom salt for something more than a hot tub bath after a hard day’s work? In addition to human health and wellness, it can help garden plants thrive, too. Epsom salt, Magnesium Sulfate, gets it’s name from the town of Epsom, England, where it was first distilled from water in the late 1500’s. It works to correct a magnesium or sulfur deficiency in the soil as an “organic fertilizer.”

Magnesium is an essential element in the chlorophyll molecule that allows plants to be able to convert light into energy. Photosynthesis is the chemical process that makes this conversion of light into energy-rich glucose molecules using water and carbon dioxide. It is the basis for life.1  Magnesium aids in nitrogen and phosphorus absorption and helps seeds germinate. Sulfur is an ingredient in two of the amino acids, methionine and cysteine, necessary to synthesize proteins. It also aids in other nutrient absorption.  The chemical compound, magnesium sulfate, is a highly soluble soil amendment, which means it can be absorbed by plants through their leaves as well as through their roots. It is also pH neutral, so it will not alter the soil pH. It promotes growth, color and overall plant health.2

Before you plant, add one cup of Epsom salt to every 100 square feet of soil. Mix it in thoroughly. If you have already planted, lightly sprinkle it over the newly planted area and water in with a hose sprinkler. Once plants are established, make a liquid fertilizer mixture of one tablespoon Epsom Salt to each gallon of water and apply four times during the season.3 Tomatoes and peppers are prone to magnesium deficiency. Add a tablespoon or two per hole before planting seeds or transplants and supplement with the liquid as they grow and develop fruit.

Epsom salt can revitalize your garden. It does not cause a chemical build up in the soil or harm plants when used.  Many gardeners credit their garden success to Epsom salt applications.




Additional Articles in the April 2014 Issue:

  • A reminder to review and rotate three types of items in your 72 hour emergency kit.
  • A discussion of the importance of “duck and cover” in surviving a nuclear attack
  • What are your plans to provide protein in your diet in an emergency situation? Here are some items to add to your supplies
  • Are members of your family hearing impaired that might not hear a smoke alarm?
  • Our featured contributor this month is Tess Pennington of She shares an article about Bio Mass Briquettes. Now you’ll have an environmentally friendly use for those shredded documents.
  • Sun Ovens are a perfect partner for bio mass briquettes, here’s how …
  • Some of our friends have complained that their yards were so shady that they doubted they could grow anything in a garden. In answer to their questions, here are some plants that can be grown in shade. Don’t give up on your yard either. Read more
  • We can all be prepared to take the initiative to save a life, should we be faced with a life or death situation. Here are three critical first aid procedures that can be accomplished with one dressing.
  • Our Solar Chef has included a wonderful recipe for Solar Stuffed Shells. Give it a try, these are yummy.

Billie Nicholson, Editor
April 2014

What Vegetables Grow in the Shade?

Some of our friends have complained that their yards were so shady that they doubted they could grow anything in a garden. In answer to their questions, here are some plants that can be grown in shade. Don’t give up on your yard either. Vegetables grown for their leaves, stems or buds can tolerate shade better than those grown for their fruit or roots, although some of these can tolerate light shade. Their size or yield may be affected, but they will still taste good.

Leaf LettuceLeaf Lettuce – is one of the first plants up in our garden each year. It thrives in soil of most any type, but does best in moisture retentive soil with some compost available. Our garden beds get partial shade from a neighbor’s oak trees. This has been a benefit as the summer temperatures rise. Lettuce often wants to bolt, or go to bloom, as the temperatures rise. One gardener suggested planting lettuce north of a row of sunflowers that can provide partial shade making the lettuce bear longer. You don’t have to wait until the plants get really large to begin harvesting. Cut the leaves individually with scissors. The plants will continue to produce new leaves. Leaves will get bitter as the plants begin to bloom.


Green OnionsGreen Onions – are cold hardy and can tolerate partial shade. We plant green onions starting in the fall in Pensacola and add a few more bulbs each month to assure we have green onions into summer. Good companions for onions are potatoes and lettuce. Cut the green tops for sauteing or garnishing. As they grow larger, the white bulbs can be harvested, too. Onions like a little organic fertilizer or compost. Harvest before the rainy season, they don’t like wet feet and will rot. Use them in potato dishes, with peas, and green beans or steam them in a foil packet on the grill. has a green onion pancake recipe.

swiss chardSwiss Chard – likes sun or partial shade and is hardy to about 20ºF. We planted some in January, right before the temperature dropped to 18ºF. We covered them with shade cloth. They suffered some brown edged leaves, but are recovering now. A member of the beet family, they can have green, yellow or red purple stems. Chard can be eaten raw when young in a green salad, added to smoothies, or sauteed in olive oil with garlic and crushed red pepper. This green is best when served immediately after picking. It is loaded with nutrients, second only to spinach. In addition to anti-oxidants, it can also help stabilize blood sugar levels and benefit the pancreas.

sugar snap peasSugar Snap Peas – are one of our most favorite veggies. When the pods start developing, we start hovering with anticipation. The edible pods go a lot farther than the pea seeds. We eat them in green salads, if we can get them to the table, and as part of a sauteed vegetable mix. Sugar snap peas need to be trellised and last longer if grown in light shade. Keep the soil moist. We sprinkle with liquid fertilizer, once they start blooming. Peas contain vitamin C, K, niacin and anti-oxidants. They have the best food value when eaten immediately after harvesting.

