5 easy ways to save time and money with the right plant fertiliser - 1

5 easy ways to save time and money with the right plant fertiliser

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Plants sometimes need a helping hand when it comes to nutrition. But which plant fertilisers offer the best deal for you and the environment? Increasingly, gardeners are looking for natural options with low toxicity. The great news is that many of these are free.

1. Compost your own plant fertiliser

If you haven’t already started a compost heap, now’s the time! Compost is a fantastic, slow-releasing plant fertiliser, which is completely free because it’s made from your garden and vegetable waste. One of the most important components of commercial fertilisers is nitrogen. For nitrogen-rich compost, include lots of green plants, raw fruit and vegetable waste, and ideally, coffee grounds. The next time you need fertiliser, you can then save yourself an expensive trip to the garden centre by just grabbing a shovel.

2. Recycle your grass clippings

When you next cut your lawn, leave some of the clippings spread thinly on the grass to act as a lawn fertiliser and apply some as a 1-2 inch mulch around your plants. This will conserve soil moisture and prevent weeds from growing, then act as a plant fertiliser as it breaks down. Alternatively, you can mix a smaller amount of grass clippings (around half an inch) directly into the soil.

If you need more clippings than you have, your neighbours will probably be more than happy to help! Just beware of clippings that may contain pesticides or diseased plants. If you aren’t sure, it’s better to compost them thoroughly instead.

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3. Boost your plants with eggshells

Whether the plant in question is still in seed form or already growing, eggshells can offer it a great boost. Every time you use an egg in the kitchen, rinse the shell well (without removing the membrane if possible), and let it dry. When you have a few, crush them into pieces and sprinkle them on the soil around your plants. Over time, they will decompose, releasing nutrients. If you’re preparing compost for a seed or transplanted plant, you can mix a handful of crushed eggshells directly into the soil instead.

4. Liven up your compost heap

To make your compost extra-effective as a plant fertiliser, add horse manure. This will generate heat, accelerating composting, as well as increasing the nitrogen content. Fresh manure contains so much nitrogen that it can cause burn damage to plants, so always let it compost thoroughly over a number of months before applying it to your garden. This will also break down any weed seeds.

You can also use manure from other herbivores, like cows and rabbits, but never use waste from humans or meat-eating animals, as this is a high disease risk. If using manure from farmed animals, source it from organic farms to avoid introducing antibiotic residues to your plants.

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5. Consider clover

Perhaps the most natural, attractive and easily available plant fertilisers are legumes (members of the Fabaceae family, which include peas, beans and clover). These plants are nitrogen fixers, meaning that they take nitrogen from the atmosphere and release it into the soil. These days, clover is most often seen in meadows, as many modern lawns are treated with herbicides. Indeed, some gardeners consider clover to be a weed, as it spreads quickly and makes lawns look less even. But if you’re happy with a more natural look and want to attract bees to your garden, seed some clover into your lawn. You can then enjoy a colourful display of purple and white flowers in summer, evergreen leaves in winter, and the easiest method of plant fertilisation around.

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With such great organic options available, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on fertilising products. Just compost your organic waste and apply it where it’s needed most. Then just watch the clover grow and let nature do the rest.