There’s so much nutrition that goes to waste when we throw away potato peels, banana skins and even the water in which we soak our veggies. The produce, full of protein, potassium, calcium and other nutrients may not be to our taste but is certainly useful for our garden.
Curious how you can make fertilisers in a shorter time than composting? Read on.
How to make quick organic fertiliser if you are already composting
- Reserve a big vessel or a small bucket in your kitchen to collect all the water that goes into washing vegetables or soaking rice, paneer etc.
- Instead of washing your produce under running water, make a habit of soaking it in a small vessel and draining the water into the reserved bucket.
- Do the same with water used to wash rice, lentils etc. If you are concerned that these grains are sprayed with chemicals, rinse them under running water just once and then clean them in a vessel. Pour the “waste” water into your reserved bucket.
- Add all the fruit peels, banana skins and such other ingredients into the bucket. Make sure you cover it adequately to avoid any flies.
- Allot a time, usually in the evening, to strain out the food waste. This will ensure that no food bit stays in the water for more than 24 hours.
- Once strained, add the peels to your composting bin. Make sure you add enough brown material (like dry leaves, twigs or wood chippings) to soak in and compensate for the added moisture to your compost.
- Use the organic fertiliser water from the bucket to water your plants. If your plants are predominantly in pots, this water should suffice. If not, you can use regular water if the fertiliser water won’t suffice.
For the first few weeks, keep observing the health of your plants. I have tried this with banana peels soaked in rice and dal water. The plants seem to be doing just fine. But, its suitability may depend on the soil pH, climatic conditions and the needs of the plants too.
A healthy smoothie for your plants if you don’t compost
Not composting yet? Worry not; you can still feed your plants with healthy nutrients using this method.
- Collect all your wet waste such as tomato tops, onion peels, potato skins etc. in a bowl.
- At an allotted time (just like the above method, to prevent them from sitting for over 24 hours), chop all these “waste” materials into small pieces.
- Add them to a mixer grinder and add an adequate amount of water to it. The final texture should not be too runny nor too thick.
- Grind them together to make a thin ‘smoothie’.
- Dilute this with water and water your plants with it.
- If your plants haven’t had any fertiliser for a long time, you can try giving them only the smoothie for a couple of days in a week. Just make sure that it is thin enough to seep into the soil instead of staying above it. That may invite flies and other insects.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)
“My mother was a gardener and she inspired me to dirty my hands with soil. I love travelling and setting up gardens for people through workshops. I use natural growing methods like permaculture and ecosystemic designs. I also practice other integral gardening methods like mulching, composting, soil-regeneration, seed-saving and companion planting. I brew my bio-enzymes to spray on the crops,” Vipesh, presently posted at the Budhlada Horticulture Department tells The Better India.
Called ‘Biomimicry’, Vipesh’s gardening design mirrors a natural forest that has the ability to decompose, store water, produce clean air, provide access to sunlight and yield healthier food.
Here Are 5 Rules He Follows
1) Natural Mulching
Vipesh uses farm waste like weeds, dry leaves, eggshells, sugarcane bagasse, straw, banana leaves and farm litter as mulching material. These materials when decomposed provides ample nutrition to plants.
Mulch is nothing but a protective layer above the soil that helps in retaining the moisture in the soil, prevents weed growth and regenerates soil through slow fertilisation. He also recommends planting edible legumes such as beans and fenugreek that also act as a bio-mulch. They fix nitrogen in the soil benefiting other plants also. Microgreens, fenugreek, spinach, nasturtium, coriander are some other options.
2) In-Situ Composting
Vipesh swears by in-situ composting as it mimics nature and the green waste naturally shrinks and decomposes into the soil surface.
“In-situ composting is for those who don’t have a compost bin to make garden compost. All one has to do is dig a one-feet-deep trench in the garden and fill it with kitchen waste like fruit peels and vegetable waste. Cover the waste with over with a layer of dry leaves,” he explains.
The organic waste decomposes and provides nutrient-rich food to microbes and worms. This, in turn, improves soil management and soil regeneration.
3) Companion Planting
Companion planting is sowing different crops in close proximity to maximise the use of space and increase crop productivity. It also helps in pest control, promotes pollination and natural proliferation of beneficial insects.
“Companions help each other grow. For example, I grow banana, mint and turmeric as companion plants. The banana tree provides shade and turmeric keeps the pest away. Other combinations are maize, cowpeas and bottle gourd; and moringa, nasturtium, colocasia.”
4) Bio-Mimicked Raised Beds
In raised bed gardening, plants are grown in soil that is higher than the ground. For this, Vipesh has used a layer of gravel and small stones/pebbles. This helps in proper drainage and keeps roots from being damaged in case of over-irrigation during monsoons.
“Raised garden beds, which are ideal for small plots of veggies and flowers, also prevent soil compaction and act barriers to pests. They require fewer gardening inputs, irrigation and maintenance,” says Vipesh.
4) Seed Saving & Bio enzymes
Being a horticulture officer, Vipesh often gets an opportunity to visit farms across the state. He collects seeds while travelling from farmers or farms. He prefers opting for open-pollinated and self-seeded plants.
As these seeds are nutrient-rich and some even of rare varieties, Vipesh saves seeds and reproductive material from his garden left after every cycle. In the gardening jargon, this process is known as seed saving.
“Saving seeds of best-performing plants is vital as they have already adjusted in my garden’s ecosystem, soil, climate, and growing conditions. The saved seeds when repotted will perform better in the next cycle and give more yield,” he explains.
Vipesh also prepares bio enzymes from fruit and vegetable waste. “I ferment kitchen fruit peels for over 60-90 days and then add jaggery and water. Every month I prepare around 10 litres of BE which is sprayed in my garden every 15 days,” he says.
Fruits of labour
With the help of these natural practices, Vipesh’s food garden now flourishes with fruits like banana, lemon, kinnow, phalsa, guavas, grapes, papaya, cranberry, mulberry and so on.
Other vegetables include fenugreek, spinach, garden cress, mustard, rocket leaves, wild oxalis, coriander, rosella, wheatgrass. Herbs and medicinal plants include mint, holy basil, Thai basil, camphor basil, celery, fennel, chamomile, insulin plant, ashwagandha and so on.
Vipesh believes that gardening is an integral part of life that has helped him grow in more ways than one, “I feel one with nature and at peace every time I step into my garden. Gardening has taught to be patient and not give up until I achieve the end goal.”