Billie Nicholson, Editor 2014


Additional Articles in the April 2014 Issue:

  • A reminder to review and rotate three types of items in your 72 hour emergency kit.
  • A discussion of the importance of “duck and cover” in surviving a nuclear attack
  • What are your plans to provide protein in your diet in an emergency situation? Here are some items to add to your supplies
  • Are members of your family hearing impaired that might not hear a smoke alarm?
  • Our featured contributor this month is Tess Pennington of She shares an article about Bio Mass Briquettes. Now you’ll have an environmentally friendly use for those shredded documents.
  • Sun Ovens are a perfect partner for bio mass briquettes, here’s how …
  • Speaking of gardening, do you use Epsom salts? Here’s why.
  • We can all be prepared to take the initiative to save a life, should we be faced with a life or death situation. Here are three critical first aid procedures that can be accomplished with one dressing.
  • Our Solar Chef has included a wonderful recipe for Solar Stuffed Shells. Give it a try, these are yummy.

Billie Nicholson, Editor
April 2014

7 Uses for Baking Soda in the Garden

Baking SodaBaking soda for is very useful for cleaning in our homes. Here are some garden uses, too.

  1. Make a non-toxic Fungicide – Mix 4 tsp baking soda in 1 gallon of water. Use on roses for black spot fungus and also on grapes when fruit appear.
  2. Spray for Powdery Mildew – 1 TBS baking soda, 1 gal of water, 1 TBS vegetable oil, 1 TBS of dishwashing liquid. Mix ingredients together and spray plants weekly. Apply on an overcast day to prevent foliage burns.
  3. Discourage Gnats in Soil & Fungus on leaves – Mix 4 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp biodegradable soap in 1 gallon of water. Mix well, spray infected foliage or soil as needed.
  4. Discourage Weeds – Pour or sweep baking soda in a thick layer into cracks on a sidewalk or patios. Baking soda should kill any small weeds already sprouted and prevent new ones from coming up.
  5. Kill Cabbage Worms – Mix equal parts of flour and baking soda. Dust plants (cabbage, kale, broccoli, etc.) when cabbage worms are seen. They will munch on the leaves and die in a day or two. Repeat as needed.
  6. Kill Crabgrass – Wet the crabgrass and pour a heavy dusting of soda on the weed. Crabgrass will start dying back in 2-3 days.
  7. Clean Your Hands – After a day in the garden and dirt, clean your hands by rubbing and scrubbing wet hands with baking soda. Rinse well.

Reproduced with Permission Plant Care Today

10 Natural Fertilizer Recipes

Cindy Rajhel at Home Grown Fun

10 Natural Fertilizer RecipesLook around the house and locally for materials you can use to make your own fertilizer. Surprises await in your waste bin.

