As urban gardeners, we have several simple organic options for ensuring adequate input of nutrients to the soil and plants.
One of the most effective and common liquid nutrients for the garden is Panchagavya. It consists of five main ingredients from the cow (ghee, milk, curd, cow dung and cow urine) and serves not just as a growth promoting hormone and immunity booster but also as a pesticide.
It is also a good source of micronutrients for plants and the soil. The usage is as simple as spraying a three percent solution on plants every 10-15 days. Seeds can also be soaked in this solution for 20 minutes before sowing.
Effective Microorganisms (EM)
Effective Microorganisms is a combination of useful micro-organisms (such as lactic acid bacteria, yeast, other fungi) that exist freely in nature and are not manipulated in any way. It occurs in a liquid form and can be used to increase the natural resistance of plants (among its various other uses). It also considerably improves the quality and fertility of soil as well as the growth and quality of crops.
EM can be applied to plants as a diluted spray early in the morning or late evening. Drenching the soil with EM before sowing is also another method of application.
This enzyme made from vegetable and fruit scraps can be used as a fertiliser for plants in a dilution of 1:20.
All you need is
- An old 2 litre plastic bottle with a lid.
- 300 gms of fruit or vegetable peels (Peels of lemons, oranges, apples, pineapple, and even vegetables like cabbage and ladies finger can be easily used to make the enzyme).
- 1 litre tap water.
- 100gm of brown (un refined) sugar.
Use a funnel to pour sugar into the bottle. Drop in the fruit peels and pour in the water.
Cover the bottle and date it. The enzyme will be ready to use 3months from the day you start.
Give the ingredients in the bottle a good shake to mix them thoroughly. Everyday, for the first month, open the cover for a few minutes to let out the oxygen build-up from the fermentation process.
The process could be accelerated by adding a teaspoon of yeast.
Another simple and rich liquid nutrient for plants and the soil is compost tea that can easily be made at home. It merely entails steeping compost in water.
- Fill a 16 litre bucket with water and let it sit for at least 24 hrs (this will help any chlorine dissipate which would otherwise hinder the growth of microbes).
- Add 2-3 large mugfuls of compost in another bucket and pour the water over it. The ratio is approx 5:1 water/compost. Mix well.
- Allow the mixture to brew for 3 – 7 days, stirring deep a few times every day. This is an important step as this is an aerobic process and requires the oxygen.
- After the brewing period, strain the finished product using a piece of muslin. The used compost can be put back in the compost bin. The brew in the bucket is the compost tea.
- Use a dilute solution of the tea (1:10) and spray over plants as pure brew is too strong to use as is. Do not apply to leaves in hot, sunny weather.
- Use every 2 weeks or as needed. Begin using when plants have at least one set of leaves; One can also drench the soil with it before sowing.
- Adding a small amount of liquid jaggery (about 2 Tablespoons) can aid the process as it provides food for microbes.
The tea should have a fresh earthy smell. If it stinks, do not use. Instead add more water and stir deeper and more often everyday. Also remember that the tea should be used within a few hours of being brewed; else it loses its nutrient value.
A jute or muslin bag can be used to hold the compost while brewing. This will save the effort of straining. However make sure to steep it for atleast 7 days and stirring often if using this method.
Other easy to use fertilisers for acid-loving plants
Sun-dry the coffee grounds thoroughly
Can be used for rose and other acid loving plants by sprinkling around the base of the plants. Coffee grounds are a good source of nitrogen magnesium and potassium.
Dilute 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in 3 litres of water
Water acid-loving plants with this solution once in 3 months
Air dry the egg shells and mix in a blender till it becomes a fine powder
A good source of calcium carbonate (the main ingredient of lime). Good for tomatoes, capsicum etc. Eggshells deter slugs too
Note: It is suggested that one exercises caution while using fertilisers. All of these are nutrient-rich and concentrated and plants and soil need only a small dose to boost their growth/fertility. Too much can be counter-productive and even harmful to plants.
Some sources for ready to use organic fertilizers:
- Panchagavya: Sai Kiran, firstname.lastname@example.org , 919880811542
- Garden Guru / Manikandan, Shop #4, Krishnamurthy Complex, 60 feet Road, Shanbhough Nagappa Layout (Opp Eagle Offset Printers) Bilekahalli, Bangalore 560076. Ph: 42121000
- National Games Village,Tungabhadra Block, Koramangala. Contact: 9731912522 or 9449834718 and provide your total quantity requirement / time of pick up for Panchagavya and eggshell powder.
- Vriksh Organic Stores, No:88, 3rd Main Road, Vyalikkaval, Near Police Station, Bangalore -3. Contact Manjula: 9845033735
- Iha Naturals,Shop No.2, No.141, Bassappa Layout, Pattangere, Omkar Hills Road, BHEL Layout, RajaRajeshwari Nagar, Bangalore 560098, PH: 9901520061
- EM can be purchased at Daily Dump
- Contact Annadana to buy their organic plant enzyme and bio fertilisers.