You could go to the garden center and buy a fertilizer for your favorite flowers and prized vegetables, but commercial fertilizers can be expensive and they're not always eco-friendly. Instead, go green and save a lot of money by feeding your plants with things around your house that you would normally throw away.
Eggshells are loaded with calcium, which is necessary to grow a variety of plants, including tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum), squash (Cucurbita moschata) and peppers (Capsicum), all of which are susceptible to blossom end rot if they don't get sufficient calcium. Rinse the shells to prevent odors, then crush them up so they will break down faster. You can place the crushed shells in the hole when planting or simply sprinkle them over the top of the soil near the plant, which also helps to control slugs because the sharp edges of the shells cut slugs' undersides, resulting in their demise.
If you hate bagging up leaves, use them to fertilize your garden instead. The easiest method is to rake the leaves into your garden beds in the fall and let them break down over the winter. In the spring, push the remains aside as you plant and then pull the decayed leaves back around the plants to serve as mulch to hold in moisture and minimize weeds. To increase the impact, mix the leaves into the soil in the fall so they will break down faster.
Coffee grounds contain magnesium, potassium and phosphorus, and they help improve the structure of your soil for better drainage, but there are some drawbacks. Although coffee beans, in their raw form, are high in nitrogen, used coffee grounds contain only about 2 percent nitrogen by weight. Even this small amount won't make its way into your soil because coffee encourages the growth of microorganisms that feed on nitrogen, so you must add another nitrogen source when mixing coffee grounds with your soil. Be careful not to spread a thick layer across the top of the soil around your plants because coffee grounds can act like a barrier to block water from penetrating.
If you have sufficient space, a compost bin allows you to create fertilizer for your garden from virtually any plant-based food or yard waste, or even scrap paper. For fast results, chop or shred the materials, then place them in the bin and cover them with soil, which contains microorganisms that break down plant matter. Keep the contents moist, but not soggy, and turn or stir the pile about once a week. You should have ready-to-use compost in one to two months. If you don’t shred or turn the plant matter, the process could take up to 12 months. It also will take longer in the winter.
- Grasshopper Lawns Inc.: Eggshells in the Garden
- National Gardening Association: Turn Leaves into Gold
- Oregon State University: Coffee Grounds and Composting
- Earth Kind: Composting
- AARP.org: Don’t Throw Out Those Eggshells!
- Popular Mechanics: Banana Peels, Eggshells, and More Trash Your Garden Will Love
- Fine Gardening: Compost: Things You Always Wanted to Know but Were Afraid to Ask
- Photo Credit Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images