  • Banana Peels – Eating a banana helps replenish lost potassium. Roses love potassium too. Simply throw one or two peels in the hole before planting or bury peels under mulch so they can compost naturally. Get bigger and more blooms.
  • Coffee Grounds – Acid loving plants such as tomatoes, blueberries, roses and azaleas love coffee grounds mixed into the soil, sprinkled on top of the ground before watering, or poured on top of the soil. If using as a soil drench, soak 6 cups of coffee grounds in a 5 gallon bucket of water. Let it sit for 2-3 days and then saturate the soil around your plants. 
  • Egg Shells – Wash them first, then crush. Work the shell pieces into the soil near tomatoes and peppers. The calcium helps fend off blossom end rot. Eggshells are 93% calcium carbonate, the same ingredient as lime, a tried and true soil amendment! I use eggshells in my homemade potting mix. This gives me healthy, beautiful fruits fit for seed saving.
  • Seaweed – Fresh seaweed should be washed well before use to remove salt. Asian markets sell dried seaweed. Both fresh and dried versions are considered excellent soil amendments. Seaweed contains trace elements and actually serves as a food source for soil microbes. Chop up a small bucket of seaweed and add it to 5 gallons of water.  Let it sit for 2-3 weeks loosely covered. Use it to drench the soil and foliage. 2 cups work well for a small plant, 4 cups for a medium plants and 6 cups for a large plant. Experiment with amounts. Combine seaweed with other tea fertilizers.
  • Weeds – You’ve got your own fertilizer growing under your feet!  Nettles, comfrey, yellow dock, burdock, horsetail and chickweed make wonderful homemade fertilizer. There are several ways you can use them to make your own brew or to speed up your compost pile. If your weeds have not gone to flower you can dry them in the sun and chop them up to use as a mulch. They are high in nitrogen and won’t rob your plants of nutrients. Borage (starflower) is an herb but for some people it’s a weed. It has many of the same nutritional properties as comfrey. I dry the entire plant, root and all, and put it in my compost tumbler. It helps break everything down and gives the pile an extra dose of heat. For this next brew, get out the bucket and your bandana! The bandana you’ll need for your nose because this technique gets stinky! Place a bunch of weed leaves and roots in a 5 gallon bucket. Weigh down the leaves with a brick to ensure the plant matter is covered and add water to cover. Stir weekly and wait 3-5 weeks for the contents to get thick an gooey. Then use that goo, diluted 1:10 or more as a soil drench fertilizer. To make it even more convenient, you can use two buckets and make a hole in the bottom of the bucket that contains the plants. The goo will seep through to the lower bucket.  It’s always best to apply the liquid fertilizer diluted – it should look like weak tea.
  • Molasses – Using molasses in compost tea increases microbes and the beneficial bacteria that microbes feed on. If you want to start out with a simple recipe for molasses fertilizer, mix 1-3 tablespoons of molasses into a gallon of water. Water your plants with this concoction and watch them grow bigger and healthier.
  • Human Urine – Sounds disgusting, but urine is considered sterile if the body it’s coming from is healthy and free of viruses and infection. High in nitrogen, urea contains more phosphorous and potassium than many of the fertilizers we buy at the store! If serving tomatoes that have been fertilized with pee gives you the “willies”, try it in the compost pile. A good ratio of urine to water would be 1:4. You can collect a cup of urine and pour it into 4 cups of water in a plastic bucket used outside for fertilizing plants. Pour 2 cups around the perimeter of each SMALL plant. For MEDIUM plants add 4 cups and LARGE plants deserve a good 6 cups of your personal home brew.
  • Grass Clippings – Rich in nitrogen, grass breaks down over time and enhances the soil. Fill a 5 gallon bucket full of grass clippings. You can even add weeds! Weeds soak up nutrients from the soil just as much as grass. Add water to the top of the bucket and let sit, covered for 3 weeks. Stir it once a week. Dilute your grass tea by mixing 1 cup of liquid grass into 10 cups of water. Apply to the base of plants using the same amounts as listed above in the urine recipe.
  • Manure – Chicken, horse, cow manure. With a little effort, you’ll find folks that are giving away composted animal manure for free. Use manure that has been exposed to air and heat for at least six months. To speed up the process, add some straw, shredded paper or leaves. Add the composted manure to a small permeable bag made from recycled cloth, e.g., a t-shirt or old towel. Let it steep in the shade for a few days and apply it to your soil to condition it before planting. Bury or discard the used bag. Some people use manure tea to soak bare root roses!
  • Cat and Dog Food – Depending on the dog food you recycle, this soil amendment may not be organic.  However, even the cheap stuff contains protein and micro-nutrients that benefit the soil. To prepare a garden plot for planting, sprinkle dry pet food on the bed, turn the soil and water. Let it decay naturally. To discourage wildlife from visiting for a snack, cover with cardboard until the food decomposes. The cardboard will also trap moisture and discourage weeds. Make sure the cardboard get wet all the way through and cover with mulch. Water thoroughly every week for four weeks. Soybean meal and alfalfa pellets from the grain store work great too. Sometimes grain stores will sell for cheap or give away spoiled grains. Check the feed for salt content and try not to add pet or animal food considered high in sodium. The AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) recommends dry dog food contain a minimum of 3% sodium to support normal growth and development.
  • Cornmeal – Contains lots of phosphorus and nitrogen and acts as an effective fungicide. Add a cup of cornmeal to 5 gallons of water. Let it soak for several hours, then strain the liquid so you can add it to a spray bottle. Spray the leaves of plants that are susceptible to fungus. You can combine this cornmeal tea with compost tea for even more benefits. I use the leftover water from cooking corn on my vegetable garden.
  • Worm Poo – Making my own worm tea is easy. I started with a handful of red wiggler worms about 6 years ago and haven’t stopped since. Check out our video below on composting with worms to see how easy it is to make this amazing fertilizer!
  • Reproduced with Permission. To read more articles by Cindy, visit her website at Home Grown Fun

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