How to Fertilize a Garden Cheaply

Fertilizing your garden is great to be improve soil ecology, plant health and most importantly for producing better vegetables, fruit and flowers. Not all fertilizers need to be expensive and the best ones are naturally produced, low toxic and very good for the garden. This article looks at a range of options for you to try to get better life out of your garden.


  1. Image titled Fertilize a Garden Cheaply Step 1
    Till the garden spot with mechanical tiller or by hand. Loosening the soil will allow for the easy addition of compost and aerate the soil for the growth of roots and earthworms. Some gardeners prefer not to till deeply, but only loosen the soil with a three- or four-pronged instrument. Leaving the soil relatively undisturbed means that the different soil levels are not disturbed. Seems to work also quite well.
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    Use Rabbit droppings. Add about 25 lbs of rabbit droppings (NOT RABBIT FOOD) for an area of 1,000 sq. ft. Make sure the rabbit droppings are NOT fresh, but well dried or composted.
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    Try Horse Manure. If you live near a racetrack / fair grounds or a riding stable and agistment centre, you can get free horse manure if you are willing to haul it away. This could be done by pickup truck or even using buckets or trash bags in the trunk of your family car. Fresh horse manure can generate a lot of heat, which can be useful to improve your compost bin if it is not breaking down quickly. Using it directly in the garden is not recommended if it's fresh, as it may actually 'burn' your plants due to too much fertilizer being available. Get the horse manure in the fall and stock it in a pile and then spread it in the spring. It's wise to remember most horse manure will contain weed seeds so they should be composted first to avoid weeds spreading.
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    Scatter wood ash. If you burn wood for heat during the winter; put the ashes in the garden area for the potassium contained in the ashes. Spread over the garden area after they are cold and not on a windy day. Do not spread too thickly or they become like a gunky paste. You could also add some ash to your compost pile. Be sure to do it in thin layers and be sure not to use ash from painted or treated wood as it will make the ash toxic.
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    Compost grass clippings. Grass clippings from your lawnmower can be easily composted. Choose a location that is out of the wind, so the clippings won't be blown away or scattered. If you have a bagging mower, empty the clippings onto the mound every time you mow. Layer the fresh clippings with dry leaves, crushed eggshells, coffee grounds and any uncooked vegetable scraps from your kitchen. Turn this compost pile weekly to allow air to penetrate. Green lawn clippings can generate a heat which is important to be able to destroy weed seeds and pathogens. When adding clippings to a worm farm, its best to let them sit in a pile for a week or two first to be able to break down and not risk generating too much heat.
    • Often neighbors will be willing to help add to your compost. It can save them from having to haul good/green clippings to the dump and you can repay them with a basket of tomatoes. What you end up with is basically compost, which will add available nitrogen to your soil. Compost will aid in making your plants grow strong, support earthworms and loosen the soil.
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    Start a worm farm. Worm castings are an excellent fertilizer and starter worms can be collected from the soil or obtained from a garden centre. Make sure you keep the grass cut.


  • Caution for using ashes: If you live in the southern USA, check soil PH before adding ashes. Ashes are high in alkalinity, and if your soil is not acid, you will not be doing your soil any favors by adding a lot of ashes. Keep in mind that most Garden how-to's are written for the vast central and northern regions where the soil is highly acidic and conditions are different from extreme southern regions.
  • The Potassium in the ash is good for flowering plants and fruits but not so good for grass and green foliage that need nitrogen to help make the foliage green.

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Categories: Fertilizers