Mark Lane on why to feed your soil now – and how to make your own plant food

Feeding the soil is important for good plant growth, delicious vegetables, fruits and herbs, and for a rich healthy, nutritious soil. It also helps in water retention which is very important with our ever increasing drought during summers.

What do I mean by ‘feeding’ though. Many gardeners will recommend adding well-rotted, homemade garden compost, well-rotted manure or leaf mold to the soil, either working it in with a fork or simply mulching it in spring and autumn. Will add as.

It is not necessarily about the nutrient content under these conditions (although good nutrient soil will result in better and healthier plants), but rather the improvement in soil structure. These organic aggregates will break down and be eaten by earthworms which will move through the soil.

Additions like these are great for loosening heavy soils and helping with drainage. If you have light sandy soil then adding heavy organic matter will help with water retention.

All plants need nitrogen for leafy green growth, phosphorus for healthy roots and potassium for lots of flowers and fruit. Organic matter, such as garden compost, manure or leaf mold, will also contain magnesium, copper and manganese.

Unlike artificial plant fertilizers, which add soluble nutrients to the soil that are easily washed off if not immediately absorbed by plants, heavy organic matter breaks down over time and slowly releases nutrients, Which are more easily absorbed by plants.

In addition to the beneficial nutrients found in organic matter, as they break down fungi, bacteria and other beneficial micro-organisms work and in turn help with plant growth.

Although you can go to a garden center or DIY store and stroll the aisles with shelf upon shelf of various artificial fertilizers, stop and think about how these fertilizers are made and the large carbon footprint used to make them. whether or not and eco-friendly.

Most suppliers of such fertilizers rely on the fact that you do not have time to add organic matter to your soil, so that plants become dependent on their artificial fertilizers. Most fertilizers that fall into this camp are made from ammonia or phosphate rock. The latter requires mining, but both rely heavily on fossil fuels to convert the raw material into fertilizer.

If you’re starting a new border, veggie patch or allotment this year, you may look at the cost of organic matter versus artificial fertilizers and think the latter is the better option.

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However, there is a third option, known as green manure. You can buy these in seed packets, such as red clover, Phacelia tanacetifolia or alfalfa. You’ll sow the seeds in autumn and then in summer you can dig in the green manure, which in turn will add valuable nutrients to the soil and improve soil structure. There is no cutting or wastage.

Green manure mulching is a great alternative to handling heavy, bulky organic matter and is incredibly cost-effective. After mixing the green manure into the soil, leave it for three weeks before sowing or planting. Alternatively, instead of digging the green manure in, you can cut it back and leave it on the surface of the soil as a green mulch.

Earthworms will do the work for you, recycling the organic matter and aerating the soil at the same time. When green manures are growing, they enrich local insect and pollinator populations and are also known as quick ‘fixing’ green manures because they help to store nitrogen in plants that the plants break down. But she leaves.

The following green manures can be sown between March and July: mustard seed, birdsfoot trefoil, fenugreek, sweet clover, even lupine ‘Blue Sonnet’. Just remember, that lupine must be pruned before it flowers or else it may self-seed and become a nuisance.

However, you can leave some in your garden or allotment to attract insects. In addition, lupine fixes 25 percent more free nitrogen than clover and 28 percent more than peas and beans. And, you can sow lupine as an intercrop, that is, between long-growing varieties of cabbage and cruciferous vegetables. They will add nitrogen to the soil (once dug in) and help promote healthy, nutritious growth in the vegetable crop.

Another cost-cutting, budget-friendly way to feed your plants is to make your own plant fertilizer from nettles. Nettle is rich in chlorophyll, potassium, iron and nitrogen and will last for up to 6 months, keeping you looking spring and summer smoothly. Simply collect young nettles, wearing some gloves, and place in a bucket.

Either chop the nettles or rake them on the ground and chop them into smaller pieces with a mower. Put them back in the bucket, making sure you’ve collected every piece, fill it with water from a water butt or tap and weigh the scorpions down with a brick or something similar so they’re completely submerged .

After three to four weeks your nettle tea will be ready to use. It smells bad, so make sure you keep it away from the house, if possible. Strain the nettle, recycle some pop bottles and fill them with nettle tea. Nettles can be added to the compost bin or placed on the surface of the soil as a green mulch. In its purest form, nettle tea will scorch plants, so dilute one part nettle tea with 10 parts water and then apply liberally.

For another inexpensive, homemade recipe for plant fertilizer, especially for houseplants, look no further than your kitchen cupboards.

Mix one tablespoon of baking soda with one tablespoon of Epsom salt, half a teaspoon of ammonia, and 4.5 liters of water.

Simply adding copious amounts of organic matter to your garden, planting your own green manure or making your own plant feed will help attract more wildlife to the garden, more beneficial insects and pollinators and create habitat, biodiversity of your garden Will improve.

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