Don’t buy fertilizer! It’s all around you.


The cost of everything – from fuel to food – seems to be rising around the world. So, growing your own food is a good way to save money.

However, the cost of gardening materials also increased.

Plant expert Jessica Damiano writes about gardening for The Associated Press. In her latest story, she talks about saving money on fertilizer. She suggests home gardeners make their own.

All plants need nutrients. The necessary nutrients exist naturally in most soils. But over time they wear out. Thus, nutrients must be added to the soil from time to time for plants to produce fruits and vegetables for our meals.

This is where fertilizers come in.

Most fertilizers contain three primary nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. (This is often represented by the NPK report on fertilizer containers.) Damiano explains how all three work. Nitrogen helps the plant convert its energy into green, leafy growth. Phosphorus helps in the development of roots, fruits and flowers. And potassium contributes to the overall health of the plant.

Many fertilizers also contain secondary nutrients, such as calcium and magnesium. They sometimes contain micronutrients such as iron, copper, boron, manganese and zinc.

All of these nutrients are needed to create the best growing conditions for a plant.

Here’s some good news: there are plenty of ways home gardeners can save money while providing their plants with high-quality nutrients.

cut grass

Think of cut grass. If you leave cut grass on the lawnyou may not need fertilizer.

When grass decomposes, it releases nitrogen into the soil. This will help the grass continue to grow. However, Damiano gives this warning: do not use freshly cut grass in flower beds. It will burn your plants.

Organic food waste becomes nutrient-rich compost. (Rosanne Skirble/VOA)

Compost is better for the soil

Compostshe says, is the best thing you can add to the floor.

Compost helps control the amount of water left in the soil. It keeps dry soil moist. It can help thick dirt or clay, drain the water. Compost also adds nutrients to the soil.

Damiano advises using plenty of compost in flower beds or planting holes. She suggests using compost instead of mulch. (The mulch is placed on top of the soil.)

To make your own compost, just collect fruits and vegetables remains. Do not add meat, dairy or fat. You can keep leftover food in a bowl in your kitchen. Every time it fills up, bury the material directly into the garden soil. As leftovers break down, they add nutrients.

Just be sure to bury them at least 25 to 30 centimeters deep. This will prevent hungry wildlife from digging them up. And bury the scraps a few inches from the plants. This will avoid damaging the roots.

Fish fertilizer

Many gardeners treat their plants with fish fertilizer. It contains nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur and sodium, among other nutrients. And that could be expensive. So, Damiano suggests burying the fish pieces deep in the garden soil – again 25 to 30 centimeters deep.

You can also make your own fish fertilizer by putting fish scraps in a closed water container of about 19 liters. Leave it for about a month. Then drain the liquid and use it to water the plants. However, do not use processed fish with added salt. Too much salt can damage the soil and your plants.

This photo from June 23, 2022 shows fish in a garden in Glen Head, NY.  Plants benefit from whole fish and leftover fish.  They release nutrients into the soil.  (Jessica Damiano via AP)

This photo from June 23, 2022 shows fish in a garden in Glen Head, NY. Plants benefit from whole fish and leftover fish. They release nutrients into the soil. (Jessica Damiano via AP)

Use leftover materials from your home

Are you someone who fishes? If so, you can use leftovers from the fish you catch. Otherwise, your local fishmonger, called a fishmonger, might give away — or sell cheaply — leftovers and heads.

Are you a fish owner? Plants can also be helped by waste water from aquariums. This water is rich in nitrogen and other nutrients.

Do you cook vegetables in water? If so, save it! The water is packed with vitamins and minerals that could help your garden.

And the water from boiled eggs is full of calcium. This is especially useful for tomatoes and peppers. Just be sure to let the water cool to room temperature before using it on your plants.

You can even use eggshells instead of buying garden lime. Both are made of calcium carbonate. Carefully dry the eggshells. Then cut them into small pieces. Add the small pieces to the soil in your garden. The same can be done with banana peels. They are full of potassium and good for plants.

I am Anna Matteo.

Jessica Damiano reported this story for The Associated Press. Anna Matteo adapted it for VOA Learning English.


words in this story

garden – nm land on which fruits, flowers or vegetables grow

primary –adj. first in order of time or development

report – nm the relation in number or quantity between two or more things

lawn – nm ground (such as around a house or in a garden or park) covered with grass and regularly mowed

compost – nm a mixture composed largely of decomposed organic matter and used to fertilize and condition land

mulch – nm a material (such as straw or bark) spread on the ground specifically to protect the roots of plants from heat or cold, to keep the soil moist, and to control weeds

to abandon -not. a piece of something that is usually thrown away

drain – v. remove liquid from something


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